The way food is produced in this country is unsustainable. Whether you get your nutrients through a plant-based or meat-based diet, something needs to change if sustainability is to be met. In the United States a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is the most common plant-based diet, which is only slightly more sustainable that the average American meat-based diet. Below is a table showing the energy consumption for the two diets. What is more important is the amount of feed produced for the both. Accounting for slight variations in the eggs and dairy we can assume that more than 400 kg of feed are used to make the meat consumed in a meat-based diet. The 400 kg of feed goes into 144.4 kg of meat and 480 kcal for one person for a year, that’s a loss of about 65% of mass and nutrients. The amount of feed it takes to support enough meat for the entire US population is enough to feed an extra 840 million people. Looking at it from a purely nutritional point of view the produced grains could be put to better use feeding people than growing livestock.
|Food|| Meat based
|Sugars and sweeteners||74||686||74||686|
(from Pimental and Pimental 2003)
Food-production for a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is about the same as a meat-based diet minus the extra feed. They can be looked at similarly in terms of water and fossil energy consumption. 17% of fossil energy used in the United States is devoted to food production. This not only pollutes the environment, but depletes fossil resources. If fossil energy use cannot be decreased, the prices of food will sky rocket as resources diminish. Pesticides and fertilizers used for farming deplete resources and pollute water sources causing a multitude of problems. Water usage is also a huge problem, some estimates show that 1,000 litters are used for every 1 kg of cereal grain. Multiply this by the 450 kg of feed required for eggs and dairy production and you’re looking at 900,000 liters a year just for milk and eggs for one person. With fresh water sources being diminished as pollution runs high, it can’t be long before we start to have a big enough problem for people to worry. The amount of resources we put into the foods we eat is far too high for the yield of nutrients we get from our food. In order to live sustainably changes must be made to the way we produce food, and in order to do that we are going to have to change the way we eat. That is why the future of food is so important and new sources of nutrients should be explored.