a few facts about food

  • The 4 main crops globally are wheat, maize, rice and soya beans. 50% of the wheat and over 80% of the maize are fed to animals like chickens, pigs and cattle. More than 90% of soya beans are fed to animals.
  • You need 2 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of chicken meat, 4 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of pork, and 6 to 8 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef.
  • There are 1 billion pigs on the planet. Pigs today eat food that people can eat, derived mostly from maize and soya.
  • Most people in the developed world eat 2 or 3 times as much protein as they need. This includes poor people in the developed world.
  • 925 million people suffer chronic malnutrition.
Many people are proud of modern agriculture. They think that it is efficient. However, modern agriculture converts vast amounts of healthy food (wheat, maize, soya) into smaller amounts of unhealthy food (chicken, pork, beef), and in doing so makes it more expensive. Is this efficient? Is this anything to be proud of?

It may sound that I am proposing frugality. It may seem that I am proposing that people in developed countries should have less of the food that they enjoy. However, what I am proposing is just the opposite. I am proposing that people enjoy their food more.

We don't have to have fast food or processed food all the time to enjoy ourselves. We don't need a diet high in fat, sugar and salt. If we educate ourselves we can enjoy our food more. We can have all of the five things we require from food, all at the same time.

I know that some people insist that we can't have all of these things at the same time. Some people insist that poor people cannot possibly afford healthy food. It is the purpose of this blog to convince people that we really can.

A five-step plan to feed the world from the National Geographic magazine May 2014

By 2050 we’ll need to feed two billion more people. How can we do that without overwhelming the planet?

Step One: Freeze Agriculture’s Footprint
Step Two: Grow More on Farms We’ve Got
Step Three: Use Resources More Efficiently
Step Four: Shift Diets
Step Five: Reduce Waste

The most interesting one for me is Step Four: Shift Diets
It would be far easier to feed nine billion people by 2050 if more of the crops we grew ended up in human stomachs. Today only 55 percent of the world’s crop calories feed people directly; the rest are fed to livestock (about 36 percent) or turned into biofuels and industrial products (roughly 9 percent). Though many of us consume meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised on feedlots, only a fraction of the calories in feed given to livestock make their way into the meat and milk that we consume. For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef. Finding more efficient ways to grow meat and shifting to less meat-intensive diets—even just switching from grain-fed beef to meats like chicken, pork, or pasture-raised beef—could free up substantial amounts of food across the world. Because people in developing countries are unlikely to eat less meat in the near future, given their newfound prosperity, we can first focus on countries that already have meat-rich diets. Curtailing the use of food crops for biofuels could also go a long way toward enhancing food availability.
  1. 55% of the world's crop calories feed people directly
  2. 36% are fed to livestock
  3. 9% are used for biofuels and industrial products
  1. 40% of calories from animal feed are converted into milk
  2. 22% of calories from animal feed are converted into eggs
  3. 12% of calories from animal feed are converted into chicken
  4. 10% of calories from animal feed are converted into pork
  5. 3% of calories from animal feed are converted into beef
It seems obvious that we can feed 9 billion people if we eat less animal protein and more grain and pulses.