Today, I gave this 5-minute presentation at the Fast Casual Executive Summit:
In 1950, my Mom was born right on the Amazon River in South America. She joined a world population of 2.5 billion people. Two-thirds (66 percent) of the Earth was covered in wilderness, rainforests and other wild places.
During Mom’s 70-year lifetime, our human population has more than tripled to 7.8 billion. Our activities have consumed almost half of those wild places. Today, jungle and wilderness cover only 35 percent of the Earth.
If we continue consuming what’s left at our current rate, in 70 more years there’ll be no jungles left. Scientists have another name for jungles and woodlands. They call them “carbon sinks.”
I know there’s a lot of confusion surrounding carbon, methane, cow farts and their impact on climate change. Maybe you’re a scientist or believe the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by human activity.
Or maybe you side with a fisherman I spoke with the other day, who told me with conviction, “Anybody who believes that stuff is stupid.”
Whatever camp you’re in, do we really want to be the generation responsible for the loss of our jungles and our wild places?
I don’t think we do! And yet a graph the Financial Times published a few weeks ago shows that that “Data suggests deforestation has increased more than 50% during the pandemic.”
What’s the primary reason we’re not going the right direction in regards to deforestation?
According to Oxford researcher Joseph Poore, 83 percent of our world’s agricultural land use is currently used for the livestock sector, but that sector only provides 18 percent of our calories. That’s not a very efficient use of land.
When it comes to gaining weight, cattle are the least “efficient” livestock. A cow needs to eat about 10,000 pounds of dry plant matter to produce 135 pounds of beef jerky.
That’s 98.7% intake that the cow is consuming, and only 1.3 percent that the cow is yielding.
If beef jerky were all somebody had to eat, 135 pounds of it would keep him or her alive for four months. But the same person could live for 27 years on the 10,000 pounds of plant matter.
It might not be cow feed, but we could use the land now growing cow feed to grow food for human consumption. For thousands of years, we’ve been able to raise plant-based food for both cattle and people.
But our exploding population, paired with our unchecked demand for meat, means the math simply doesn’t work anymore.
The definition of consumption is “the using up of a resource.” Do we want future generations to look back on us and call us the Age of Consumption? I don’t think we do.
I think we want them to look at us and say, “Hey, they did something about it. In 2020/2021 they really started taking the health of our ecosystem seriously.”
I started off talking about my mother. She came from South America and met my Dad. His father grew up on a farm in Iowa and worked in the farming industry his entire life.
I worked with my Grandpa out in the field, and do you know what he taught me out in the field? To innovate, innovate, innovate. To open my eyes to the problems around us – and focus on finding solutions.
I haven’t been to Burger King in a long time, but I’m really proud of them. And I’m really proud of Taco Bell and others in the restaurant industry who have started adding plant-based items to the menu.
We can all do our part by recognizing the need to use the land on our planet more efficiently. We can do this in the restaurant industry by adding more plant-based options to our menus.