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If all the farmers in the U.S stopped raising cattle and devoted their land to growing plant based foods, the country could feed 350 million more people, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using complex computer modeling, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel were able to analysis the American diet between 2000 to 2010. Working on a population size of 300 million, they looked at what would happen if all animal based foods, including dairy and eggs, were replaced with plants.
Food waste is a big topic at the moment and the researchers behind the study argued that one of the biggest and easily rectified issues in the food chain is the over production of "resource-intensive food items instead of more efficient, equally nutritious alternatives." The study showed that just replacing egg protein with plant protein would feed one million more people for the same price, you could feed a shocking 163 million more if you replaced beef with the same amount of plant protein.
They study states that, "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."
The findings show that one of the fastest and most effective ways to impact the issue of food waste is not in better distribution, refrigeration or management of food products - topics that are often widely debated - but in changing our dietary habits.
"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," something which would be, "above the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food waste."
The idea of "opportunity food loss" is discussed often in the report, this is the idea that every time land is used to produce edible protein, food loss varies depending on what the land is used for. For example, the land required to produce 100 grams of plant based protein would only make 60 grams if it was used to produce eggs, it would produce just 50 grams if it was used to raise poultry, and just 4 grams of protein if it was used to rear cows for beef.