A workshop organized by European Action on Global Life Sciences (EAGLES ) issued a report on the Chinese consumption and production of meat and it states that meat consumption in China is expected to reach 73 kilo per person per year in 2020 compared with just over 26 kg in 2004. Nearly triple.

This increase in meat consumption means that the environmental impact of the Chinese population will skyrocket if the rapid growth continues.

More meat means a wealthier population overall, something that society has worked to create, but the report says the consequences for the environment due to increased food supply demand and resultant animal waste treatment issues in the 'Chinese food revolution' could lead to a real problem.

European Action On Global Life Sciences

So do we keep the third world as poorly paid peasants or let global warming and pollution continue on its upward curve?

Tough choice. Few activists believe that third world people should be forced by poverty to live on locally-produced, plant-based foods. Yet animals require feed and processing. It's well known that sanitation and nutritional improvements are the two key factors in reducing 'diseases of poverty' like tuberculosis and parasitic ailments, and wealthier people are able to pay for improvements in both areas.

1.4 billion additional people in China by 2030 is a difficult number to absorb, environmentally, though we have doubled the population on the planet just since I was born and smarter manufacturing, recycling and other environmental efforts have lessened that impact.

It's not a situation without hope, as the report notes. While grain for animal feed is expected to grow from 35% of the total output today to 45% output by 2020, even a 10% improvement would mean 15-20,000,000 tons saved annually.

More pressing is the disease issue. As more people can afford meat, more animals will be raised in a finite geography, including instances where poor people raise them in crowded conditions for income purposes. This leads to greater instances of disease. When last surveyed, only 29% of the 105 major rivers in Beijing qualified as 'not polluted.' That's not going to improve adding millions more people without some creative work.

China's population increase, including 800 million more peasants, presents a unique challenge environmentally. Agricultural improvements won't be enough - that is clearly going to happen - but technical issues in waste treatment coupled with increased demand for grain and meat will require positive input from the environmental activist community if that growth is to be managed responsibly.

Download the full report here.