A new report in Our World in Data has indicated that transitioning to a plant-based diet could feed the world’s quickly growing population more effectively. The report notes that the 11 million square kilometers used to grow edible plants worldwide supply more calories – and protein – than the global land used to raise and feed livestock, which is nearly four times larger.
“More than three-quarters of our agricultural land is used for the rearing of livestock through a combination of grazing land and land used for animal feed production,” reads the report. “Despite being dominant in land allocation for agriculture, meat and dairy products supply only 17 percent of global caloric supply and only 33 percent of global protein supply.”
“To meet the demands of a rapidly growing population on a planet with finite land resources, reducing our per capita land footprint is essential.”
Recently, similar reports and studies have shown that transitioning to a more plant-based diet will likely be the key to feeding our rapidly growing population. These include one March study that showed that plant-based alternatives to meat can produce between twice and 20 times more nutritionally similar food per unit of cropland.
"Replacing all animal-based items with plant-based replacement diets can add enough food to feed 350 million additional people, more than the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food loss," reads the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
The global human population has increased from 3.5 billion to 7.6 billion in the past fifty years. The United Nations estimates that the world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and wrote in 2009 that world food production would have to double to meet growing caloric needs. Reports such as these show that it's not necessarily the quantity of food produced but rather the type of food that will likely be the key to feeding the growing world population.
A February report from the FAIRR initiative showed that plant-based diets are already increasing in popularity; the report estimated that the plant-based protein market could reach $5.2 billion by 2020.
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