USA, San Francisco. The fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption of food and agriculture in history, driven by technology and new business models, is underway. By 2030, modern food products will be higher quality and cost less than half the price of the animal- derived foods they replace, the dairy and cattle industries will have collapsed, and the rest of the livestock industry will follow.
That’s according to a new report, “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020 to 2030 -The Second Domestication of Plants and Animals, the Disruption of the Cow, and the Collapse of Industrial Livestock Farming,” released by RethinkX, an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the scope, speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications across society.
Highlights of the report findings include:
- By 2030, the number of cows in the US will have fallen by 50%. At current prices, revenues of the US beef and dairy industry and their suppliers, which together exceed $400bn. today, will decline by at least 50%.
- By 2030 the market for ground beef by volume will have shrunk by 70%, steak market by 30% and dairy market by almost 90%. The markets for other cow products (leather, collagen, etc.) are likely to decline more than 90%. All together, demand for cow products will fall by more than 50%.
- By 2030, the US dairy and cattle industry will have collapsed. Conventional farming production costs will double.
- By 2035, US demand for beef and dairy products will be down by nearly 90%, leaving only local specialty farms in operation. Industrial farmland values will collapse by 40 to 80%.
- The volume of crops needed to feed cattle in the US will fall by 50% from 155 mill. t in 2018 to 80 mill. t in 2030, causing cattle feed production revenues to fall by more than 50% from 60 bn. in 2019 to less than $30 bn. in 2030.
- Other livestock industries will suffer similar disruptions, and the knock-on effects for crop farmers and businesses throughout the value chain will be severe.
Food Cost Savings
- The cost of modern foods and products will be at least 50% and as much as 80% lower than animal products they replace, which will translate into substantially lower prices and increased disposable incomes. The average U.S. family will save more than $1,200 a year in food costs, keeping an additional $100 bn. a year in Americans’ pockets by 2030.
Jobs Lost and Gained
- Half of the 1.2 mill. jobs in US beef and dairy production (including supply chain), along with their associated economic output, will be lost by 2030, climbing toward 90% by 2035.
- The emerging US modern foods industry will create at least 700,000 jobs by 2030 and up to 1 mill. jobs by 2035.
- The dramatic decrease in the cost of food will increase disposable income, resulting in increased consumer spending that will create jobs. Global technology leadership will generate wealth, jobs and taxes.
- Modern foods will be far more efficient than animal-derived products: up to 100 times more land- efficient, 10-25 times more feedstock-efficient, 20 times more time-efficient, and 10 times more water-efficient than industrial livestock. They will also produce an order of magnitude less waste.
- By 2035, 60% of the land currently used for livestock and feed production for will freed for other uses. This 485 million acres equates to 13 times the size of Iowa, an area almost the size of the Louisiana Purchase. If all this land were dedicated to maximize carbon sequestration, all current sources of US greenhouse gas emissions could be fully offset by 2035.
- US greenhouse gas emissions from cattle will drop by 60% by 2030, on course to nearly 80% by 2035. Even when the modern food production that replaces animal agriculture is included, net emissions from the sector as a whole will decline 45% by 2030 on course to 65% by 2035.
- Water consumption in US cattle production and associated feed cropland irrigation will fall 50% by 2030 on course to 75% by 2035. Even when the modern food production that replaces animal agriculture is included, net water consumption in the sector as a whole will decline 35% by 2030 on course to 60% by 2035.
- Oil demand by the US agriculture industry will decrease at least 50% (currently 150 million barrels equivalent a year) by 2030.
- The modern food system will provide greater food security and reduced hunger due to price reductions, and a more stable and resilient distributed system of production that is less subject to volume and price volatility.
- Nutritional benefits could have profound impact on health, both in reduction in foodborne illness and in conditions such as heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes estimated to cost the US $1.7 trillion annually.
- Trade relations and geo-politics will shift due to a modern decentralized food production.
- At the same time, the opportunity to capture value associated with a trillion-dollar global industry will become available to any country.
The new report focuses on the food industry, but the same technology is poised to disrupt and blur the lines that separate food, cosmetics, healthcare and materials. The sheer scale of this market opportunity will create a virtuous cycle, attracting talent and investment, increasing research and development, improving products and processes and inventing new ones, accelerating market growth, driving down costs and driving up adoption.
For policymakers, the report identifies critical choices that can accelerate or slow down disruption or impede its size and scale, and can expand or contract its benefits.