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We know the earth’s human population is booming. Already numbering over seven billion people, studies project we’ll reach nine billion by 2050. Of course, more people means we’ll need more resources to sustain ourselves. Extra food, water, and land will be required to meet our basic needs.

However, even now at seven billion people, an estimated 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger. In addition, our natural resources are already under intense strain. From our rainforests to our oceans, natural habitats and the plants and animals that live there are disappearing at an alarming rate. If our population increases by two billion in the next 35 years, we’re going to need to give some serious thought as to how we can adequately feed everyone while still protecting what natural environment is left.

A plant-based diet has been proposed by some as the solution to our food problems. But would a shift to such a diet make a difference? Could the earth sustain nine billion people living on a plant-based diet?

The Problem With a Meat-Centric Diet

great number of people today eat a Western diet that is heavy in meat, dairy, and eggs. Regions that traditionally adhered to largely plant-based diets have started adopting diets that include more animal products in tandem with their own national development and increased wealth. Most people rarely, if ever, stop to consider the resources required to produce their food.

The problem is that the standard Western diet is extremely resource intensive. In order to produce animal products, land, water, and energy are required to grow, harvest, and transport the feed that is then fed to the farmed animals. We currently produce enough calories to feed 10-11 billion people worldwide, however, the majority of this food goes to feed livestock, not hungry people.

After feed for livestock is produced, additional land, water, and energy resources are required to house and raise the animals and dispose of their waste. Eventually, even more energy is required to transport these animals to slaughter and process their bodies.

To give you can idea of how this all breaks down, it is estimated that people who eat beef use 160 times more land, water and fuel resources to sustain their diets than their plant-based counterparts.

Because we are already struggling to feed our current population, we should be adhering to a diet that minimizes the use of our precious resources – not a diet that requires astronomical amounts of resources. But do other diets actually minimize resource use in a meaningful way?

Comparing Resource Requirements Between Diets

A quick look at the amount of resources required to produce animal products versus the amount of resources required to produce plants in the U.S. alone is astonishing:

  • We use 56 million acres of land for animal agriculture while dedicating only four million acres of land to growing produce;
  • A staggering 70 percent of grain in the U.S. is fed to farmed animals rather than to people (The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people — more than the entire human population on Earth);
  • It takes 4,200 gallons of water PER DAY to produce a meat-eater’s diet. A plant-based diet uses only 300 gallons of water per day. Additionally, a whopping 70 percent of our domestic freshwater goes directly to animal agriculture;
  • All resources taken into account, one acre of land can produce 250 pounds of beef. Sounds pretty good, right? Not when you consider the fact that the same acre of land can produce 50,000 pounds of tomatoes or 53,000 pounds of potatoes.

Instead of using our resources in the most energy-efficient way possible by growing plants to feed directly to people, we currently use our dwindling land and water to grow grain to then feed to animals who we then eat, giving us considerably less bang for our resource “buck.” By some estimates, we could feed 1.4 billion additional people simply by giving up beef, pork, and poultry in the United States. Think of what we could do if the entire world gave up all animal products!

Feeding the World

If trends continue as predicted, our population will continue to grow, more people will adopt a Western diet, and our natural resources will become more and more scarce. We need to determine the best way to feed ourselves without totally decimating our environment now before irreversible damage is done.

Based on the above data, the earth simply cannot sustain nine billion people on a Western diet. Animal product-heavy Western diets are significantly more resource intensive than plant-based diets, and there are already substantial indications that we are over-taxing our resources trying to sustain our current population of seven billion.

While at an individual level, we may not have the power to change government policies and business practices overnight to ensure food security, we do have the power to control our lifestyle choices.

As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.

By choosing to eat more plant-based foods you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock. With the wealth of available plant-based options available, it has never been easier to eat with the planet in mind.

Our everyday food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.
One Green Planet’s #EatForthePlanet movement.

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309 comments on “Can We Solve World Hunger and Feed 9 Billion People Just By Eating Less Meat?”

Click to add comment
Matthew Gavin
20 Days ago

So, you never actually answered the question.

Kenneth Teh
5 Months Ago

Thank you for the article. There reference quoted are aiming at Here we analyse solutions to this dilemma, showing that tremendous progress could be made by halting agricultural expansion, closing ‘yield gaps’ on underperforming lands, increasing cropping efficiency, shifting diets and reducing waste. Together, these strategies could double food production while greatly reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.

While the assumption is plausible there are other major causes of world hunger which sited by UN such as war and displacement, climate changes, rising of food prices etc.

It will be helpful if the author could took into consideration researches in these other areas and give a conclusion to support the assumption.

Thank you for taking time to pen the article which helped us to examine other areas of causes of hunger too.

Terry Hall
7 Months Ago

The Problem is not more food production, THE ANSWER IS LESS PEOPLE PRODUCTION. If you have 9 billion eating grass, what do you do when you have 18 billion? 20 billion? 100 billion? Look if every couple, produced ONE CHILD, in their life time, when that couple passed on, the population would be halved. PROBLEM SOLVED. The planet does NOT need US. WE need the planet!! WE ALSO NEED A HEALTHY PLANET. ANY NATION THAT CANNOT FEED THEIR POPULATION, HAS NO RIGHT TO BE ON THIS PLANET. END OF STORY. Terry Hall

8 Months Ago

How much less? Who decides the quantities? Who decides which races should disappear? The population will start to decrease at the 11 billion mark! You need to more studies and information before withing misleading articles, like this. your numbers are grossly wrong. Just an example, an all veggie-"centric" diet cost you 40% more in the industrialized countries (North-South of parallel 30)

8 Months Ago

woah.... no meat?
how can you peruade every one to become vegan???? isn\'t that a bit too hopeful?

8 Months Ago

Eating less meat will not solve the problem but itself and there is no real solution. As Carola said there are too many of us. We are an unnatural species with no place in the natural order of things that keeps the planer running smoothly. I wrote more and if you care or want to you can see it in my reply to Carola.I am pretty tired and fed up with this species to which I belong.

8 Months Ago

THE PLANET DOESN\'T NEED 9 BILLION PEOPLE regardless of diet! I\'m all for birth control for humans, including sterilization, and have no problem with women having access to abortion. Already some 60 billion "food" animals are being bred and killed globally as the demand for animal products rises along with unchecked human overpopulation. Free-living animals are being "culled" (murdered with malice aforethought) when conflicts arise with unchecked human overpopulation expansion across the continents and oceans.

And organized religions, like the Catholic Church, should be taken to task for opposing birth control and abortion, and for preaching the "sanctity of human life" ALONE to the detriment of all other-than-human beings.

20 May 2017

You are so right Carola. Animals are becoming extinct and forced from their homes and the list goes on while the human population continues to grow. I have often said that culling is just a euphemism for killing. Thank you for all you wrote. We are the most dangerous and ultimate invasive species and it is we who should be come extinct.

Shoshanna Imani
1 Years Ago

Berkley Bragg

Shoshanna Imani
1 Years Ago

Berkley Bragg

Jacob Swayze
1 Years Ago

I love meat


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