The growing appetite of young Chinese workers for all things western, including dairy products, is having a profound effect on global agriculture.
Many years ago, in the mid 1980s, when I worked as a barman in a Chinese restaurant in Toronto (yes, you read right!), one of the Chinese waiters explained to me that he thought we – that is all westerners – smelt of dairy products. He claimed he could smell butter, cheese and milk from our skin.
Probing a bit deeper, I asked whether this was a pleasant experience for him, to which he recoiled and exclaimed that our odour repulsed him. This prompted a bout of arm-sniffing self-consciousness, as he went on to claim that Chinese people didn’t eat dairy, believing it to be an almost barbaric staple.
This was not one man’s idiosyncrasy. It was true. Others confirmed the theory to me that, indeed, Chinese people detested dairy as much as we love the stuff. So it was a great surprise to me to notice on a recent visit the epidemic of Starbucks in Shanghai.
The first thing to strike you about Shanghai is the foreignness of it all; the buildings, the teeming masses, the ambition and the sense that you are in a true 21st century megapolis. However, on the street the small details are as revealing and one of those small features is Starbucks.
Here, in the shining city of the country that supposedly hates dairy, a milky crÃ¨me brulee or full-fat frappuccino epidemic has taken hold. There is a Starbucks on almost every street corner and it is full of Chinese students and workers sipping iced vanilla lattes.
Have the Chinese changed their eating habits? It seems that they have. The offices of Glanbia in Shanghai are a testament to this. Glanbia is in, among other things, the milk-formula business, which is booming in China. Chinese maternity wards are making a wholesale shift to milk-formula feeding and this is having a profound effect on the worldwide price of dairy. In a year when stock market and house prices have been falling, the price of agricultural produce has gone through the roof. This has a lot to do with the changing tastes and demands of China.
Another thing you notice in Shanghai is the number of traditional American steakhouses. Beef consumption in China is also skyrocketing. By switching from fowl to beef, the Chinese have had a huge impact on the price of global agriculture and may now be kicking off a 20-year trend, during which we will all experience consistent food price inflation. Before we think about where this might be taking us, let’s proffer a few ideas as to why it is happening.
The east is going west as quickly as the west is going east. The middle classes in the west have become obsessed with the east and the middle classes in the east have become obsessed with the west.
Look around the suburbs of Ireland and see how the middle class infatuation with all things eastern has become almost obsessional. Think about yoga, lentils, sushi, lemon grass, chilli, coriander, pak choi, chopsticks, rice wine vinegar, sake, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, nam pla fish sauce, garam masala, cumin, Buddhism, meditation and ashrams.
What we are seeing is definitional consumption. So, when choosing what to eat, many people are not so much satisfying the biological taste bud urge of ‘‘I like that’’, but rather the more socially subtle signal ‘‘I am like that’’.
So the well-heeled, worldly westerner is not only deciding to love the taste of sushi, lemon grass and coriander, they are also sending out a clear signal as to how they would like to be regarded.
They want to be lemoney-grassey, sushi-eating, coriandery type of people, as opposed to meat and two veg types. This sets them apart on the social hierarchy. In the new moral code of the western middle classes, less is more.
Only the poor are fat and only the rich have green-budgets based as they are on self-restraint, making do and going without. Sacrifice is the new excess and what better image of sacrifice than the self-styled Donnybrook version of Ghandi, abstaining, dieting and refraining. Oh such self-control in an era of bling!
In China, the new middle classes have no truck with such self effacing carry-on. They love spending, brands and flashing their cash. They have rejected Confucianism for consumerism. Shanghai is brand central, where the fashionable are kitted out head to toe in Versace, drink Krystal and generally out-spend the west.
Many of them want to eat, drink and look like us, while many of us, want to eat, drink and act like them. Their middle classes are actively rejecting their traditions in favour of ours and our middle classes are rejecting our traditions in favour of theirs.
The impact this will have on economics could be profound. Already we see China’s impact on oil prices, as it drives its industries to make the goods necessary to get the cash to spend in Starbucks. We are also seeing the great untold story of agricultural inflation, where Chinese demand is among the key factors driving up the price of a pint of milk in Ballincollig.
Both of these trends are completely at odds with the past 20 years, when cheap oil in the late 1980s to the early part of the century and cheap food from the 1970s to now have been the dominant background noise to our economic expansion.
This is now changing and a era of food inflation is on the way. This will have an impact on the price of agricultural land around the world, as the yield from land rises on the back of food price inflation.
Additionally, as the west reacts (rightly) to the green agenda we could see what the UN refers to as a ‘‘massive switch to agro-fuels’’.
Last year more than one-third of the total US maize crop went to ethanol for fuel – a 48 per cent increase over 2005.This trend is on the increase all around the globe and will take more land out of agricultural production, putting further upward price pressure on food prices and by extension agricultural land prices.
We may well be on the cusp of the great new era for global farming. And the trigger to this revolution can be traced to skinny-tall lattes on the Bund in Shanghai and wheatgrass juice in the ashrams of Rathmines.
David wrote: “The impact this will have on economics could be profound. Already we see China’s impact on oil prices, as it drives its industries to make the goods necessary to get the cash to spend in Starbucks. We are also seeing the great untold story of agricultural inflation, where Chinese demand is among the key factors driving up the price of a pint of milk in Ballincollig.” We have come a long way from the days of the “Milk Marketing Board”, a government quango which determined that the price of a pint of milk in Dublin was what it… Read more »
Yes, the agri-business and the farmers have shifted to the tune of the oil price. Or rather to the tune of fuel security. This is relative, and will correct itself with each new innovation. But it is food security which will be of more importance in the next extended cycle. The attack on the Twins, brought forward this situation. And a little forward, only.
Lets get a few things straight. Farmers get f*** all for their milk. Here in the UK thare has just been news that the major supermarkets have been fixing milk prices for years (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7132108.stm). These price hikes have not been passed onto producers. Even if an bord bainne has lost it’s teeth I am sure tesco and dunnes would not hesitate in fixing the price of milk in the republic to make a few pence more. Seems like the farmers of ireland may make more money from their glanbia shares than the milk they supply to ballyragget. Well done to… Read more »
Interesting times – an increase in the demand for food can only be good for Ireland and for some countries in Africa. We should all apply the Smurfit mantra “there is no such thing as a problem, only opportunity.
David, I’m going to be careful of how I phrase this, as it involves making generalisations about Racial groups, but I’m quoting the BBC on this, so I hope I’m on safe ground: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6397001.stm Northern Europeans (including the Irish) are freaks in that they have a genetic mutation that makes them able to digest milk. A large proportion of the Earth’s population don’t have this, making eating anything Dairy an unpleasant experience. I quote the above link In some parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, the vast majority of people are lactose intolerant to some degree. I… Read more »
Let the fall of Decadence in the West begin and the rise of eastern wisdom replace it
Dairy products are over sold. They are glorified social welfare payments to farmers. It is a waste of land, time and a blight on the environment to produce it. Historically Dev wanted to keep the (crucial to his success) farming vote and resettled farmers from Connaught to Leinster to produce milk. Old fashioned crap that he was well used to peddling. Go back a few generations of Irish dairy farmers and you will find a lot living and working the land in Kildare and Meath to be repotted small holders from the Western counties. Couple that with the Church run… Read more »
You are spot on about the Chinese, B. They have a great working ethic, don’t believe in debt and are prepared to take responsibility for their own fate. However, they do not seem to have much regard for human life and human rights if Falun Gong bulletins are to be believed. I have never been to China, but apparently people walk past dead babies in the streets there without batting an eyelid. This may of course be an exaggeration and opinions from people who have visited China would be welcome. Chinese people have gained a foothold in Ireland at lightning… Read more »
My business is “Chinese run” and we find that the customer satisfaction is A1. Our main issue is with the Irish natives of supposed high class using overt and covert racist tactics and comments. We are not in retail and deal exclusively with middle class “educated” people. When I hear of these incidents I am ashamed of my own country. They can be spiky in business but they come from a culture where thousands will take their place at a moments notice. The Chinese have been in Ireland for years some up to 40 years and some born here. We… Read more »
Aaaah, the old ‘dead babies’ line. Nice to see that old chestnut is still kicking around. Has anybody ever noticed how, down through the years, the ‘babies’ or ‘dead babies’ reference is always trotted out to demonise a people we’re suspicious of? Apparently the English, Protestants Jews and ‘de blacks’ also ate; killed,stepped over (delete where applicable) babies – alive and dead. And in the the bigotry heartland of old East End, us ‘Micks’ were up to the very same thing! But to para-phrase Spinsta-Sista’s get-out-clause ‘This may of course be an exaggeration and opinions from people who have visited… Read more »
Thanks for correcting me on that B. As I said, I haven’t been to China so my only experience of the Chinese is the people who are here. The only Chinese people I have dealt with are in retail.
I don’t lump China together in one concept – that would be foolish as the country is so big. They’re not hot on freedom of expression but neither were we in the first few decades of the Irish Free State.
I do not approve of the Chinese attitude towards human rights.
I stand corrected. It’s definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Irishman Jonathan Swift advocated eating babies in his pamphlet “A Modest Proposal”!
”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …”
I’d rather have a Chinese takeaway myself.
The Irish attitude to human rights is as bad. We don’t execute people in execution chambers but are willing to execute them by negligence in our hospitals.
“The Irish attitude to human rights is as bad. We don’t execute people in execution chambers but are willing to execute them by negligence in our hospitals.”
B, with regard to human rights in China, perhaps you should speak to some Falun Gong members and see if they agree with you.
“The Chinese will have us for breakfast organic or not, with or without milk”
You seem to be hell bent on serving us up to the Chinese!
The Chinese will serve themselves. I think the Chinese attitude to human rights is to elevate the rights of the group higher than the rights of the individual and punish the renegades. I am not condoning it but stating what I have been told. Ireland as I have said before pays lip service to human rights but it has in the past imprisoned and executed people that society did not want. These being the people committed to mental institutions over land and the not-to-be-discussed forced exile of half a million Irish people to Britain and America when the Catholic Taliban… Read more »
The biggest problem with doing business with China is the issue of saving face – to lose face is one of the worst things that can happen to a Chinese person and so if they make an error, it’s difficult if not impossible to get them to admit to it – it’s weird, but there you are.
You’re making waves david!
B, The Taliban should be compared to the Catholic Church in this Country. They banned television, music, men shaving and all forms of technological ownership in the home – they were the Afghani version of The Khmer Rouge and were content living in the stone age. The Catholic Church has done more for this country than it is now given credit for; of course there were scandals from some priests who shouldn’t even be classed as human beings but the moral teachings were we given by the overall honest majority can’t be ignored. It’s broad-minded liberals whose brains have fallen… Read more »
You must be typing too fast again Donal .. take your time!
“The Catholic Church has done more for this country than it is now given credit for;”
I used to be of that opinion until I realised that they turned down a serious effort by Queen Victoria to educate the Irish after the famine – a few towns and cities got model schools before they put the brakes on – that set the Irish back fifty years.
With respect Ed, I wouldn’t have trusted Queen Victoria. She wasn’t amused to anything, including human decency as her government allowed the famine to occur in the first place by selling all our potatoes and letting us die of starvation. She was a proponent of the soup kitchens which made people whom were on their knees renounce the pope before they even could have a slurp! It might’nt have been in every case but it did happen and I wouldn’t trust anyone like her even if she appears serious. The existing Royal Family in the UK are no different, they… Read more »
Hey “B” the stuff you wrote on the Chinese was interesting … I never knew for instance about them not liking debt. Some other stuff as well.
So please keep commenting on what David writes as I for one an interested in what you write.
The standard of debate on this website is, of late,debased..lets get back to focus on chaos, corruption, and incompetent administration (Fianna Fail) or the likely repercussions worldwide, in poverty stricken countries, of the fact that the price of flour has risen by 40% in recent months because farmers are producing more and more ethanol thanks to government subsidies.
Meanwhile irish farmers have demanded a derogation from the Green PartyÂ´s new road tax on gas guzzling 4 wheel drive vehicles. I always thought the red tractor diesel they fuelled them with, was derogation enough.!
I’ve to take issue with a few things B wrote. De Valera didn’t resettle families from the west to Leinster to produce milk, it was to further his dream of 8 million people living in frugal comfort. While this might have cornered a segment of the farming vote, it radicalised other parts of that constituency in the opposite direction. The lingering bitterness towards DeValera is as much to do with his economic policies in the thirties, when the farmers who owned most of the cattle couldn’t sell them because of the Economic War, as they have with his political activities… Read more »
Re: Callan 1. DeValera could not find his arse with both hands. He needed the farmers to hang onto power. He was British so much he cut his (substantial) nose off to spite his face. 2. “Dairy production and mass production of goods that are made cheaper elsewhere is nonsense in Ireland.” Poland is far better to mass production. There is a reason it was used a battlefield so often. Wide and flat. Just what tractors and farmers like. 3. “Ireland as an island nation is unique in the fact that most people won’t eat seafood” 100% of our Islands… Read more »
B, one thing you have forgotten or over looked is that there are plenty of things going in the Phillipines, but its the chinese who control 75% of the wealth in that nation whilst the native population of about 97% own less than a quarter of their wealth. The chinese are the most hated people there because they live in villas and Mansions whilst the rest of the population live in slums – and have to go to the local dump to collect either their next meal or items that can be used. They are exactly what the chinese were… Read more »
B Does B stand for bitter by any chance? You seem to hate Ireland and everything we stand for. David will probably cane me for saying this, but if your anti-Irish feelings are so strong and you’re an Irish citizen why don’t you renounce your Irish citizenship for citizenship of some other country? You have said that the Chinese work well as a group and that means that they don’t go around running other Chinese people down. If they did the whole system would fall apart. Stop running Ireland and Irish people down. We fought for hundreds of years to… Read more »
how about this suggestion for dealing with Corrupt politicians? The Nursing home scandal was something the didn’t deal with.
Why not put Bertie Ahern when he is very old and indicted for corruption years later and have him institutionalised in a rundown home closed for at least 10 years…….
have him as the only resident who isn’t allowed any contact with the outside world and he has to collect his sole meal a day through a door at the front? This place of course would have no heating, rickety stairs andf and stair master that’s long past its service?
SpinstaSista. I am Irish and proud of it. I don’t “hate what we stand for” but I do not not for one second believe or condone Fianna Fail ideology that, instead of making us a confident new nation made us a backward, inward looking place and poor for fifty years longer than we needed to be. I won’t be giving up my citizenship anytime soon. Unless you want me to go for having an opinion. I will not renounce my citizenship for having views that are contrary to the Party Line. This is free speech and I am using it.… Read more »
“McQuaid wasn’t a bigot, he never denounced Protestantism but wanted ireland to remain a Catholic Country probably because we were forced for hundreds of years to go underground for our beliefs.” He certainly didn’t promote it – I seem to remember having to pray for their conversion. The hundreds of years thing is an exaggeration – the penal laws were enacted between 1695 – 1730 and remained in full force until the latter half the1700s and were then gradually relaxed until they were finally repealed in 1829 by the then Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington – they should never… Read more »
Ed, fact of the matter is that we were as catholics repressed for hundreds of years. Clarendon Street Church is a living example of proof to show that our faith was heavily restricted – The Church of Ireland for example only had 20-10% of the population or less back then but it was the official religion of this country ignoring the fact we outnumbered the Non-Catholics 4 or 9/1. B, I know very well that the phillipines have McDonalds and starbucks present there. it appears that the only Fillipinos are very fortunate ones but I can certainly say that there… Read more »
B, I know very well that the phillipines have McDonalds and starbucks present there. it appears that the only Fillipinos you’ve met are very fortunate ones but I can certainly say that there is an Minority Ethnic Upper-Class in there and they are Chinese or Spanish descendants. Just because you haven’t noticed any upper class chinese or spanish there, doesn’t mean that they are a work of fiction. I stand by my comments because the majority of People who Mannilla have very poor facilities and many do live below the poverty line. You however must have hung around in prosperous… Read more »
Jews aren’t an ethnic group. They are a religious group ……
How can Jews whom are black, mestizio, White, Arab even or chinese be part of the same ethnic group when they all loooking very different and speak different languages?
How can you answer that question when they clearly dispersed and married into every other ethnic group?
Manila is spelt Manila not Mannilla. The city is actually four cities stuck together and is called Metro Manila. Makati is the more prosperous part. I stayed in the middle of Makati city in 2 star accomodation and hung out with my friends who live there. I recommend actually going to the country and actually meeting the people. The people I know from all classes in the Philippines are Filipinos. The vast majority of the upper middle classes are Filipino and of Filipino descent. Just take a stroll through the wealthy neighbourhoods of Makati and see. Thats if you actually… Read more »
I will get the Amy Chua book and read it.
I read John Charles McQuaid: Ruler of Catholic Ireland and have to conclude that he was a jumped up little dictator and had less to do with religion and all to do with seizing power. And we let him.
and accomodation is spelt accommodation ;-)
True. I can’t spell as well as I like to.
I’m not a supporter of FF either but why should we criticise Ireland and Irish people just because they are in power? Power corrupts whether you’re in Dublin or Beijing. Not everybody in Ireland agrees with Bertie, FF & the vegetables (Greens). Maybe the Irish appear to be slow witted and heavy footed because of the way Ireland is being managed at present. Take a look at how well generations of Irish people have done abroad – slow witted and heavy footed indeed!
Thats the point. They made it abroad.
“1. DeValera could not find his arse with both hands. He needed the farmers to hang onto power. He was British so much he cut his (substantial) nose off to spite his face.” De Valera was British?! “2. “Dairy production and mass production of goods that are made cheaper elsewhere is nonsense in Ireland.” Poland is far better to mass production. There is a reason it was used a battlefield so often. Wide and flat. Just what tractors and farmers like.” What do you know of the current economic structure of Polish agriculture, as opposed to that country’s topography? “3.… Read more »
B, how about we take a look at places like the UK & France who adopted multiculturalism and attempted to be inclusive. Only to crap on the immigrants and treat them like dirt they always saw them as in the first place. The Irish in the UK have no representation at all (after God knows how many years!) and Irish events like Bloody Sunday, the partition of Ireland and other acts of oppression are censored from history books – that’ll explain why the english are so ignorant about this country. Of course this doomed to fail experiment has resulted in… Read more »
1. meant to read HATED the British. My mistake. It was 4am.
Author: Callan Comment: 1. Was a typing error. 2. They like cabbage. 3. go figure 4. Animal waste fouls water courses. Sheep dip is also nasty stuff. 8. Aldi and Lidl import from NI 10. Howell MA. Factor analysis of international cancer mortality data and per capita food consumption. Br J Cancer 1974;29:328-36. Re farmers. If the CAP fits… I don’t know who you are so how am I offending you. I come from a background of food production. My heart bleeds for the poor downtrodden farmer. The sea surrounds Ireland and we don’t use it. There is more to… Read more »
Ireland won’t be torn apart like the Balkans. We have already had our ethnic wars and I don’t think we will have the Sikhs of Co. Clare fighting over the mountains the Brazilians of Galway. Also McQuaid is dead and the reasons for ethnic conflict are not here now. I really believe he inflamed the Northern situation. I do however take exception to filipino women being stoned in a county town in Ireland from cars. This happens. They won’t go out walking at night. Also when they have a get together they have to face taunts from local youths saying… Read more »
“Not everybody in Ireland agrees with Bertie, FF & the vegetables (Greens).”The majority does – that’s they’ve been in power so long. Look at their swagger, they know that they’re untouchable – tribunals are just a little entertainment for the faithful. They’ve perfected the art of parallelism, do something for the country and simultaneously do something for yourself – the good equates against the bad and the result is neutral – it works every time and you must admit that in a perverse way, its brilliant.
Random replies to random posters: 1:The Chinese may have us for breakfast but we all agreed to have a Chinese for lunch. 2: If it wasn’t for the Jews, we wouldn’t have had Jesus (or McQuaid). 3: No, Dev wasn’t British, but he had some Cuban blood. A Catholic Castro if ever there was one. 4: Groups claiming Chinese ancestry are pretty successful all over Asia – can we have one too? 5: Notting Hill has really gone down the tubes since they made that film. 6: Koreans eat a lot of fish and they’re the slimmest nation in the… Read more »
B, look at what happened to Sri Lanka when they got independence and the Tamils whom were planted there by the british a century earlier. The Sinhalese whom are the native population and have had a culture of its own for thousands of years were left with another ethnic group to deal with of indian origin, the tamils (were given all the best jobs in the government and civil service) had a completely different culture and never integrated properly with the Sinhala – then in 1983 after further deteriorating relations they started killing each other. Another example is Rwanda &… Read more »
I would say that De Valera was a celt, they existed in Spain around time of the romans so he should be classed as Irish like us.
Lads! Stop acting like Irishmen – forever arguing and being so interesting. No wonder we can’t get ourselves together. No other nation can match us for our blather. With so many strong opinions, the notion of Ireland as a nation state is a nonsense. No wonder we are easily ruled but cannot rule. In China, this kind of nonsense would never prevail. A huge country with one read language for millennia merely demonstrates this. They have come of age and I figure we’ll be looking for a job from them pretty soon. Stay humourous guys…The Chinese appreciate it…I suspect our… Read more »