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World hunger and meat consumption

Januar 26, 2012

World hunger and meat consumption

The starting basis of my article is the hunger in the world. I would like to figure out if this has to do with our habits in Europe or if it’s just local problems leading to it.

Fact is that there are 1 billion people suffering from starvation and 8 million dying of this problem every year. This is happening in spite of the highest production of wheat ever. Where is all this wheat going to? Where is all the soy going to and the potatoes?

If we look at the increasing meat production (a horrible word), we can see that developing countries have got severe problems because of that. E.g. in 1950s Taiwan, each person was fine with 170kg of cereals. Until 1990 the meat consumption became six times higher, which caused an increase in the demand for cereals to 390 kg each. Taiwan could not cover this demand by itself anymore and had to import wheat. When in 1950 they could export cereals, 1990 they had to import 74% of their need from abroad, mainly animal feed. Similarly it happened in the Soviet Union. In 1990 the animals already consumed three times more cereals than the people.

The world wide meat consumption is permanently increasing. Between 1995 and 2005 the milk consumption in China has tripled. Most of the developing countries try to imitate the lifestyle of the western world. If this didn’t have any consequences on the global system, we could even support this development. The problem is, that e.g. a cow only transforms 10% of the feed into meat, the rest of 90% it needs for its life. The wasted 90% could feed a much larger population than we’ve got in this world nowadays. There are calculations that the reduction of meat production in the States of 10% could feed 60 million people.

As far as the land area in our world goes, of which only 11% can be used as agricultural area, it’s very important how it is used. If the main part is used for meat production and the outcome is only 10%, it’s wasted area! With a change to the cultivation of vegetables for human consumption going together with a fair distribution, there would be no hunger anymore.

The dramatic increase of meat consumption especially in the developing countries (in the western world it’s already extremely high) also leads to a high demand for animal feed such as soy, wheat, corn, potatoes… This means raising prices of those and so they are not affordable for the poor anymore. There are estimations that the increasing meat consumption makes up 85-90% of the unjustified price increase for cereals.

Some more facts:

For the production of 1kcal of meat you need 7 kcal of vegetal food (Strahm 1995)

With 1 ha of land you can feed 22 people with potatoes but only 1 with beef (WHO/FAO 2002)

323m² are needed for 1kg of beef, 6m² for 1kg of vegetables (SVV)

15.000 litres of water are needed for 1 kg of beef (1 year of showering)

754 billion tons of cereals are fed to animals each year (FAO)

90% of soy crops are fed to animals (SVV)

61% of subsidies in Austria go to the meat section, 11% to vegetal food (HNAT, 2006)

A dramatic reduction of meat consumption is a necessary consequence to fight the lack of food rationally and honestly and preserve nature at the same time. If we summarise all those facts we have to admit that whether eating meat or not is not an individual matter anymore. There is no question that by eating meat in Europe we are causing famine in other parts of this world. Already a reduction of our meat consumption would lead to a better situation.

At the end I just wanted to stress the point that world hunger is only one aspect of the dramatic increase of meat production, not yet looking at health, happiness, fairness, respect… But those will be lit up in other articles.

Gerhard Koegler, physician

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