Friday, April 15, 2011

Vegan Challenge: Veganism and World Hunger

Photo taken during my 2009 trip to Cambodia

Friday Thoughts: The World Food Crisis

By now, most people are aware that there is a global food security crisis.  After a 2-year period of decline in food prices following the 2007-2008 spike, food prices are once again on the rise.  As usual, it is the poor who are feeling the worst effects of the rising food prices, and it is the poor in the poorest countries who are being hit the hardest. What I want to know is, can eating vegan reduce world hunger?

While the food crisis can't be attributed to a single cause (analysts have called it a "perfect storm" of factors) there is one factor I feel I can have a direct - albiet small - affect on, and that is by eating less meat. 

According to the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the gradual change in diet among newly prosperous populations is the most important factor underpinning the rise in global food prices.  As people move out of poverty and into the middle class, generally they begin to incorporate more meat into their diet. 

Raising meat is an extremely inefficient process.  One kilogram of beef requires seven kilograms of feed grain.  By reducing my meat intake, its not as if these grains would become immediately available to starving families across the world.  It does however, allow for the gradual relocation of grains from animals to humans.  Further, less demand from the livestock industry will conceivably lower grain prices. 

I have no idea how much my not eating meat will affect food prices.  Probably very little.  But at least its something, and it always feels better to do something than nothing :)

If you want to do something, visit the World Food Programme's website.  WFP is an amazing organization helping out a lot of hungry people around the world.  Read up on their work, spread the word, or donate!


  1. Good point you make in regards to substituting a vegan ingredient into a non vegan dish. Our brains tell us we are eating quiche but our taste buds disagree, maybe we should call the new dish something else!

  2. Wait what happens if a drought hits? All the plants will die and so nothing would have changed, we still would have hungry people. Besides that, we currently send over grain, which is actually has a negative effect on them. The reason is that it makes them dependent them on us, an not on themselves. Driving out the local farmers with our cheap grain. Anyway you stated that raising animals is inefficient. I agree to a degree, our current way of raising them may be inefficient, but not in a specific farm and certainly not in the wild. Joel Salatin's farm is one example, in it he grows cattle that don't require grain. What they eat is actually what they are supposed to eat, grass. Grass gets it's energy from the sun, then the cow eats the grass, simple. What we currently do is grow corn, using large of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer. Then we ship it over the cow where we first lace it with medication and steroids. Then the cow eats it. Complicated, no? The result is Joel's meat is actually cleaner than tour current meat. It is not the animal that is inefficient, but we are.

    1. You bring up some excellent points.
      America's aid agency, USAID, has a policy of sending US grain during food crises that is certainly damaging. Buying food crops locally not only gets you more food for the same price (more bang for your buck!) but also builds the local economy. Canada, on the other hand, has recently changed their aid response to include buying a portion of food crops locally.
      In regards to the inefficiency of raising cattle - I meant it relative to eating a strictly plant based diet. I definitely agree that grass fed cattle is preferable to corn fed cattle, but, echoing your point, not all cattle is grass fed.
      Thanks so much for your insightful comments! Keep 'em coming!