Meat'ing future food demands

My friend and colleague Emily Cassidy gave this TED talk! Her research is some of the most important work being done. Have a look:

More like this

Norman Borlaug knew that his solutions - higher yielding crops and use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides - was only a temporary solution.

Emily Cassidy gave a good talk: well researched and positive. However she should have focussed more on options for population control. The empowerment of women - especially given them control over their own fertility - is of vital importance.

Going vegetarian or even reducing meat consumption is just a temporary fix. Unless humans make conscious decisions to curtail population growth, human numbers will continue to expand to the limits of food supply - until every single calorie captured by the entire planetary ecosystem is consumed by humans, and the world's ecosystem is simply converted into a vast machine to feed the humans. We are halfway there already. Let's not go any further.

Chicken and pork production on a commercial scale is today one of the most repulsive and inhumane forms of factory farming. Do we really want to increase the scale of this misery?

Beyond this, there also lies the questionable future sustainability of the petroleum based systems of food production currently dominant in the industrial world. The late Dr.Albert Bartlett used to give a lecture on these issues, which I recommend to anyone whose interest has been sparked by Emily Cassidy's talk:

By Helga Vierich (not verified) on 30 Oct 2013 #permalink

Good point about the population, but Emily's expertise is in the agricultural system, so that's why she focused on that.

Inherently, swine production is more productive than cattle production, so I can imagine that if more humane ways were applied in both cases, the pork production would still be much higher. (Humane up to the point where you kill and eat them, that is.)

Perhaps I missed it as I'm at work but I did not hear her deal with the use of wasted food. Using "slop" to feed pigs would take calories/protein she is already attributing to human used food and reuse it in meat production - that could seriously change her 10% ratio if the practice were wide spread. The amount of food that is wasted in first world countries is incredible and could go a long way in producing meat - particularly vegetable crop waste (ever look in a supermarket's dumpster?).

By Doug Alder (not verified) on 30 Oct 2013 #permalink

Perhaps Emily will chime in here, but I think the 10% doesn't change with waste, but waste is on top of it. (She does briefly mention waste).

Pigs are more efficient producers of meat than cattle because of their life history parameters, but since you can feed them a wider range of things (including slop) that probably makes a difference as well.

Just say Vat Meat. At present we can barely produce artificial meat, but this is considered a problem that can be solved. It will address both the food resource issue and the animal cruelty issue at the same time. Though of course, there is no substitute for family planning and bringing our population down to a sustainable level. This is not an either/or, but an and/both: we need more efficient food production & distribution, and fewer mouths to feed.

Doug Alder,

You are right, feeding food waste to swine would be a great benefit to the efficiency of converting plant stuff to meat. However, many countries have policies against such practices. Many worry about the sanitation of feeding waste to pigs.
Incorporating food waste back into a usable feedstock is something that we should put more investment in, in my opinion.

By Emily Cassidy (not verified) on 31 Oct 2013 #permalink

At one time my daughter worked for a company which made licorice candy. They would make a batch of one flavor, immediately followed by a batch of another. There would be some mixed up product produced in the transition. This was routinely sold to a local pig farmer for pig food.

I recall reading that pigs grow much better on military slop than on civilian slop.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 31 Oct 2013 #permalink

Some years ago, and ecologist, maybe Sokol, did some calculation and concluded the most effective way to slow human population growth was to lengthen generation time; for women to have their first child at an older age.

This is the foundation for the empower women solution, I think. Also providing good healthcare and nutrition for pregnant women and young children cuts down the perceived need to have more children.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 31 Oct 2013 #permalink


Why isn't the contribution of seafood mentioned? Is it so meager a portion of the world's diet as to not be worth mentioning?

Getting people to give up calorie dense food like cheeseburgers is not as easy as it sounds. Ask you primary care doctor how many obese patients she sees and how many have radically changed their diet.


By Raucous Indignation (not verified) on 07 Nov 2013 #permalink

I believe seafood is not mentioned because Emily's work is on agriculture and comparing those systems, and the data set does not include seafood.