According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), to meet the rising demand, the livestock sector will need to increase its production from 228 million metric tons (2010) to 463 million metric tons by 2050. In this case, the number of cattle would increase from 1.5 billion to 2.6 billion and goats and sheep from 1.7 billion to 2.7 billion. (FAO)
Currently about 800 million people suffer from hunger or malnutrition. One solution would be if the land used to rear animals or to grow crops to feed animals could be used to grow food for people instead! Twenty-six percent of the Planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33 percent of croplands are used for livestock feed production. For every 1 kg of beef, 7 kg of grain is needed and 4kg grain is needed for 1kg of pork (White, T 2000). Estimates vary but a “typical” meat eater’s diet needs 2.5 times more land than a vegetarian’s (Nonhebel, S 2004). One hectare of land can feed as many as thirty people on a diet of cereals, fruits, vegetables and vegetable fats whereas the same area of land used for meat and/or dairy production would only feed between five and ten people (Pachauri, R.K 2008).
Soya beans are high in protein and grown as animal feed, but if they were used to feed people instead, the difference would be huge, though not to everyone’s tastes! A study by Tickell (1991) said that 10 hectares (or 5 football pitches) of soya could feed 61 people, the same area of land would feed 10 on a maize based diet, or 24 on a wheat based diet. The same area of land used to raise animals would support only 2 people.
Some land is unsuitable for arable farming, so in these cases grazing animals on the land puts it to good use. In the UK, organisations like the National Trust often uses grazing animals to maintain certain habitats such as grasslands. However, as meat production increases, more and more wild habitats are lost and intensive farming tends to increase.Read More: Intensive farming systems & animal welfare