Study: If America went vegan, we could feed the entire nation and 350 million more

Another study has shown that going vegan isn’t just good for animals, it’s good for the planet–and for our fellow human beings. The Independent reports:

Of the 327 million people living in America, over 41 million will experience hunger at some point during the year, says the US Department of Agriculture.

However, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, switching to a plant-based lifestyle would allow the nation to feed all 327 million Americans – plus roughly 350 million more.

The new report analysed the potential of US farmland currently dedicated to raising cattle, pigs, and chickens – and the results may surprise some.

According to the research, if this land was used to cultivate plants instead of animals for slaughter, the land and US farmers could feed double the number of people they do now.

If you can handle science writing, here’s a link to the PNAS’ full report. Not sure if you’re up for that today? Check out the abstract:


Food loss is widely recognized as undermining food security and environmental sustainability. However, consumption of resource-intensive food items instead of more efficient, equally nutritious alternatives can also be considered as an effective food loss. Here we define and quantify these opportunity food losses as the food loss associated with consuming resource-intensive animal-based items instead of plant-based alternatives which are nutritionally comparable, e.g., in terms of protein content. We consider replacements that minimize cropland use for each of the main US animal-based food categories. We find that although the characteristic conventional retail-to-consumer food losses are ≈30% for plant and animal products, the opportunity food losses of beef, pork, dairy, poultry, and eggs are 96%, 90%, 75%, 50%, and 40%, respectively. This arises because plant-based replacement diets can produce 20-fold and twofold more nutritionally similar food per cropland than beef and eggs, the most and least resource-intensive animal categories, respectively. Although conventional and opportunity food losses are both targets for improvement, the high opportunity food losses highlight the large potential savings beyond conventionally defined food losses. Concurrently replacing all animal-based items in the US diet with plant-based alternatives will add enough food to feed, in full, 350 million additional people, well above the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food waste. These results highlight the importance of dietary shifts to improving food availability and security.

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