A Closer Look

Who is to Blame for the Food Inflation Crisis?

It was Winston Churchill who said; “Never let a good crisis go to waste. Fortunately for people who agree with Winston Churchill, we have at the moment plenty of crises to choose from”.

The latest ChickenFacts Fact Sheet deals with the crisis in food inflation, showing that the whole world experienced the worst food inflation in recent history due to a perfect storm of events over the last few years. For many countries, there has been some self-correction.

However, in South Africa the problems are systemic, fundamental and infrastructural, and in many cases unfixable.

On the local front we have our full complement of global problems, but on top of those we have our local crises of loadshedding, infrastructure collapse, government incompetence and corruption, crime, fuel price increases and service delivery protests.

From the conclusions in our Fact Sheet, this is not just a bad patch we are going through, it is beginning of a long stretch of trying times. Our current events show that even political change is going to be messy and long-drawn-out, so it will require some fortitude to stay the course.

Perhaps it is time that we don’t let our current cost-of-living crisis go to waste, it is time to make adjustments to our lifestyle expectations. Climate change is here to stay, and it will require fundamental lifestyle changes. We can use our current cohort of crises to accelerate that change.

Climate-Friendly Buildings

Here’s an example: architects who design climate-friendly buildings nowadays are not looking at new techniques, they are instead going back to the old days of construction before the days of electricity and air conditioning. So they are using ancient designs that harness nature for heating and cooling and energy generation.

We have become used to the idea of having convenience at the click of a switch. But it was not that long ago when we used hand-cranked machines for our appliances; paraffin, gas, wind, water and sun for light and heat. Technology nowadays has taken a lot of the work out of returning to these mechanisms. It would be like Frontier Living – but with Internet.

American Diet of Processed Foods

We can also look at making adjustments to the way we eat. As South Africans we have largely adopted the American diet of processed foods – with the accompanying rise in obesity and lifestyle co-morbidities. The traditional African diet based on indigenous vegetables and starches is a much healthier and cheaper eating option as well as having the benefit that these are all items that can be grown in a backyard.

The University of Zululand has an entire department devoted to the development of these foodstuffs, and organisations like Food for Mzansi are encouraging everyone to start their own little veggie patch and chicken run. It is time that this became the New Cool.

An extremely thought-provoking article in The Economist has showcased the Banana Index; as a way for us to compare our food choices

Banana Index

Just as the McDonald’s Index is used to compare buying power around the world, the Banana Index compares the climate cost of different foods. The banana was chosen as the baseline, because it is fairly middling when it comes to nutritional value and climate impact. So the Index looks at the climate cost of any given foodstuff as opposed to its nutritional value, compared to the humble banana.

Unfortunately for large swathes of the world’s population, the beef burger is regarded as the worst offender in all categories, while many vegan foods score high on climate impact but low on nutritional content. What is encouraging, is that poultry products score high in both categories – chickens and eggs are easy on the environment but still pack a protein punch. Seeing that South African chicken is still the cheapest protein: that is good news all round.

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