Is meat an inefficient use of land?
I've written previously about
argument that eating meat is bad for the environment because it's an
inefficient use of land. The figure most
people bring up is that it takes 10 times as much land area to produce
meat as to produce grain. My gut feeling is that the figure
seemed too simplistic, so I was very glad to see someone willing to put
more time into crunching the numbers and thinking the issue through.
Fairlie began with
the basics --- feed
for a few types of factory-farmed livestock. Next, he went a step
further and considered the protein conversion ratio, factoring in the
figure (agreed on by both pro- and anti-livestock folks) that animal
protein is 40% more valuable nutritionally than plant protein.
The results are shown in the graph at the top
of this post, with beef being very inefficient (14.3:1 energetically
and 8.9:1 in terms of protein) and poultry being relatively efficient,
especially when it comes to protein (2.3:1). Personally, I feel
that the protein conversion rate is the most important since that's
usually the sticking point when trying to feed yourself from a small
tract of land.
As I'll explain later
posts, there are other mitigating factors that change the feed
conversion ratios mentioned above, but this is a good starting point
for an unbiased consideration of the value of meat, especially if you
just buy your food from the grocery store. The conclusion Fairlie
comes too is that meat is a luxury product...but so are most fruits,
vegetables, and oils. For example, soybean oil actually requires
more arable land to produce than pastured dairy, and pigs can often
make fats more efficiently than soybeans as well. If you belive
that it's unethical to use more land producing your food than is
absolutely necessary, you should probably follow
the lead of the Grow Biointensive method and get nearly all of your
food from grains.
Trailersteading profiles half a dozen
families who dumpster-dove their housing, allowing them to quit their
jobs, go off the grid, and more.
to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the
RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.