As more and more studies confirm the climate benefits of plant-based diets, new data suggests that if everyone were to opt for a plant-based diet, agriculture would need just a quarter of the land it uses today. Perhaps more useful to note is that a 50% meat reduction would result in 20% less greenhouse gas emissions globally.
According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, half of all habitable land is currently used for agriculture. Of that land, approximately 80% is dedicated to pasture or crops for animal feed. This shockingly high number comes from an extensive meta-analysis of global food systems authored by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek.
Animal agriculture is proven to be not only incredibly inefficient nutritionally speaking – beef provides around 5% of the calories that it requires to produce it – but also environmentally destructive and unsustainable. One recent study from the University of Oxford has shown that eating a vegan diet could reduce one’s carbon footprint by up to 73%.
The sheer amount of land required for animal agriculture is a huge problem. For example, data shows that only 6% of soy produced globally is actually consumed by humans in foods like tofu or soy milk. The vast majority is grown as animal feed, while beef emits 31 times more CO₂ per calorie than tofu does. The problem is then compounded as a human population relying on this failing food system increases, thus so does animal agriculture’s need for land and resources.
This inefficient food system inevitably leads to deforestation, loss of habitat, and environmental disaster. A shift to plant-based can support a growing global population, as well as free up vast swathes of land for rewilding, boosting biodiversity and providing essential carbon sequestration.
50% meat reduction would change future of Earth
Although we are unlikely to see a totally vegan world at any point in the near future, the Poore and Nemecek study also shows that a 50% reduction in animal products targeting the highest-impact producers would still deliver a 20% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. Such a reduction could still change the face of the future for life on Earth as we know it.