Feeding a growing world

Demands on food production are ever-increasing and meeting them is proving to be a substantial challenge all over the world. Authors of a recently published study decided to investigate how the world’s crops are allocated to different uses and whether it is possible to feed more people with current levels of crop production. Their detailed calculations revealed that 36 per cent of calories produced by the world’s crops are currently being used for animal feed and only 12 per cent of these feed calories eventually find their way into the human diet as meat and other animal products. They also found that growing food solely for human consumption, without first recycling it through farmed animals, could increase available calories by as much as 70 per cent, which could feed an additional 4 billion people! The scientists pointed out that reductions in in the consumption of meat and other animal products could significantly increase global food availability. There really is no longer any excuse for wasteful ‘Western’ diets now.

Cassidy, E.S., West, P.C., Gerber, J.S., Foley, J.A., 2013. Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare. Environmental Research Letters. 8: 034015