If farmers and consumers are willing to change their ways, existing croplands could change what we eat and the number of people we are able to feed worldwide. Ceasing the production of biofuels and animal feed and producing only food for human consumption could feed four billion more people, according to Science Daily.
As the world’s population continues to grow and demand for crops is expected to double by 2050, farmers and researchers are working to find a way to feed millions more. Meat has a significant impact on food security as it takes up to 30 crop calories to produce a single calorie of meat. Additionally, more crops are being used for biofuels rather than food production.
Noting cultural and economic factors, researchers realize that while a total shift from animal-based to plant-based diets may not be feasible, a small change in diet can make a huge difference in food security. Just shifting from crop-intensive beef to pork and chicken could feed an additional 375 million people. A shift to non-meat diets including eggs and milk could feed 815 million more people.
To put the matter in perspective, researchers recorded the extent and productivity of 41 major crops between 1997 and 2003 using data from the United States Department of Agriculture. They found that:
- Only 55 percent of crop calories worldwide directly nourished people
- Growing food exclusively for human consumption could boost available food calories to 70 percent
- United States cropland could feed an additional one billion people by shifting crop calories to direct human consumption