.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Visit Freedom's Zone Donate To Project Valour

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jackson Hole And Meaty Statistics

Well, Ben is due to speak this week at Jackson Hole. He will promise much, presumably with low levels of detail. While Mr. Market contemplates the oracle, the rest of us can contemplate some statistics about US meat consumption, and what they might say about the ability of the Fed to stimulate Main Street.

First, we go to St. Louis for the NBER macrohistory commodity series, and total historical meat consumption in the US. The graph ends during the WWII period, but it takes us nicely through the 20's recession period and the GD which ensued.

What's so notable about this series is that despite a growing population, meat consumption was flat from the second 1920s recession through about 1940. This should have been a warning at the time - wages weren't rising and before the financial crash, indicators of the Main Street economy were showing signs of recession. But at the time everyone was staring at Wall Street in a fervor, so no one paid attention.

Now, courtesy of the professionally censorious folks at NPR, who are tired of the masses messing up their pristine world (although the masses are allowed to clean their houses, cook their food, fix their cars and mow their lawns), an earnest plea not to eat meat, containing a nice historical graph of total meat consumption in the US.
Wow! All of sudden we masses have begun to really pay attention to NPR! That, or we just can't afford it....

This is all the more astounding because the US has hugely expanded our food stamp program, and between 1 in 6 and 1 in 7 Americans are receiving SNAP. Obviously this raises food spending by consumers. Also this stat does not account for shifting from higher-priced meats to lower-priced meats, which is the normal consumer reaction to financial strains. When you see this type of fall over such a few years, it means that some consumers can't afford to buy meat at all. Remember, the US population is still growing.

The change in US consumption habits is far more notable than it was during the GD. It's remarkable - it indicates a fall in US living standards that is just huge in historical terms. Most of it is probably comprehended in basics such as the ability to heat/cool living space, maintain the same type of diet, pay for medicines, etc.

It's hard to see how inserting money at high levels changes dynamics such as these. Electricity and gas utilities are another type of measure that show what's happening to consumers:

PS: Mark is assisting us in interpretation with his meaty trend graph:
Dare I suggest that this might be related to some of Mark's other graphs, such as this one and this one?


Perhaps there's a partial explanation for that graph. My observation is that the really cheap cuts of meat have higher nutrition value per pound when slow-cooked. For example, the conversion of the non-digestible connective tissues in a pork shoulder to the yummy gelatine in a carnitas taco means a serving includes a lower initial weight of meat than, say, a 1/2-pound serving of lean sirloin.

Same thing goes for ground beef, a.k.a. "pink slime", in which potentially deadly and certainly undigestible cow parts are converted to hamburger.

So maybe people aren't entirely substituting beans, it's just that their meat consumption has become more efficient to some extent.

BTW, I'm considering buying another freezer to stock up on meat in the next couple of months. Next year is going to be expensive. I have to think, though, about how to handle back-up power.

I think that processed foods containing meat contain less meat and more fillers; which would account for some of the decrease in meat consumption. I suspect that there's been a significant decrease in fast food consumption which affects meat consumption of course.
Neil - first, this would be a huge change regardless in a few years. The change you refer to has taken place over a much longer time. For example, see the NPR article referenced and the evolution of beef herd - we really do get a lot more out of the animals than we used to.

We generally are eating less meat, but prior to the recent period it was more of shift from fattier meats to poultry. You two might find this US Census table useful.
New Large, Meaty Thigh!

It was a sad day when that happened. There used to be two pieces of chicken (and the overall calories were higher).
What are the odds they're eating vegan meals at Jackson Hole?
When you see this type of fall over such a few years, it means that some consumers can't afford to buy meat at all. Remember, the US population is still growing.

I could not resist the urge to post yet another exponential trend failure chart.

Meat Prosperity!

It shows annual meat consumption per capita. We're 37.7 pounds below the long-term exponential trend (1960 through 2007).
Mark - you made me laugh, but this is serious. I would suggest that there is a natural limit to the exponential trend in meat consumption per capita. One can only digest so much of the stuff.
Jeff - I don't think you are going to find a taker on that one.

But you could always try at Intrade?

I would suggest that there is a natural limit to the exponential trend in meat consumption per capita. One can only digest so much of the stuff.

You are right of course. All exponential growth trends *must* eventually fail.

I would ask you this though. Where exactly is the limit?

Jon Brower Minnoch (29 September 1941[1] – 10 September 1983) was an American man who, at his peak weight, was the heaviest human being ever recorded, weighing approximately 1400 lb (634 kg, 100 stone). This figure was only a close estimation, however, because his extreme size, poor health, and lack of mobility prevented use of a scale.

Obesity in the United States

Of all countries, the United States has the highest rate of obesity. From 13% obesity in 1962, estimates have steadily increased, reaching 19.4% in 1997, 24.5% in 2004 26.6% in 2007, and 33.8% (adults) and 17% (children) in 2008. In 2010, the CDC reported higher numbers once more, counting 35.7% of American adults as obese, and 17% of American children.
I wish I could say that last comment was gallows humor. Sigh.
Don't mean to hog the thread but I think this post pretty much sums up the folly of permanent exponential growth.
I can safely predict another rise in obesity, since that's primarily caused by high carb intake. I've also noticed more water pumped into supermarket meat. We are on primal diet so it's actually been more cost effective to buy grass fed beef. I'm also planning to buy more meat than normal as I'm sure they will be outrageous next year.

It was a bonus to read Tyler Cowan's book on food and learn about buying veggies at Asian markets. Big savings there and good folks to deal with.


Does that statistic take into account the aging Baby Boomer factor? Paunch proliferates with a past-prime population.

Too bad the CDC uses the BMI to calculate obesity rates. It's practically designed to over-estimate obesity, since it doesn't differentiate between muscle mass and fat, and it assumes a low level of average fitness across populations. Even if Americans were to improve our exercise and diet habits, the BMI would likely still show us getting fatter! They use it only because weight and height are the only data they can get for large numbers of people. As usual, CDC is a drunk looking for his keys under a street light.

I suspect that there is increased obesity among children, but I also am skeptical how much we can learn from the BMI.

Neil: They use it because they can't understand math well enough to do cubes (BMI uses weight over height squared, which is going to get more incorrect the further you are from average height - a more correct projection should use weight over height cubed). Frankly, the BMI ranges for tall people are complete nonsense; you're better off finding an old insurance company height-weight table.
Neil - very little. BMI correlates poorly with health outcomes. Waist to hips ratios or neck to waist ratios perform much better.

If you are using BMI, for men the lowest mortality rate is between 25 and 30, biased a bit toward 30.

For women it's a bit lower. What they really seem to be measuring is muscle/fat ratios, so an extremely fit but muscular individual could be classed as overweight when that individual was not.

This paper gives you the curves at different ages for the sexes.

To predict mortality for cardovascular disease, waist ratios are what matters.

Paradoxically, a person who is overweight by the BMI standard and at risk for metabolic disease will often readjust their risk factors through small weight loss but hefty addition of muscle. That fixes most of the metabolic problem and reduces the risk of diabetes hugely, and the exercise required will strengthen the heart and blow out the blood vessels.

For what it is worth, the BMI is fairly accurate for me at 6' 3" and 209 pounds, if only because I am not all that muscular (especially upper body).

My common sense ideal weight is roughly 190. I'm working on it. I've been climbing a minimum of 20 extra flights of stairs each and every day since June 2011. I'm down roughly 16 pounds. I'm in no particular hurry. This has become a permanent habit.

In the last week, I've climbed one particular trail 4 times. 1700' of vertical each time! I just wanted to see if I could. As an added bonus, the weather was perfect.

Ever see the movie "What About Bob?" Baby steps! That's pretty much all it took to change my behavior. No complaints. :)
Who Struck John,

It is probably worth mentioning that we're getting taller in general, so any height-based trend distortions in the BMI would get exaggerated.

That said, it is my opinion that we are becoming more obese. That might be a "Fall of the Roman Empire" gluttony bias though. We just seem to over-consume whenever we can.
Mark, at anything over 200, you are officially overweight (BMI>25).

When I went to college, I was 6'3" and weighed 155 lbs. According to BMI, that is the bottom end of normal. (Sane human beings would consider it painfully thin!) I rest my case.
Who Struck John,

Mark, at anything over 200, you are officially overweight (BMI>25).

I absolutely agree. In my opinion, my healthiest range is 180 to 200. I'll get there when I get there. No hurry. It's a long-term permanent plan.
BMI or no, to really see the obesity epidemic one has to get away from the blue-state coasts. It is startling to me every summer to leave PDX for the heartland for a week or two and see the rampant obesity, especially among the young.
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?