The Japanese food transition

1. Peak “buckwheat noodle” came in 1914.

2. Peak horse meat came in the 1960s.

3. Peak whale meat came in 2005-2006, although some of that supply was frozen and has not yet been consumed.

4. The consumption of vegetables has been broadly constant for decades.

5. Yearly per capita pork consumption has risen from 1.1 kg in 1960 to 11.7 kg in 2008.  During the 1960s, the consumption of chicken meat nearly quintupled.

6. In 1876, per capita sake consumption was 17 liters per capita, which was very high for Japanese income at the time.  You can compare that to America’s 7 liters of ethanol per drinking age person in 1870.

7. Land area under cultivation peaked in 1921.  The United States and China, however, cultivated more land in 2000 than they did in 1900.

8. Japan’s paddy fields peaked in 1969.

9. In 2006 Japanese meat consumption edged out fish consumption for the first time.

All of those estimates are from a very interesting book by Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi, Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts.

Comments

I need to get there pronto, based upon the pork consumption stat alone!

"In 1876, per capita sake consumption was 17 liters per capita, which was very high for Japanese income at the time. You can compare that to America’s 7 liters of ethanol per drinking age person in 1870."

Just to be clear, sake's 16% alcohol content means that 1876 Japan consumed 2.7 liters of ethanol per capita. Only about 40% of American consumption. This doesn't seem unusually high, even given low incomes. Alcohol tends to be pretty income inelastic.

Americans were drunk much of the time before the temperance movement built up steam. I think peak alcohol consumption was in the first half of the 19th Century. America grew lots and lots of corn per capita back then, but it was expensive to move bulky products around before the transportation network was improved. So, turning corn into high value hard liquor before putting it in jugs on wagons saved money.

And then women got the vote, the red light districts were closed, and the party was over.

Beat me to it Doug!

per capita != drinking age person

Though how different are 'drinking age persons' and 'per capita'? 2x given a young age distribution?

No kindle version of this book and this post isn't exactly a rock-solid recommendation.

The subject seems pretty interesting but the signals aren't looking great for the readability of this book.

It's by Vaclav Smil. That is alone is a very reliable signal of quality.

#7 - What was that a few weeks ago about comparative advantage being over-rated?

Wouldn't #7 likely be absolute advantage?

Chinese agriculture, an absolute advantage? Really?

I'm not sure but I would not have guessed agricultural productivity would be high. Although I guess in some provinces it could be.

Fish is meat, so total meat consumption will exceed any subset of meat. If by "meat" you meant to exclude fish, what about chicken? Did you mean red meat + poultry > fish? Or did you mean red meat > fish? Maybe it will be clear after I've had some ethanol.

I think this is more of a UK (?) terminology, but meat can be used to mean the flesh of a mammal (as opposed to fish/poultry).

No, it's not special to the UK, where Smil and Cowen have never lived. That is the normal meaning in the US and Canada.

There is some variation in usage, though. In the Southern US, "meat" is very narrow.

In my experience this particular sin gets committed in the US a lot. I keep wondering if I order a fish over there and cut it open will vegetables spill out?

What sin?

Peak human meat consumption (Allied POW subcategory) was ca. 1945.

Comments for this post are closed