Information released this week shows the extensive cost of grain-feeding meat and poultry for human consumption. By 2050, the global cost of feeding human foods to farm animals will reach $1.32 trillion, revealed Peter Stevenson of Compassion in World Farming at the Extinction and Livestock conference in London.
Stevenson called for a more thorough examination into the food people are buying. “There’s a worrying disconnect between the retail price of food and the true cost of production. As a result, food produced at great environmental cost can appear to be cheaper than more sustainably produced alternatives.”
An ever-growing demand for cheap food has seen paddocks transformed into sheds to farm multitudes of animals. To keep production costs as low as possible, these animals are fed human products like grain and soya. In turn, to meet the need for grain and soya, more paddocks are turned into crop fields. “Cheap food is something we pay for three times, once at the checkout, again in tax subsidies and again in the enormous clean up cost to our health and environment,” Steven’s colleauge Philip Lymbery told the conference.
Factored into the cost of industrial farming are costs around water pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss – among other things. Just one example is the cost of soil loss, which amounts to around $400 billion a year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations calculates. Furthermore, industrial farming is wasteful; humans only ingest 17-30 calories out of every 100 calories of grain fed to the animals, Stevenson explained.
Government changes are needed to reassess priorities and change the system – yet governments are often swayed by agriculture businesses, points out Hans Herren of the Millennium Institute. “We produce twice as much as we need. Who says we need more? It is always the agribusinesses.”
It is hoped that the conference will help create a more sustainable farming industry.