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5 Ideas for Doubling the World's Food Supply


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Cut the Meat
Shoppers in China buy pork for the lunar New Year's Eve dinner.  As developing countries join the ranks of frequent meat eaters, the meat supply will become even more strained.
Shoppers in China buy pork for the lunar New Year's Eve dinner. As developing countries join the ranks of frequent meat eaters, the meat supply will become even more strained.
Feng Li/Getty Images

Livestock farming is terribly inefficient, whether you're raising animals for their meat or the food they produce, like eggs or milk. Rather than feeding grains to hungry people, we feed them to animals to produce meat, eggs and dairy products. It takes more than 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) of corn to produce a single pound of meat, and cutting out that "middleman" is effectively increasing yield, since it means more calories going directly to hungry mouths [source: Fromartz].

Developing countries like China are eating more meat, which means our global food system is getting less efficient by the day. In China, the main grain that people eat is rice, but Chinese farmers are actually growing more corn for livestock than they are rice for people right now [source: Earth Policy Institute].

The United Nations even recommends shifting to a more plant-based diet to help combat world hunger. Animal agriculture accounts for 50 percent of water use worldwide [source: Oppenlander]. Not only is raising plant foods more efficient, but animal agriculture's environmental impacts are contributing to climate change, which will make it harder to grow food in the future [source: Carus].

However, people love meat and eggs, and they love cheese. As with reducing food waste, it's hard to show consumers a personal benefit to giving up something they enjoy to help people they've never met, but some scientists say that water shortages and a growing population will force all of us to eat about 75 percent less meat in the next 40 years as raising animals for meat and meat byproducts will become more and more expensive [source: Vidal].

There is no silver bullet to our worldwide food problems, but focusing on increasing efficiency and yields while reducing waste and the environmental impacts of food production are going to be the keys to feeding 9 billion people by 2050.


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