Rice is the primary staple in the diets of over 50% of the globe’s population (Childs, 2012) with over two and a half billion mouths depending on the grain as their primary source of calories (Harriss-White, 2005). Rice is second only to wheat in terms of area harvested and is the most important grain in terms of calorie consumption (Khan & Rashid, 1986). Asia and Africa host the largest rates of consumption worldwide. For centuries developing nations have been dependent on rice’s high caloric value and agricultural versatility. In Northeastern Asia rice consumption has been declining, but numbers continue to grow in the developing regions such as Southeast Asia and Africa (Childs, 2012). Globally, rice contributes to 1/5 of the total calories consumed by humans. Calories from rice are particularly essential in Asian cultures (Khan & Rashid, 1986).
For decades rice production has expanded more rapidly than the global population, doubling between 1961 and 2001 (Harriss-White, 2005). The grain is grown in 112 countries world-wide and is a fundamental crop in the global commodity market (Food and Agricultural Organization, 2004). Given its global presence and relatively cheap production costs, rice has come to flourish in a wide spectrum of cultural contexts.
Although rice is grown in 112 countries worldwide, nearly 95% of the crop is grown and consumed in Asia. In Southeast Asia, rice provides 60% of the total food intake. The highest per capita rice consumption occurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. This focus of rice in Asian cultures is not surprising given that the historic origins of the plant trace back to the continent (Kiple & Ornelas, 2000). In all of the scriptures of the ancient ci...
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Depending on the location of rice, the socioeconomic perception of its consumption can vary. In Asia, for instance, rice is consumed universally by both the rich and the poor. Due to this unilateral consumption, it does not have such a significant class connotation. Its consumption, however, varies drastically in significance depending on economic status. Where the more wealthy individuals enjoy rice as a dietary preference, 70% of Asia’s poor depend on rice as lifeline for survival (Gulati & Narayanan, 2003).
Rice’s importance to the poor is not nearly as relevant in the United States where the lower class has a much different diet. In modern society, the U.S. poor do not rely nearly as heavily on rice. Instead, their primary starch is the potato. This is not surprising given the fast-food diets of lower income Americans (Roeder, 2012).
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