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Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed

March 25th, 2008 | Tina | Food and Drink, General, Health, The environment | 24 Comments »

There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population. So why are more than 840 million people still going hungry?

The truth: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed. If everyone on Earth received 25 percent of his or her calories from animal products, only 3.2 billion people would have food to eat. Dropping that figure to 15 percent would mean that 4.2 billion people could be fed. If the whole world became vegan, there would be plenty food to feed all of us"”more than 6.3 billion people. The World Watch Institute sums this up rightly, saying, “Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain"”the grain is used more efficiently when consumed by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.”

pig

It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh. According to the USDA and the United Nations, using an acre of land to raise cattle for slaughter yields 20 pounds of usable protein. That same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein if soybeans were grown instead"”more than 17 times as much!

Producing the grain that is used to feed farmed animals requires vast amounts of water. It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater. You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.

It should be no surprise, then, that food for a vegan can be produced on only 1/6 of an acre of land, while it takes 3 1/4 acres of land to produce food for a meat-eater. If we added up all the arable land on the planet and divided it equally, every human would get 2/3 of an acre"”more than enough to sustain a vegetarian diet, but not nearly enough to sustain a meat-eater.

On top of this the industrial world is exporting grain to developing countries and importing the meat that is produced with it, and thus farmers who are trying to feed themselves are being driven off their land. Their efficient, plant-based agricultural model is being replaced with intensive livestock rearing, which also pollutes the air and water and renders the once-fertile land dead and barren.

If this trend continues, the developing world will never be able to produce enough food to feed itself, and global hunger will continue to plague hundreds of millions of people around the globe. There is only one solution to world hunger – A vegan diet is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue.

So the less meat you eat – the more people we can feed! Think about it.

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Comments

24 Responses to “Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed”

  1. Masimba Biriwasha
    March 26th, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    I am nearly getting convinced but what are the costs involved in becoming vegetarian. Besides I think its really kool, makes you stand out. How do I slowly settle into becoming a vegan? And an article on whats kool about being vegan could help me.

  2. Holly
    March 27th, 2008 @ 12:35 am

    Great post! You provide some really helpful information about the larger values behind a vegan diet. Our personal choices are one part of the overall solution to world hunger. Canceling the debts of poor nations, promoting fairer trade policies and urging our nation’s leaders to do more in the fight against hunger are also key steps in solving hunger. Our personal choices can only have so much of an impact on an issue as large as hunger. We must also use our voice as citizen’s to advocate for policies that address the root causes of hunger.

  3. Vern
    April 5th, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

    I was vegetarian for a while – nearly 10 years as I was doing some triathlons and things for a while. Being veggie just makes it all run through the burner (body) quicker and more efficiently. Eating meat is horribly inefficient for the body to process – so thick. The only thing I had to watch was my iron intake – but I was wolfing down supplements daily after I went low on iron once. What a great life… Hard to do that in Thailand maybe. Everything has pork. The vitamins are expensive… Good post! Vern

  4. Tina
    April 6th, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

    Thank you all for the great comments.

    To your question about the cost of becoming a vegetarian Masimba, I think it is correct to say that being a vegetarian is (much) cheaper than being a meat eater. Perhaps with a very few exceptions in the world, meat is a luxury and always much more expensive than vegetables and beans.

    In terms of getting the right proteins ect. I suggest that you order the vegetarian starter kit from PETA. It’s totally free of charge and they even send it for free (to most destinations in the world). You can also download it. The weblink is: http://www.goveg.com/order.asp

    Good luck.

    Best wishes,
    Tina

  5. Health reasons for being a vegetarian | Earthoria.com
    April 20th, 2008 @ 9:23 am

    [...] Global hunger: The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed [...]

  6. Tony
    April 27th, 2008 @ 8:29 am

    Where can we find more statistics on the impacts of meat production on world hunger? Amount of grain, water, waste-water, and the population levels that can be sustained based on different types of diets?

  7. Keith
    May 12th, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

    And here’s the other side of the story (the one I’m on)
    http://www.westonaprice.org/mythstruths/mtvegetarianism.html

  8. » If Beef Is So Bad For Us, Why Are Aliens Always Stealing Our Cows? - Dissociated Press
    July 28th, 2009 @ 5:05 am

    [...] excessive water consumption, pollution and greenhouse gas production, and on top of all that, it contributes to starvation worldwide. Not a very good scorecard. I’m even finding it hard to justify eating fish; as I joked with [...]

  9. Ann
    October 10th, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    I’m with Keith – I love animals however, I eat meat. I tried to go vegan many years ago and the soy almost ruined my thyroid. I’m hypothyroid and within 2 months became much worse. I recently ordered a phamplet for vegan eating, hoping there was other choices for protein and generally almost every meal contained soy.

    I have always had very high cholesteral and upon consulting a holistic dietician was advised that grains and many carbos should be avoided in my diet, not fat as most people think. Following this diet, my cholesteral dropped 100 points in 2 months and I lost 20 lbs!!!! Many animals eat meat; that does not make them evil.

  10. Allison
    October 18th, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

    I support this argument. But I have one question. People raise farm animals, even if not for consumption. Are you suggesting that the farm animal populous should decrease?

  11. Oh She Glows » Blog Archive » More Food Inc + Some Thoughts On Why I Went Vegan
    October 22nd, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

    [...] [Source] [...]

  12. cking
    October 11th, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    sorry, I had a few typo’s in last entry.

    Ann, there is no need or reason to eat soy. I have a friend with a similar problem. There are a so many healthful recipes that don’t include soy. Beans nuts legumes. Make ‘gravy’ simply by boiling lentils until soft, add a few spices (such as turmeric & cumin) and mash. There’s our protein. Iron; There is a lot less iron in meat than we’ve been led to believe. Research shows that through the cooling, freezing and then cooking process, more than 50% of the iron content is lost. In other words, there is more iron in spinach. O
    Oh yes, we need far less protein than the food industry has programed us to believe. In fact, excess protein is harmful. And the country’s with the highest dairy intake have the highest rates of oesteoporosis. Did you know what the US spends on health care in 10 days is equal to what was spent in one year in the 1950′s; (inflation etc were factored in) About 70% of the health problems are avoidable through good nutrition. Did you know that the number of people who die from the problems related to overeating has equalled the number of deaths from starvation.

  13. Cheryl
    March 18th, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    Would you mind citing your sources? I posted this on my FB Wall and received feedback that you raised good points but without feedback, but that it’s watered down without sources. I would appreciate it, and it would certainly strengthen your argument, and then I can repost it! Thanks!

  14. Joreim Elrod
    March 24th, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    The article is full of seemingly fact-based statements but cite no references. Could this be made available as well to satisfy the “curiosity” of people who fancy themselves “technical”? Thank you!

    J.E.

  15. Tina
    March 27th, 2011 @ 5:53 am

    Thanks for all the great comments.

    If you google some of the numbers in the article you will find lots of posts on the internet that says the same thing:

    http://www.rawfreedomcommunity.info/forum/showthread.php?t=5118

    PETA: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-and-environment.aspx

    Peta’s article: “Would you ever open your refrigerator, pull out 16 plates of pasta, toss 15 in the trash, and then eat just one plate of food? How about leveling 55 square feet of rain forest for a single meal or dumping 2,400 gallons of water down the drain? Of course you wouldn’t. But if you’re eating chickens, fish, turkeys, pigs, cows, milk, or eggs, that’s what you’re doing—wasting resources and destroying our environment.

    A recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. And the U.N. is not alone in its analysis. Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid. And a German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is. The verdict is in: If you care about the environment, one of the single most effective things that you can do to save it is to adopt a vegan diet.

    According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

    Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the Worldwatch Institute, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and even Al Gore’s Live Earth—have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it’s the overuse of resources, global warming, massive water or air pollution, or soil erosion, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

    The most important step you can take to save the planet is to go vegetarian. Order PETA’s free vegetarian/vegan starter kit for tips and recipes to get you started on an Earth-friendly vegan diet today.”

    Have a lovely vegan day.

    Best wishes,
    Tina

  16. L
    May 15th, 2011 @ 1:20 am

    Vegans: It has to be understood that many of the world´s cultures raise livestock for the fact that animals like sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and other livestock are efficient at converting unusable plant products – for humans – into proteins, fats and – in the case of sheep – other useful animal products.

    Not to mention that horses were an essential form of transportation – along with donkeys and mules – for all of history up until World War 2.

    The other issue is that a considerable number of the world´s population was nomadic or semi-nomadic and weren´t always in the same place to cultivate and harvest land that required extensive irrigation and other agricultural processes for growing.

    Animals provided a mobile form of calories that could be moved around if the group needed to: War, frosts, droughts, ect. This is opposed to plant based products which are not mobile and are heavily dependent on weather conditions and labor intensive human labor. On that last note, animals were also much more effective in plowing than humans and there waste could further be used for fertilizer.

    To be honest, I´m sympathetic to the vegans, and yes, diets high in plant products, low in animal products often make healthier, longer-living people.

    Good luck, hopefully we can all figure out how to deal with our increasing population and increasing changes.

    L

  17. Vegan
    July 9th, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    Tina, awesome job. Everyone please voice your opinion @ http://www.facebook.com/The.Vegans

  18. Maddy
    July 10th, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    Watch this awesome lecture about Veganism and Animal rights. It will change your life forever – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4

  19. Barb
    December 18th, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    Hi Tina! Thanks so much for this informative article. I’ve been looking for statistics that show current resource use (land, water, air pollution stats, etc.) we currently use in the US for meat production. Your stats give helpful numbers and I wonder whether you could give us the source information on how these were calculated so that I can include them in a paper I’d like to write.

    Basically, I want to document how many people in the US can be fed on various types of diets (I’d really like to be able to show the number who can be fed on a factory-farmed diet, on a grass-fed organic meat-centered diet, on an organic vegetarian diet, and on an organic vegan diet).

    I want to show people with verifiable numbers how we can eliminate hunger and reduce disease while restoring the earth and returning more of our land to nature.

    I also notice that someone commented above that they didn’t know how to eat a plant-based diet without centering protein around soy. Some people are sensitive to soy, just as some people are sensitive to wheat, corn, peanuts, etc.

    The other common complaint I hear from organic locavores is that vegan diet centers around processed foods. This isn’t any more true than the statement that omnivorous diet centers around factory-farmed meat and processed foods. The idea that the plant-based diet must include highly processed soy products simply isn’t true; a truly healthy diet always and only includes fresh whole foods. Plants provide everything the human body needs for optimum health.

    B12 comes from plant sources first; it’s not true that red meat is the source of it. Cows get their B12 from the yeasts attached to the plants they eat. Kale contains more bioavailable iron than red meat. Calcium is more plentifully available (again, better bioavailability) in beans and dark green leafy vegetables than in animal milk.

    It’s a simple matter to learn how to eat a healthy plant-based diet of whole organically grown foods. Google “Vegan Nutrition Basics” and you’ll draw 3 1/2 million web pages on the topic.

    The Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine offers a lovely free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program with daily menu plans, step-by-step nutritional information, cooking videos, and a host of other resources. You can find it at http://www.pcrm.org/kickstartHome/. They’ve also got a Facebook page where you can meet others who are switching to a plant-based diet.

    Thanks again for providing this information. I will eagerly await hearing about the sources of your calculations so that I can work on my article.

    Go Vegan- for compassion, for nonviolence, for the people, for the planet, for the animals!

    Barb

  20. Dee
    December 28th, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

    I absolutely agree with you, Tina. Vegan way is the only way forward. Look around us. What is happening to the planet? Why all the tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanos erupting, etc etc….Livestock industry is the main contributor. It is time for people to wake up and heed the warnings. Change your lifestyle you will feel 100% healthy, you spare animals’ lives, you help eradicate world hunger and you help save the planet.

  21. Lilia
    April 2nd, 2012 @ 2:20 am

    So many EXCUSES swirling around to keep eating animals- COME ON. It just logically makes sense if we let the animals graze (Animal populations will dramatically decrease when we stop mass-producing them), and WE eat the billions of pounds of corn, wheat, grains, and soybeans that nobody will go hungry, at least not until the human population is above like 20 billion.

  22. What’s the Beef With Eating Meat?
    March 5th, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

    [...] 6 Noga, Tina. (2008, Mar. 25). Global Hunger: The more meat we eat, the few people we feed. Earthoria. Retrieved fromhttp://www.earthoria.com [...]

  23. 10 Facts That Will Make You Glad That You’re Vegan
    January 5th, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

    [...] More than 925,000,000 don’t have food to eat. Even though we produce enough grain and corn to feed everyone in the world twice over, annually. So what’s the deal? Well most of our grain and corn are used to feed livestock. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of edible meat. According to the USDA and the United Nations, using an acre of land to raise cattle for slaughter yields 20 pounds of usable protein. That same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein if soybeans were grown instead, more than 17 times as much! (source) [...]

  24. Tiffany
    January 22nd, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

    Great article. It makes a lot more sense to go vegan. I have to admit to being one of those people who’ve been on the fence. Tettering from vegan-ish to vegetarian and occasionally giving up and eating meat just to be vegetarian again. I never saw it as a global issue that affects more than just you and the animal that you’re not eating.

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