Calories per acre for various foods
effects of dietary choices on global warming are hard to disentangle,
but all we need is a bit of number crunching to look at the amount of
calories we can produce
per acre when growing different kinds of food. The numbers below
are drawn from a lot of different sources for U.S. agriculture and
include dozens of assumptions, but they should give you a rough idea of
comparative acreage required to produce a few staple crops.
I remember when I first started considering my dietary options, I was told that we could feed many more people with the same amount of land if we all became vegetarians. I was swayed...until I realized that we're talking about feeding people only corn and potatoes. The truth is that creating protein is expensive in terms of land use whether you're growing soybeans or raising cattle, and if we compare apples to apples you'll notice that pigs actually win over beans.
But the table at the top of this post only considers conventional agriculture (aka CAFOs for meat.) What about if we instead raise our livestock on pasture and feed them food waste where appropriate? For cows, you won't see much difference, but pigs and chickens really begin to shine once you return to a more traditional feeding system. Both of these animals are well adapted to foraging on scraps --- the Vermont Compost Company raises chickens on compost alone while Sugar Mountain Farm cuts their feed bills drastically by raising their pigs on pasture with the addition of waste dairy products.
In societies that don't depend on huge agricultural corporations to feed the masses, a family is likely to have a pig and a flock of chickens that they feed mostly or solely on waste from the farm and kitchen. Remember that adding some livestock to your diversified homestead also equates to manure to fertilize your veggies, and it's suddenly hard for me to merit the idea of planting a field of soybeans instead.
Our homemade chicken waterer keeps your backyard chickens happy and healthy.
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