A new report released by Our World in Data, featuring statistics from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, highlighted how the food industry could feed vastly more people with plant-based diets, rather than raising livestock.
A chart included in the report breaks down the area of land on Earth by function and allocation, including land usage by animal agriculture and produce. “[T]he 11 million square kilometres used for crops supply more calories and protein for the global population than the almost 4-times larger area used for livestock,” noted the report.
According to the report, the land allocated for raising livestock — both for the animals themselves and the land used to grow livestock feed crops — is equivalent to the area of North, Central, and South America combined. This area equates to about half of the entire habitable land on the planet.
In contrast, land allocated to growing crops for human consumption — arable farming excluding livestock feed crops — is equivalent to East Asia-Pacific, ceasing South at Thailand.
Within the past half-century, the global human population has more than doubled. This figure is forecast to surge further in coming years. The report commented, “To meet the demands of a rapidly growing population on a planet with finite land resources, reducing our per capita land footprint is essential.” At present, “we see that agricultural land per person is higher than that of arable land.”
Our World in Data’s findings is echoed by other reports that also claim plant-based farming is key to feeding the future, as opposed to animal agriculture’s less efficient and unsustainable production.
Recently, a report by the World Wildlife Fund highlighted how food choices are a central factor in global warming. The report concluded if more people were to opt for a plant-based diet and significantly reduce their intake of animal products, humanity’s carbon and land footprint would be drastically lowered.
Additionally, researchers uncovered obstacles in feeding the 7.5 billion humans on Earth last year. Taking into consideration an average caloric intake of 2,700 per day, the global population would require 7.4 quadrillion calories of food to sustain itself. However, just 378 trillion calories are available to humans via animal protein. This means 89 percent of calories are lost when food is consumed in the form of animal products, as livestock consume more calories than they provide.
Another report stated that swapping out meat in favor of plant-based food could feed an additional 350 million people.
Image Credit: Our World in Data