That’s the number of people who could be supported by US cropland, according to a fascinating new study published in the journal Elementa.
Of course, there’s a catch: the US could self-sustain 800m people IF we were all vegan. Continuing with our current national diet, high in meat and sweeteners, there’s carrying capacity for just half that number of people, 402 million. Vegan diets require just 0.13 hectare – 1/3 acre – of arable land/year, whereas the current US diet is 9x that amount.
Interestingly, land use would be optimized with an omnivore diet that is roughly half vegetarian and half meat-eating (to make effective use of all that grazing land). The study deliberately did not presume less food waste or higher crop yields – the focus was on varied dietary scenarios.
What I like about this sort of research is that it prompts new questions and new reactions. After reading this, I am able to better evaluate seed companies’ claims that we will all starve if we don’t use their high-yield-focused products. After reading this, I wonder what the numbers would look like with half as much processing waste, or continued imports and exports, or different grazing practices.
You can have your own fun popping through all the data in the handy tab that Elementa provides for just that purpose. And you can explore more about sustainability in agroecological systems in their broader forum on that topic.
Why so many food posts lately? Well, it’s harvest season, plus, you know, food is pretty important. And, after 20-plus years as an investor, turns out I know more about the business-related food webs for semiconductors and cement than I do about the literal food webs that feed me…. so it’s time to even that out.
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