no meat=more food?

I read somewhere that if we stopped eating meat, the grains and veggies would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world.
I also read that if we didn’t eat meat, but ate graisn, we’d be eating the animals food and ** they** would go hungry!
If everyone today stopped eating meat and became vegetarian, would everyone have enough food one earth?

The question doesn’t seem to be the amount of food, but rather the distribution of it. There’s plenty of food to feed everybody. The problem is that some areas have plenty, while others do not.

You are right to think that meat is a less efficient food source than vegetable matter.

This is why there are a lot more herbivores than carnivores.

I know that’s correct in the meaning of how much land needed to produce how much nutritional value, but is that also correct in so far as amount needed to be consumed in order to meet nutritional needs?

I thought that part of what helped man’s evolution was switching to a diet richer in meat as meat is a more concentrated nutritional source.


Yes, meat is generally a more concentrated food source

Also, if you can believe the low-carb advocates like the Zone diet, the worst thing that ever happened to the human race was switching our diet from meat and vegetables to starchy grains.

Scylla wrote:

Yep. The plains of North America makes great farmland, but the desert of Ethiopia doesn’t. Sorry, moms, but “Clean your plate, children are starving in India” doesn’t actually work. :wink: (However, “Build a more efficient cargo ship, children are starving in India” or “Engineer a hardier rice grain, children are starving in India” does.)

The other thing to remember is that animals can eat foods that humans cannot. Ever try eating grass? There are many areas of the world where farming is impractical due to poor land, but herding is not…the goats and cows eat the scrubby grass and the humans eat the milk and meat.

Or, chickens scratch around in the farmyard, collecting food that the humans cannot, such as bugs and stray seeds. Then the humans eat the chickens.

However, it is true that in the US most livestock is raised on grain which could be edible to people. The only trouble is that even if we saved the grain, what would we do with it? We could double or triple grain production any day we wanted to, if the goal is simply more grain sitting in the silos. But who’s going to buy the grain? People who are starving don’t have the money to buy the grain. Give it away? Then we are destroying local agriculture.

The answer is economic development in depressed regions, not destroying economic development in affluent regions.

Actually, modern ships are pretty efficient. It’s more like, “create a business model that makes it profitable for farmers to sell their produce in India or Etheopia instead of just the wealthy nations.”

Or, rather, “create an analogy that describes one or two aspects of the issue, but not all of them.”


msmith537 wrote:

Hmmm … methinks the morass of Federal farm subsidies could be turned to this purpose, without impacting U.S. farmers or the U.S. economy.

I heard if people of the United States reduced the consumption of meat by just 10%, the rest of the world would have plenty to eat (waving a magic wand to get around all the politics). Energy and water supplies would be much more plentiful as well.

You heard? Can you explain exactly how this would work? The logic and logistics?

Scylla hit the nail on the head. The problem is not quantity of food, it’s climate and distribution. It’s easy for someone to look at the silos overflowing with animal feed and say “Hey, if we stopped eating animals, that grain could feed starving people.” The logistical, political, and economic problems involved make that idea unworkable without a “magic wand.”

Lemur866 has properly framed the question in re more food and development.

Flooding the developing world, largely dependant on agriculture, with subsidized, energy intensive first world produce is not the way to prevent starvation or other food problems.

Poverty and distribution are long term issues. Certainly allowing more developing world agri produce into the first world would tend to help put money in the hands of the developing world’s agricultural sector.

I have no idea where this nonesense about plenty of food, water for the world if the US reduced meat consumption come from. Possibly the same folks who think if the IMF went away that suddenly developing nations would live free and happy.

Lemur866 wrote:

I would like a cite for this, because I don’t believe it’s true. I grew up in cattle country in the Southeastern U.S. I know that we didn’t raise our cattle on grain, nor did any of our neighbors. The cattle grazed. They ate grass.

We would occasionally supplement their grazing with “range cubes” which were made, IIRC, from sorghum, but for the most part, their diet was good ol’ grass.

Now I don’t doubt that cattle may be fattened for a relatively short period of time on a grain diet (before slaughter), but I would like to see some cite or evidence for any beef cattle being raised primarily on grain from birth to death.

'Tain’t so, sez I.

Another factor to consider is the environmental perspective. It may take more acreage to produce X calories of beef than X calories of grain, but cattle are not nearly as hard on the land as a grain crop. Each grain crop that is planted means a loss of topsoil, it means use of fertilizers and pasticides which wash into our rivers, it means irrigation and depletion of water supplies. Irrigated crop production also results in a very gradual increase in the salinity of the soil, rendering the soil ultimately unfit for food production. (Which is how the “Fertile Crescent” of ancient times came to be the desert and scrubland of today’s Middle East.)

I’m not at all convinced that grain production is environmentally preferable to beef production.

Even after feeding the cattle for a couple of weeks on grain, we still have more grain than we can use. That is why states in the midwest are pushing for us to use fuels made from corn in our autos.
Another falsehood is everyone thinking that they are helping the environment by eating food that has been raised chemical free (excuse me but I’m having a senior moment and can’t think of the term). There are many reasons why this is not true, one of which is that it takes much more land to raise the same amount of food.

Point of clarification: they want us to use fuel that include some percentage of ethanol, which comes from corn, mixed in with the gasoline. Most plans for promoting this are only interested in a small percentage, such as 5% by mass. To me, it seems like a pretty sound idea to use fuel grown in America rather than imported from the Middle East. However, it does force the oil industry to adjust its production facilities at a considerable cost.
I agree with Collonsbury that dumping agricultural products into poor areas will do more harm than good, except during a severe famine.
But it’s definetly true that American farmers are producing too much. Just look at commodity prices for all grains and animals over the past few years; they’ve been falling consistently. While it’s nice for people to go to supermarkets and see lower prices, this tends to put the little guys/family farms in danger. Since Americans have decided that they don’t like price controls, we seem to be caught in a cycle. Farmers produce more, causing prices to drop, forcing farmers to produce more to stay in business, etc…

organic food

My understanding is the process is not energy efficient when one examines it in its entirety

Which imposes costs on the consumer: the oil industry is like anything else, production costs have to be built into retial price.

Supply and demand, basic economic forces.

Tough, if we want economically efficient production and cheaper prices – which certainly benefit far more Americans than the proverbial “family farmer” we have to accept market forces. There are too many farmers producing too much of many crops. Ergo, some have to leave just like any other business.

For good reason, price conrols are inefficient, introduce distortions in the market, are prone to opening up black markets and reduce everyone’s long term welfare.

Then obviously some farmers need to learn some basic economics in re supply and demand, and some specific mircroeconomics as well. Too many producers, some should exit.

the vast majority of the grain fed to cattle, hogs,etc. is not fit for human consumption. the grain has things in it like weed seed, insects that were on the grain at the time of harvest, it could also have mildew or mold spores on it. IMHO the people who evaluate the grain go overboard on the side of safety(for the human use grain). for examlpe if a truckload of grain was found to have a mildew spot that amounts to a handful, the load would be rejected.

Eh, spoke, perhaps I should put it another way: a very large percentage of the grain grown in the US is fed to animals. I don’t have a source on the percentage of grains to forage, and such comparisons probably couldn’t be accurate…how do you measure how much grass your range cattle are eating? Do you measure by the pound of feed or by the weight gain or what? Hopeless. So rather than saying that animals get most of their food from grain, I’ll extend and revise my statement to say that most grain gets fed to animals.

The point is that the grain isn’t being snatched out of the mouths of third world famine victims. If animals weren’t eating the feed grain it simply wouldn’t be produced. We could easily double grain production and feed the third world the surplus while still having enough for us 'Mericans to have our Big Macs and McNuggets.

Anyway, starvation and malnutrition are not primarily farming problems, they are political and economic problems. Yes, crop failures happen all over the world. But in countries with free economies and accountable government nobody starves. Some farmers go bankrupt, food prices go up, food is imported by simply buying it from other regions without crop failures.

The starvation in Africa happens because of war and politics, not climate. Farmers are forced off their land because of the soldiers/bandits, they can’t farm because they are afraid, and even if they did put in crops it would just be stolen from them anyway. War is the cause of the famine, not crop failure, or even poverty.

spoke- wrote:

I hadn’t heard this about the Middle East. (Not that I’m that knowledgeable about geographic history to begin with.) Gotta cite?