If we gave up our excessive meat consumption, we could immediately end world hunger.
Does this sound like new information? If so, it really isn’t.
But back in 1971, when Frances Moore Lappé originally published Diet for a Small Planet, it was a truly groundbreaking discovery. It all came about because — in a quest for ways to eradicate extreme poverty– Lappé began studying the world’s food systems.
And almost five decades ago, she informed the world that the crop acreage America’s meat producers use to fatten livestock for our tables could instead be used to feed everyone on Earth several times over.
Just one example:
“In 1969 I discovered that … it takes 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce just 1 pound of beef in the United States.”
But that discovery led to an even more shocking one:
“I learned that, on the average, Americans eat twice the protein their bodies can even use…Moreover, I learned that the ‘quality’ of meat protein… could be matched simply by combining certain plant foods…I had just discovered the waste built into the American meat-centered diet… My world view flipped upside down.”
Think about it: her research shows that our bodies metabolize only half of the protein in the beef we eat. So each gram we metabolize actually costs twice whatever we pay at the grocery store or restaurant.
The protein we don’t metabolize just gets flushed away, like the money we spent on it!
Lappé also explains how, calorie for calorie, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and spinach supply us with as much usable protein as meat.
America’s unnecessary meat consumption exhausts more than U.S. resources. Crops raised for livestock feed now take up two-thirds of Central America’s agricultural land — even though most Central Americans can’t afford meat!
In the 20 years between Diet for a Small Planet’s original edition and this one, even historically cheap proteins like black beans became more expensive.
Why? Because, Lappé found while doing research in the world’s poorest regions, farmers who once grew them switched to growing soy for livestock instead.
In her words, “The sad truth is that those who want and need the grain cannot afford to buy it, so livestock get it.”
Meat industry-led humanitarian crises have festered long enough. Diet for a Small Planet first sounded the alarm almost 50 years ago.
It’s about time we heeded it!