Research and extrapolation provided by T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Board Member J. Morris Hicks, author of Healthy Eating, Healthy World.
The earth’s surface is covered by oceans and other bodies of water and approximately 8 billion acres of arable land—the equivalent of about 6 billion football fields (approximately 1.3 acres each). Source: fao.org – Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Currently, there are over 7 billion people on the face of our planet, predicted to hit the 9 billion mark by 2050. Source: census.gov
In order to produce the Standard American Diet (SAD), heavily comprised of animal protein and dairy, it’s estimated that the equivalent of 2 football fields are required per person per year—with much of this allocated to growing the crops to feed the animals. Source: Lappe, Frances Moore. Diet for a Small Planet. 1982, page 69.
Her numbers were 3.25 acres which equals 2.5 football fields; so we used a more conservative two football fields assuming that some agricultural efficiencies have been gained since 1982.
If all 7 billion of us on the face of the earth were consuming the SAD, we would need at least two planet Earths to feed us all, and we only have one. Source: fao.org
The FAO reports 7.9 billion acres of arable land in the world; If it takes 3.25 acres to feed one person the typical western diet, then our 7 billion+ people would required over 21 billion acres, or the equivalent of almost three planet Earths. We used the conservative number of two planet Earths.
By contrast, on just one football field of arable land, it’s estimated that food can be produced to feed 7 people for an entire year when they are consuming a predominantly plant-based diet. On the same amount of land that it requires to feed one person the Typical Western Diet (TWD), you can feed 14 people the vegan diet. Source: Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappe. 1982, page 69.
Her number was 1/6 of an acre for one vegan. Dividing two football fields (2.6 acres by .166 = 16 people. Again, we used the more conservative 14 people on two football fields.
If everyone in the world consumed a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet, we would have the equivalent of nearly 5 billion football fields worth of arable land that could be returned to forested land to regenerate the lungs of the planet or to expand food production to meet the needs of a growing world population. Source: J. Morris Hicks.
Using FAO numbers, extrapolation whereby roughly two billion people are eating the TWD. If they all switched to vegan, they would each free up over three acres of land (3.25-.167) = 3.09 times two billion acres = 6.18 acres / 1.3 = 4.75. Hence “nearly” five billion football fields.
J. Morris Hicks, Author, Healthy Eating, Healthy World: “When comparing our typical Western diet to a whole food, plant-based diet on a per calorie basis, we find that it requires over 10 times as much land, over 10 times as much water, and over 10 times as much energy.” Sources: Numerous.
Diet for a New America, John Robbins; Diet for a Small Planet, Lappe; Mad Cowboy, Howard Lyman and David Pimentel of Cornell University. After researching these sources and others, we found that the numbers varied widely depending on soil type of plant or animal product, and region of the world. BUT we found that all of the sources supported our conclusion of “OVER 10 times for each.” It also removes some of the unproductive arguments about minute details regarding the amount of water to produce an apple vs. a hamburger. We think our way is much simpler and far easier to remember. Also from WSJ on 9-3-2011, the CEO of the world’s largest food company (Nestle was quoted) Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe “The demand for meat,” he says, “has a multiplier effect of 10. You need 10 times as much land, 10 times as much [feed], 10 times as much water to produce one calorie of meat as you do to have one calorie of vegetables or grain.” on J. Morris Hicks website at hpjmh.com
When it comes to grain production vs. beef production: By using our grain to produce beef, we waste an estimated 96% of the grain’s calories and 100% of its fiber. Hence, for every “quarter pounder” of beef consumed, (190 calories of beef) the grain required to produce those 190 calories would produce enough grain to feed three people for an entire day. Source: Diet for a New America, John Robbins, page 352.
We then did the math and divided 190 by .04 = 4750 calories. That’s enough to feed three people almost 1600 calories each per day.