Photo: Man in a Wheat Field

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that food production will need to increase globally by 70% to feed the world's surging population in 2050. The FAO says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.

As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products, and which are increasingly being adopted around the world, are unsustainable.

Simply put, the more people eat meat, the fewer people can be fed. For example, over 10 pounds of plant protein are used to produce one pound of beef protein. If these grains were fed to humans instead of animals, more food would be available for the 925 million people in chronic hunger worldwide. Research from Cornell University, of the United States, found that the grain used to feed livestock in the United States alone could feed 800 million people.

The issue with water is similar. It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef and about 660 gallons to make a pound of chicken. It only takes about 220 gallons to make a pound of tofu and 180 to make a pound of wheat flour. Compared with the meat industry, a vegetarian diet consumes far less water. There are plenty of other examples, but you get the idea.

Some may be concerned about whether a vegetarian diet is healthy. In fact, a well-balanced vegetarian diet is actually more healthful than a meat-oriented diet. The American Dietetic Association and the United States Department of Agriculture both agree that a vegetarian diet can provide complete nutrition for optimal human health including all 10 essential proteins (amino acids) necessary for good health. Vegetarians suffer less from heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a variety of other diet-related diseases which now cost the United States alone over $1.2 trillion each year.

There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population. So, why are more than one billion people still going hungry every day? The meat-based diet is largely to blame. We cycle huge amounts of grain, soybeans, and corn through animals killed for food rather than directly feed starving people. If we stopped intensively breeding farmed animals and grew crops to feed people instead, we could easily feed everyone on the planet with healthy and affordable vegetarian foods.