33% of global land resources have already been degraded. With most easily cultivable land already having been put to use, the scope for further expansion of cultivate land is limited. With global yield increases having started to stagnate, the shortage of fertile land is likely to lead to significant food shortage as our global population continues to grow.
Land intensity of the livestock industry
Livestock's usage of land resources
As per the United Nations2
- 3.4 billion hectares of land are used for grazing of livestock. This accounts for 26% of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet.
- A further 0.5 billion hectares of land is used for the production of animal feedstock. This accounts for 33% of the total global cropland.
- In all, the livestock sector uses 80% of global agricultural land
Livestock's contribution to land degradation
Apart from occupying most of our global land resources, the livestock industry also has the following adverse implications for our planet's surface1:
- Deforestation: 70% of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.
- Land degradation: About 20 percent of the world's pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing
- Loss of biodiversity: Livestock contribute directly or indirectly to all the drivers of biodiversity loss, from local to global levels through livestock related land use changes, climate change impact, over exploitation, pollution of land & water resources and the transfer of alien species.
Land and diet
Plant based foods are significantly less land intensive to grow, as compared to animal products. By reducing our consumption of meat & dairy products in favour of plant based foods, we can significantly reduce the land intensity (or the land foodprint) of our diet.
Global land, water and food shortages are a direct function of animal products in our diet. A global shift towards a reduction in meat & dairy and increased consumption of plant based foods, has the potential of alleviating some of humanities most pressing concerns – land & water challenges, world hunger and carbon emissions.
1 - UN FAO, Livestocks Long Shadow
2 - UN FAO, Livestock in the Balance