This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Food Security Equals Wasting Less

Although this is not a new conclusion, a new study has once again highlighted an important route to world security--waste less food. Mark Zastrow, writing for Nature, summarizes a University of Minnesota analysis that has the following conclusions:
Ecologist Paul West of the University of Minnesota in St Paul and his colleagues used comprehensive calculations based on a cornucopia of disparate data and methods to estimate calories produced, used and wasted around the world. “It became obvious that, wow, there’s actually just a few countries and crops that explain most of the story at global levels,” says West.
The largest gains would come from eating more of what we harvest, which means reducing the proportion of crops used for biofuels and to feed livestock, especially cattle [emphasis added]. The team estimates that beef requires many times more calories in animal feed than it provides. In places like the upper Midwestern United States, “we’re feeding cars and cows instead of people”, says West. The whole world puts enough crops to non-food uses to feed 4 billion people, with the United States, China, Western Europe and Brazil diverting enough to feed 2.4 billion.
West points out that these gains would not require giving up meat altogether. “It takes about 30 calories of feed to make a calorie of beef. But with chicken and pork it’s more like seven or eight to one,” he says. “So even the shift in what types of meat are eaten have a huge effect.” And enough food for 400 million people could be produced by eliminating food waste in just the United States, China and India.
Of course, if we all did give up eating meat, food security would extend even further.

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