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Content Guy’s Note: In addition to speaking at the annual Meat Conference in Nashville, MorningNewsBeat’s Michael Sansolo also filed this report about what he saw and heard…

Is the world facing the potential of catastrophic starvation? Incredibly, that prediction was made calmly and clearly at the Annual Meat Conference, which ran this Sunday to Tuesday in Nashville. The meeting was full of significant discussions thanks to the confluence of a number of major issues impacting the meat case, including food safety, health and wellness, animal welfare and consumer trends. But the specter of starvation was raised as part of a powerful session on the growing battle between food and fuel for grain.

Steve Meyer of Paragon Economics outlined the incredible impact the nation's growing use of grain for ethanol is having on the food industry. The impact, increasingly obvious in the rising costs of meat, poultry, pork and products from animals, is largely caused by the doubling or tripling of various grain costs thanks to competition from the ethanol industry. As Meyer explained, that competition isn't ending anytime soon as even more ethanol plants are being brought on line.

However, Meyer's most chilling prediction came when he outlined how the need for grain is causing a depletion of stocks and possibly a grain deficit in 2008. And that's if the weather stays optimal for the crops. As Meyer pointed out, there are a number of reasons to fear a drought, which would create a massive grain deficit and the potential for starvation in parts of the globe. Making no secret of his anger on this point, Meyer said it's hard to believe the United States would have ever pushed subsidies for ethanol if corn-rich Iowa didn't have such a significant role in the presidential election process.

Incredibly, Meyer's talk wasn't the only significant presentation at the conference, which is run jointly by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the American Meat Institute (AMI), and key associations representing chicken, turkey, pork and lamb. Some other key topics addressed during the conference included food safety and the impact of the recent ground beef recall on consumer confidence; the coming uncertainty over country of origin rules that take effect Sept. 30th, even though the specific rules aren't written; and problems finding and managing multi-generational employee teams. Frequently, the grimmer, tougher topics easily outdrew marketing issues for the crowd of retailers and suppliers.

Of course, not all the news was negative. The retail industry was reminded that the increasingly tough economy could allow supermarkets to grab market share back from restaurant with the application of sharper marketing. And FMI's Anne-Marie Roerink presented "The Power of Meat" an annual study showing increasing interest from shoppers in making nutritional decisions with meat and their continuing support for supermarket meat departments.

KC's View: