Many more people in the world can be fed if we eat plants instead of animals. When people in wealthy countries feed grain to farm animals so we can eat meat and dairy products, while people in poor countries don’t have enough grain or rice to eat, it is as if we wealthy people are stealing food from the poor. Meat and other animal products represent an unfair distribution of the world’s resources, a form of overconsumption. The world’s farmers and gardeners could grow enough plant foods to feed everyone, but not enough animal products to feed everyone a Western diet. The non-profit organization A Well-Fed World believes that “cycling plant foods through animals to produce meat is inefficient and detrimental to global hunger and global warming solutions.”
A statement from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reinforces this message:
Western Diet Unsustainable for Planet
The more animal products people consume, the less likely we are to feed future generations, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Globally, meat and dairy consumption is expected to increase by 68 and 57 percent, respectively, by 2030. Increased demand for animal products stems not only from population growth, but from increasing affluence among the world’s population, which has shifted from grain-based diets to animal-based diets (meat, dairy products, and eggs).
Production of animal products requires more land and resources than plant-based foods, and now 75 percent of all agricultural land is used for animal production. The negative consequences of consuming more animal products affect the environment and future food availability, as well as world health. Greater animal product consumption is associated with increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
[Cassidy ES, West PC, Gerber JS, Foley JA. Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare. Environ Res Lett. 2013;8:1-8.]