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The Future of Food: A Generation Y Perspective

June 11, 2014

Over the past 20 years, meat consumption worldwide has doubled – and it is expected to double again by 2050. This is happening in large part because economies are growing and people can afford more meat. Over the next two decades, as the world’s population expands to 9-10 billion people, the global herd will increase from 60 billion animals to over 100 billion.

Obtaining calories and protein through animal products is highly inefficient from a resource use standpoint. For instance, 1kg of protein from a chicken requires 25.4kg of grain and 64m2 of land. Beef is particularly inefficient, with 1kg requiring nearly three times as much grain and land as chicken.

Rearing animals for human consumption clearly has a significant environmental impact. But there is still a strong case for some consumption of animal products including meat, milk, fish, and eggs. These foods have many nutritional benefits, and the world’s poor could greatly benefit from modest increases in their consumption. Livestock production also generates roughly half of all agricultural income worldwide, including important income for large numbers of smallholders.

As we look towards 2030, how can we feed the world’s growing population sustainably? A number of potential solutions have emerged…

 Can we be more efficient in our use of animals as meat? One billion people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe. 40-60% of all fish caught in Europe are discarded – either because they are the wrong size or species, or because of European quota systems.

Can we embrace new forms of agriculture? Hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) can produce a crop of tomatoes using 80% less energy than traditional farming. In New York, roof-top commercial-scale greenhouses (vertical farming) produce over 200 tonnes of salad greens and tomatoes a year.

Should we consider different sources of protein? Two billion people around the world already eat insects and 100 grams of crickets provides more protein and less calories per gram than chicken.

Finally, do we need to open the debate around new sources of protein? For instance companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods are experimenting with new ways to use heat and pressure to turn plants into foods that look and taste just like meat and eggs. Meanwhile Dutch scientists have grown strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows and have created the world’s first “test-tube burger”. The results showed that cultured meat production involves approximately 35-60% lower energy use, 80-95% fewer GHG emissions and 98% lower land use than conventionally produced meat products.

What is clear is that as we strive for a world without hunger, consumption patterns will (and must) change, and with this change will come significant shifts in the use of environmental resources. As a society, we need to recognise the impact of our consumption choices. As a global community, we need to agree how to address these challenges.


This blog was written ahead of the forthcoming “Generation Y Perspective” Future Scenarios event, run by Article 13 and SAMI Consulting on June 26th, which focuses on The Future of Food, Jim Ormond considers one of the key challenges facing global food security – the future availability and consumption of animal protein.


For further information

For further information and to understand how the future of food may impact your organization please contact

The Generation Y Perspective” Future Scenarios are a unique format, developed by Article 13 and SAMI Consulting which bring together industry experts, policy thinkers, professional futurists and representatives of Generation Y, to explore the big questions facing society and the planet?


World Economic Forum – A new vision for Agriculture.

Gates Nodes – Blog of Bill Gates

WRI –Creating a Sustainable Food Future


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