By Emilee Herrick; UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Student
Out of the 7 billion humans on this planet, 925 million of them suffer from the effects of hunger, and 870 million people are affected by malnutrition. Each year, five million people will die of starvation; 2.5 million will be children under the age of five. Based on these statistics, one might think that the world, as a whole, cannot produce enough food, however that is not the case. We produce enough plant-based foods to feed the entire world, so why are there people suffering the effects of starvation?
The meat, egg, and dairy industries are leading contributors to world hunger. A vast majority of plant foods produced each year, specifically corn, grains, and soybeans, are fed to livestock rather than people. The University of Minnesota conducted a study on the connection between agricultural resources and world hunger. They concluded that if all crops were grown for direct human consumption, there would be a 70% increase in the world’s food supply, and 4 billion more people would have access to food to eat. Such an increase would be able to sustain the world’s current population, as well as the estimated two to three billion increase by the year 2050.
According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain—the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.” To produce one pound of meat: cows need thirteen pounds of grain, pigs require seven pounds of grain, and chickens must consume four and a half pounds of grain. If that grain were instead going directly to people, we would have more grain and fewer hungry people. Another exemplification of this inefficiency is in the decrease of available calories when animals are processed. Researchers of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment found that 36% of calories in crops are being fed to animals, but when the animal is processed into meat, only 12% of those calories are available to people.
In order to combat world hunger, we must reduce or abstain from animal-based products and rely more on plant foods. In a world where the population is driven primarily by personal wants and excessive luxuries, we must think about the detrimental factors that our mere desire to eat and produce animal-based products has on us at an individual level as well as a societal level. As a population, we have all of the research and statistics to prove just how unsustainable our consumption habits are on all levels, but today people seem too focused on their own wants than about whether others have met their basic needs.
You may contact the author at: Emilee Herrick