Exploring a world without food animals
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if U.S. farmers stopped producing animals for food and Americans went vegan? Some have called for a move in that direction to address increasing concerns about U.S. health, eating habits, and climate change. Researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Virginia Tech recently explored those questions and found surprising results. Mary Beth Hall, an ARS animal scientist at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and Robin R. White, a professor of Animal and Poultry Science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, found that shifting land usage from food animal production to food crop production would increase the total U.S. food supply by 23 percent. Because much of that land is unsuitable for high value crops, most of the additional food produced would include high-calorie crops like corn and soybeans.
A complete shift away from food animal production would present major challenges to meeting America’s nutritional needs. With no meat, milk, eggs, fish, or cheese in our diets, the U.S. population would not receive enough of several different essential dietary nutrients from the foods they eat, according to the study results. The findings are based on information compiled in the USDA dietary guidelines.