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.
Author's Note: 5 Ideas for Doubling the World's Food Supply
I was thrilled to get a chance to learn more about ways to reduce food waste, both at home and from farm to fork. Food is a passion for me, and the amount of food that we waste here in the U.S. is staggering, especially when so many people go to bed hungry every night. You might call wasting food one of my pet peeves.
We do our best at my house to reduce our food waste footprint. We get our veggies from a local CSA, which means less waste in transit and that we are eating those perfectly healthy ugly veggies that grocery stores won't stock. We also compost our scraps, and I try to keep an eye on what's on the verge in our pantry and fridge and use it or give it away so it gets used before it goes bad.
- 5 Ways to Cut Back on Your Food Waste and Save Money Now
- 7 Easy Vegan Recipes to Get You Through Your First Week of Veganism
- Sweet Sorghum: The Sweetest Fuel You'll Ever Taste!
- UN Report Released: Can Organic Farming Feed the World?
- Will there be farms in New York City's skyscrapers?
- Bhardwaj, Majank. "As India's kids starve, $1.5 billion worth of grain rots." MSNBC. July 2, 2012. (October 1, 2012) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48039343/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/t/indias-kids-starve-billion-worth-grain-rots/#.UHMLmhiAZRV
- Carus, Felicity. "UN Urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet." The Guardian. June 2, 2010. (October 1, 2012) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet
- CBC News. "Woman plans to fight ban on backyard chickens." October 5, 2012. (October 8, 2012) http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/10/05/mb-chickens-backyard-bylaw-121005.html
- Earth Policy Institute. "Meat Consumption in China Now Double that in the United States." Sustainablog. April 25, 2012. (October 8, 2012) http://sustainablog.org/2012/04/meat-in-china/
- Fong, Petti. "Vancouver company installing vertical garden in parking garage." TheStar.com. September 1, 2012. (October 1, 2012) http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/1249959--vancouver-company-installing-vertical-garden-in-parking-garage
- Fromartz, Samuel. "Is American agriculture really efficient?" Fromartz Chewswise. May 22, 2012. (October 8, 2012) http://www.chewswise.com/chews/2012/05/is-american-agriculture-really-efficient.html
- George Mason University. "Agricultural Weather Research Holds Promise for Global Food Production." March 28, 2012. (October 8, 2012) http://cos.gmu.edu/news/fall-2011/agricultural-weather-research-holds-promise-global-food-production
- Gunders, Dana. "Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill." NRDC. August 21, 2012. (October 15, 2012) http://www.nrdc.org/food/wasted-food.asp
- Halwell, Brian. "Can Organic Farming Feed Us All?" Worldwatch Institute. May/June 2006. (October 1, 2012) http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060
- Hunger Notes. " 2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics." World Hunger Education Service. (October 8, 2012) http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm
- Kahn, Peter C. "Investing in Perennial Crops to Sustainably Feed the World." (October 1, 2012) http://www.issues.org/27.4/kahn.html
- King, Anna. "In Washington State, Picker Shortage Threatens Apple Boom." The Salt. September 3, 2012. (October 1, 2012) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/10/03/162145140/in-washington-state-picker-shortage-threatens-apple-boom
- Koont, Sinan. "Cuba's Urban Agriculture Movement." Organic Consumers Association. January 2009. (October 1, 2012) http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_18018.cfm
- Kunzig, Robert. "Perennial Solution." National Geographic. April 2011. (October 1, 2012) http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/big-idea/perennial-grains-text
- Li, Chengyun. "Crop Diversity for Yield Increase." PLOS One. November 26, 2009. (October 1, 2012) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0008049
- McIntire-Strasburg, Jeff. "Come Hangout with Us and Discuss Food Waste." Sustainablog. September 26, 2012. (October 8, 2012) http://sustainablog.org/2012/09/food-waste-hangout/
- McIntire-Strasburg, Jeff. "Urban Farming in Detroit." Sustainablog. July 27, 20122. (October 1, 2012) http://sustainablog.org/2011/07/urban-farming-detroit/
- Negative Population Growth. "Total Midyear World Population 1950-2050." (October 1, 2012) http://www.npg.org/facts/world_pop_year.htm
- Norström, Albert. "Agroecology, resilience, and world hunger." Sustainable Development Update. March 23, 2011. (October 1, 2012) http://www.sdupdate.org/component/content/article/10-news/79-agroecology-resilience-and-world-hunger
- Oppenlander, Dr. Richard. "Animal Agriculture: A Huge Waste of Water." The Scavenger. October 23, 2011. (October 15, 2012) http://www.thescavenger.net/environment/animal-agriculture-a-huge-waste-of-water-807.html
- Shulman, Rachel. Owner, River Run Farm CSA in Mahomet, Illinois. Personal Interview. October 1, 2012. https://www.facebook.com/River.Run.Farm.CSA
- Shulman, Rachel. "Sustainable Farming: Organic vs. Agroecology." Eat Drink Better. July 12, 2010. (October 8, 2012) http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2010/07/12/sustainable-farming-organic-vs-agroecology/
- Southern Innovator. "Urban Farming to Tackle Global Food Crisis." (October 1, 2012) http://www.southerninnovator.org/index.php/food-security-a-agriculture/33
- Vidal, John. "Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists." The Guardian. August 26, 2012. (October 1, 2012) http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/aug/26/food-shortages-world-vegetarianism
An inventor is planning to clean up the debris of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. HowStuffWorks finds out why this idea is being met with skepticism.