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Protein and Transpacific Power (fortisanalysis.substack.com)
77 points by walterbell 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 25 comments

Living in Iowa, the major talk radio stations have an ag focused program every morning. They routinely mention weather and crop conditions in Brazil since they're a competitor also exporting lots of corn and soybeans. Constraints on ag exports could cause serious economic repercussions throughout the Midwest.

Working in manufacturing, I cannot stress how messed up the supply chains are. I've spoken with a number of friends at various manufacturing companies, everything is a disrupted mess right now, and it won't be remotely normal for at least another year. Freight rates are crazy, shipping across the ocean is multiple times more than it typically has been, and ports in Asia are periodically shut down because of COVID outbreaks.

My wife works in logistics and today she remarked "I fully expect there will be things I need at the store that will be missing, which I totally understand because of how messed up everything is, but I get excited if they have everything."

Getting your product into a container, the trailer to the port, and the container onto a ship is plagued with issues. The process used to be straightforward, and bookings were pretty firm. Now things change on a daily basis, adding to an already frustrating situation.

Strange that this article focuses on containers. I’ve never heard of grains and oilseeds moving by containers (I’m sure it happens).

Almost all of these goods move on dry bulk carriers (specially Panamaxes) which are analogous to oil tankers but for non liquids (basically a big floating shoebox with a motor at back).

Interesting comment, so I looked it up. It appears that the switch to containerization over bulk grain transport is a relatively recent transition push(1).

1. https://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/containerized-shipment-...

“China is far and away the global leader in aquaculture production (“farmed” marine protein, vice “capture” fisheries in the world’s oceans) at 68.4 million tons produced annually, while the US checks in at 490,000 tons. Similarly, China’s capture fishing activities utilizing its massive commercial fishing fleet is reported to generate another 14.4 million tons of protein, while US fishing is comparatively much smaller at 5.35 million tons.”

I want to echo, this article was incredibly informative. That being said, I had no idea there was such a massive imbalance in seafood production which I assume also relates to consumption.

My competitive side now wants to start a fish farm. Like I'm mass-producing B-52s, except now they're tuna.

Maybe this is the solution to American "elite overproduction": less "I'm going to be a brand consultant in Manhattan" after one-too-many Sex and the City episodes, and more -- I'm picturing a Rosie the Riveter poster, except now she's holding a giant salmon (Excuse me, I'll be in my bunk).

Maybe we can even get the Pope on board, like in the good old days of Filet O' Fish on Fridays?

I have a whole cultural program now laid out in my head. Musicals, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the works. All in support of our brave new aquacultural future.

I mean, it'd be more useful than all the coffee shops and dog groomers.

Our motto will be a taunt to our challengers:



"Idea: feed mayonnaise to tuna fish!"

-- Night Shift

This is an astoundingly informative and insightful report!

China is in a bad way. The Chinese people will suffer, and things might get dicey for the government. The CCP may feel obliged to lean hard on its newfound domestic surveillance infrastructure, thus far concentrated mainly on Xinjiang province. Initiating a foreign war might be perceived as necessary to distract the population.

Interesting that the author focuses on protein rather than calories.

If it's protein, and not calories, that are going to be an issue in PRC, I suspect the people in PRC will be ordered by their government to consume chicken instead of pork. one chicken per week per man is plenty to supplant a rice- or wheat-based diet, along with some vegetables. Chicken production can also be scaled rapidly, albeit if done quickly there will probably be outbreaks of avian flu.

Chicken is an amazing source of protein, given what range of inputs they can feed on, and how quickly they can be slaughtered after hatching (6-8 weeks, typically).

Whilst I've seen plenty of emotive videos over the years showing chickens' capacity for socialisation, empathy and intelligence, I as equally find it hard to have too much sympathy for them in their function as food for humans, given most of them barely make it two months into the world.

I say this as someone who, whilst loving her utterly after her birth, had occasional abstract thoughts about how entirely unconscious and parasitic my daughter was for a few months. It got me thinking. Whilst I now find my heart softened utterly by so much more than I did, my heart also hardened when thinking about sentient chickens as food.

It's been interesting watching the votes go up and down on this one, haha. I figured it wouldn't be popular.

Out of grim interest, I just checked how long it takes for Mealworm to mature. Chickens take less time to grow..


Calories are generally cheap. Protein is dear. When the ocean ecosystem collapses under the strain of acidification by dissolved CO2, efforts to control access to protein will trigger wars.

Meat is non-essential, nutritionally, given beans and B-12, but materially reducing access to it is politically destabilizing.

Ah yes, supplement.

PRC is a totalitarian state that has starved its own population in the name of progress in living memory.

I suspect they would be fine with doing this again.

The state might be, the question is whether the public would be fine with it, and what the cost of containing dissent might be in the information age.

What online media giveth, pervasive surveillance taketh away.

Presumably shifting market prices of protein sources will change consumption patterns. But if people are priced out of eating as much meat as they’re used to, it breaks the mental model of continuously improving living standards, which might have political knock on effects.

Right, that's been going on in the US for the last 20 years but it's a frog-slowly-boiled situation. Nobody really knows why so many people are unhappy but they are.

Imagine if all that had happened over a year or two. The BLM protests would probably look quaint by comparison.

Hence why we've seen the popularisation of fake-meats in the USA.

Do you mean that as a counterpoint to the parent? These products seem to generally be targeting wealthier consumers. I wonder if China did face a shortage of animal protein, they could avoid some of the political unrest by marketing plant-based alternatives as being more desirable, like these US companies are trying to do (with reasonable success, it seems).

The meat substitutes are made out of soy and various other lately scarce ingredients.

Just, a lot less of them than would have been fed to the animal it replaces.

The latest generation of meat substitute products are largely a highly processed form of pea protein.

I thought this was more a result of increasing health/environmental awareness.

This guy has been putting out content like this for years now as twitter "threads", which is an awful format for long form reading. It's so great to see that he's finally moved on to publishing on Substack.


Not sure why threads is in quotes here. I believe that’s just what they’re called.

Yes, that's what they're called by Twitter users, but the word has a meaning that originated (I believe) in the 80s with Usenet threads and is now applied to other places where similar structures exist (Like this HN comment thread). It's obvious that a forum thread or HN thread is basically the same as the original meaning, but Twitter threads are more like disconnected individual sentences that are so illegible and difficult to navigate that it doesn't seem reasonable to call them threads.

Clicking "Show Replies" a few tweets down seems to have a 50/50 chance of actually getting me to the end of the thread. On a desktop browser, not logged in, there are a handful of real sentences per screenful. There's a plethora of user interface elements you have to ignore to find the content, with repeated user icons, both a name and an @, dates and times (when it's all practically posted at the same time), retweets, quotes, likes, free-form continuation indicators counting 1/ 2/ 3/, and so on. Twitter will randomly offer seemingly unrelated tweets interspersed throughout.

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