Meat vs Plants for Human Population Sustainability

Even if you’re not personally interested in eating a plant-based diet, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to deny the need for a decreased emphasis on animal-based foods as the human population ‘mushrooms’ (pun intended and immediately regretted!).

The World Resources Institute 1 (WRI) is a global research organisation that looks at wide-scale environmental and economic issues that relate to human well-being.

In a recent WRI article entitled ‘How to Sustainably Feed 10 Billion People by 2050, in 21 Charts‘ 2 ,  they include the following chart to demonstrate the scale of the difference between how resource-greedy animal-based foods are compared with plant-based merely in terms of the amount of land required to produce the same number of calories:

We’ve already looked both at how plants provide all the protein we need 3 and at how important it is to eat foods that provide a high nutrient/low calorie ratio 4 ; so, we know that we don’t need to eat animals in order to achieve optimal health and, in fact, that a eating a diet high in animal-based foods is likely to produce the opposite health effects 5 6 7 8 9 .

The WRI expect consumption of ruminant meat (beef, lamb and goat) to almost double (88% increase) by 2050.

Beef, in particular, is seriously resource-intensive. Compared with plant proteins (e.g. beans, peas and lentils) it requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more GHGs (green house gas emissions) per gram of edible protein.

The WRI suggest that the following might be good ideas:

  • reduce beef-consumption
  • improve the marketing of plant-based foods
  • improve form and availability of meat substitutes
  • implement policies that favour consumption of plant-based foods

Final thoughts

You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice the increased news coverage of issues such as the above. However, if you want to get ahead of the crowd and do the very best you can for the environment, animal welfare and human health (yours especially!), then there’s no more effective way of achieving this than shifting to a plant-based diet – ideally, a strictly wholefood version 10 .


  1. World Resources Institute []
  2. How to Sustainably Feed 10 Billion People by 2050, in 21 Charts []
  3. Eat Enough Food & You Eat Enough Protein []
  4. Health = Nutrient Intake ÷ Calories []
  5. Animal Foods Are The Smoking Gun []
  6. Animal Protein & Your Kidneys []
  7. Meat, Fish & Dairy Products and Cancer Risk []
  8. But I thought Fish Was Good For Me! []
  9. Cow’s Milk – But It Looks So Innocent… []
  10. What’s Wrong with Palm Oil? []