Livestock intensification and the influence of dietary change: A calorie-based assessment of competition for crop production
This article (full text) from Science of the Total Environment employs a calorie-based approach to determine which feed calories do compete with human consumption for crop use and considers to what extent alternative scenarios could have reduced this competition between food and feed. Animal production exerts significant demands on land, water and food resources. However, demand for animal source foods has more than tripled over the past 50 years and the livestock sector has transitioned towards more intensive and concentrated production systems. Typically, studies have divided types of animal production into intensive, mixed and grazing production systems. However, as a large percentage of animal production originates from mixed systems, this divide makes it difficult to quantify competition for crop production between direct human consumption and use as feed. Therefore, this study used a calorie-based method to quantify the competition. The authors discovered that growth in non-feed animal systems only covered the extra consumption from population growth and that feed-fed production has necessarily met increases in human dietary demand for animal products. Through eating less animal calories, choosing less resource-demanding animal products and maintaining the relative contribution of non-feed systems, between 1.3 and 3.6 billion fewer people would be in competition with feed for crop use. With human demand for animal products is expected to continue increasing in the coming decades, the findings here provide insights into potential solutions and suggest that there exist opportunities for humankind to substantially reduce competition for crop use.