Sorry its hard to hear you over the pile of empty huel bottles
Ok, now that I have had a chance to look over the material sufficiently, I figured I would give some of my thoughts on the subject. First off, as I alluded to in my previous post, I operate a commercial farm. Been in my family for 5 generations. It’s a little over 1000 acres. We have grown corn and soybeans the last couple of years, but we rotate on occasion based on prices per bushel, soil composition and market conditions. As such we gave also grown wheat, grain, barley and various other crops at one time or another. This is a particularly insane year in the ag business, but that is a story for another time.
As far as environmental footprint is concerned, I must admit I am far from convinced that a reduction in ranching and livestock raising would equate to nearly as much aid in this department as what you might think. If all the ranchers in the US decided to call it quits tomorrow and grow crops on their land instead, the difference as far as carbon footprint might not be mitigated much.
Why? because raising crops on an industrial scale uses a significant amount of resources in its own right. As an example, I use WAY WAY WAY more diesel fuel than ranchers do each year. I have to run numerous tractors, combines, planters, irrigators, and the list goes on and on and on. And speaking of water usage, if mother nature is unkind like she has a tendency of being, then irrigation costs can run into the stratosphere. Some farmers literally can’t afford to keep the water going if it’s a significant enough drought, and they have an entire year go bust on them. Crops rot in the field.
Then there is the issue of agricultural chemicals. Now granted in a perfect world everyone would be 100% organic, but many of us simply can’t afford the additional costs in man hours, hassle, and uncertainly of a less than productive crop yield. If you made me go organic I would be out of business in a year and the mega conglomerates would buy me out and it would be game over.
Getting finished grain, corn, or whatever to market has numerous steps involved that most people are simply ignorant of. I don’t drop off corn at the co-op and then it suddenly lands on your plate. The American midwest is an agricultural powerhouse and crops are shipped worldwide, both for human consumption as well as industrial applications. The logistics involved and the resources expended to pull this off is staggering.
I could go on, but I think you can see by now the good faith points I am raising here. I applaud the effort of this report, and I am honestly all for plant based diets. I wish the whole world was on one. It would drive up demand and I would have significantly higher profit margins if this was the case. But if people are under the assumption that this will mitigate carbon emissions significantly I am skeptical. You get rid of 1000 acres of pasture used to raise animals and the guy that owns it will just cultivate the land to plant crops, which uses considerable resources in its own right. In some instances, far more than was expended to raise animals.
People with better nutrition do not only live longer - if they also save a lot of time by not having to prepare food or hang around in stores they have more time for watching movies, playing video games etc…the production of which has also a negative impact on things like carbon footprint.
The whole thing is just more complex than meets the eye…
I totally see your point of view here Robby and I really appreciate hearing what you have to say. Some of the points you made I see a lot when the whole picture is missed. Fuel is such a tiny part of a food’s overall carbon footprint. We’re not saying that crops don’t have an environmental impact. Whatever we eat has an impact but whichever way you slice it, plant-based foods have a lower environmental impact. For example, they require less land than animal foods to grow, this is per calorie or per gram of protein. There are exceptions like cocoa grown in the amazon rainforest vs US grass-fed beef, but they are few and far between.
As plant-based foods require less land then the land saved doesn’t all have to be used to grow food. That land could be rewilded and increase the biodiversity of animals that used to live in these habits and sequester more carbon than if the land was used to rear livestock.
Around 70% of the world’s soy goes to feed livestock (which I’m sure you know) when it could feed humans and approximately 40% of the world’s crops go to livestock. So all the issues you mention about crops still apply to animals as we try to meet the world’s meat consumption demands. Also, animals require antibiotics which is a huge problem and the main driver of antibiotic resistance.
The vast majority of beef is not grass-fed and even so, intensively reared beef uses less water and land. The only solution here is to reduce our meat intake and this is discounting the fact that global meat consumption is expected to rise by 76% by 2050.
If we look at water usage, let’s use different kinds of milk as an example. Even almond milk which uses loads and loads of water still requires less water than dairy. The BBC has a good article on this.
I absolutely love hearing your personal experience and expertise on this. I totally agree that the agricultural industry (crops included) needs a makeover. There’s loads that is done right, but also a lot that we could improve on to. There is such little evidence that crops use more resources than animals, “far more” is simply untrue.
Everything I’ve said above is supported by the references in our report on pages 68 and 69. There is data there that spans decades of research, from the FAO to peer-reviewed independent scientists. If you’d like to learn more I’d really recommend reading this article which produced data from 40,000 farms across the globe and the WRI’s report on a creating a sustainable future.
If there are any numbers/statistics that we’ve used in the report that you feel are off or you want more detail on please let me know and I’ll be happy to go into more detail.
I look forward to the day we have edible pouches. When a pouch is empty I can drop the pouch into my blender with the Huel Powder and blend it all together
This is the bit I always disagree with and I think Robby is spot on.
If a farmer has a bunch of fields used for livestock and they switch to agriculture then it’s almost guaranteed they’re still going to use every field so they can maximize profits.
Leaving one empty for re-wilding is a lovely idea, but it’d be throwing money away and no business is going to leave such a valuable asset unused unless they had to.
I think its related to supply and demand and I could be completely wrong - in that less agricultural land would be needed to provide the same amount of food so that maintaining the same amount of land would lead to over supply and waste?
Right. If every farm switched to agriculture overnight, and continued to use the same acreage for food production, there’d be an immense surplus (as well as a cataclysmic livestock cull). The farmers prepared to sell their produce cheapest would survive (but would likely struggle to get by), the others would go out of business.
But it won’t happen overnight. They’ll adapt gradually.
Yeap I agree but this is where governments have to step up and subsidise and support farmers in the right areas. Using profits as an excuse is not good enough and governments must change the incentives. Far too often farmers, especially those that rear animals, are used as a scapegoat. They know their land better than anyone else and need more backing.
The cost of climate change massively outweighs the costs above.
@Tristan That and land is incredibly expensive. I have to pay the property taxes on it no matter if it’s in use or not. For this reason, every arable acre needs to be planted. Land is actually the biggest barrier for entry into agriculture for people interested in farming. You take a fresh college grad with a degree in horticulture, agricultural science, etc who wants to get in the game. Even a modest 100 acre plot in someplace like Iowa or Nebraska will easily set him back a few million dollars This is why most farming in the American midwest is carried out either by family farms like my own where the land has been passed down, or else the monstrocity ag companies that have the financial resources to make such large purchases regularly.
My contention is not that the livestock industry is not bloated and does not produce environmental degradation. Of course it does, but the levels of agricultural production necessary to feed the planet does also. Significantly reducing the livestock industry would be trading one issue for another. The impact of one may be less to a degree, but it will never be zero. So all you have effectively done is alter the timeline.
The real problem that is not talked about enough is overpopulation. There is only so much arable land, and the world population keeps increasing at a rapid clip. Some of the countries in the world with the most bloated population metrics also have the least capacity to grow crops. Thus, it either needs to be imported or else people starve. About 9 million people per year die from starvation or hunger related causes. This makes the Coronavirus pandemic seem like almost nothing.
There is a way forward that is environmentally conscious but still keeps the agriculture industry solvent for people like myself looking to eek out a living. The problem is that these solutions will likely be quite expensive. The first step is getting the agricultural industry on board with your ideas. People don’t take too kindly to “look, you stupid redneck, you need to run your farm this way because…”, and this has sadly been an all too common sentiment in the US from bureaucrats and ideologues looking for agricultural reforms, new EPA mandates, etc.
If the fact that it is plant-based is the reason why Huel is sustainable then that kind of argumentation would be true for any plant-based food or drink. Or are there other ecologically beneficial factors that haven’t been mentioned yet?
the report is not all specifically about Huel and the presented data relates to plant based food production in general. The Huel specific elements relate to their products carbon footprints and ongoing efforts to further improve their sustainability.
Right now it would, but predictions are suggesting we need to up food production by 25-30% over the next few decades or were going to see start seeing mass starvation.
Absolutely right. Plant based foods might be more efficient by sq meter, but we 100% are not getting fields back to nature.
Our govt won’t even get farmers planting trees again to stop flooding. All they’ll care about is tax unless something crazy happens and the greens get in.
hmmm - sort of - these predictions never factor in the amount of food that is currently produced and also wasted. it’s an unfortunate truth that we live in a world where people starve but we also waste an average of 1.3 billion tonnes globally each year, one third of all the food produced for human consumption.
we are perfectly capable of producing enough food for everyone in the world to eat now and in the future - we are just incredibly shit at doing it efficiently and ensuring food supply security.
Best before and use by dates are far too conservative (maybe on purpose?) and are a driver in excessive waste. My dairy milk will comfortably last a week beyond it’s use by date and there are countless examples of food being perfectly fine well past the dates printed on them.
Retailers also actively encourage consumers to buy more than they need which is also a significant waste factor.
I’m loving the discussion so I will just add my final thoughts!
I’m seeing some whataboutism. If we are to stay within climate goals we must reduce our meat consumption and eat more plant-foods. This has to happen alongside many other actions but it’s still a must. I say we, as in the Western world. Some areas such as sub-Saharan Africa will fare better with an increase in meat intake.
In regards to overpopulation, it’s a sticky subject and one that ignores the main issue that’s overconsumption. The average American consumes 10 times the amount of energy compared to the average Indian.
By providing adequate education, particularly for women, and raising the standard of living, population growth rates naturally fall. It’s a win-win.
Those figures ignore technological advances. In section 2 of the WRI report linked above they go into how we can increase food production without expanding agricultural land. It is possible.
Yes, it’s insane! We will never get food waste to zero but we can massively reduce it.
A lot of it surrounds food safety and lawsuits. Supermarkets and manufacturers have to err on the side of caution.
I don’t think they ignore them, just that they don’t make assumptions which I think is the wise thing to do really at the end of the day. Much better to draw a straight line and look at what needs to be done as it progresses to solve things - otherwise the technological advances we’ll be relying on may never be worked on in the first place.
I would be curious as to what, precisely, these technological advances consist of, and how it’s going to increase my crop yields significantly without buying more land. And secondly, how much is this supposed ground breaking innovation going to cost me? I am always down with making more money, so this peaks my interest.
That being said, I get probably 20-30 phone calls a month from vendors of various stripes (seed, chems, equipment, etc.) promising to increase my crop yields. Some of these I have tried out over the years and I am not rich yet. Over the last 20 years my yields have followed a predictable pattern and average, regardless of anything different I am doing as far as strategy or products.
At the end of the day, Mother Nature has a far greater impact than anything any individual farmer can do on their end.
It makes more sense to base the calculations on technologically advances in past years, which has Robby has mentioned has been relatively stable since the green revolution.
It’s a really interesting topic! Clearly farmers like yourself Robby can’t be burdened with this cost and there’s a good argument to made that you shouldn’t be impacted by cost at all to make these transitions.
I’d recommend again to both of you @RuralCloth and @Tristan to check out the WRI’s report on a sustainable food future. It’s just one organisation’s plan and predictions but they give forecasts based on no action taken, based on predicted technological advances and what needs to happen to meet targets.
For sure and climate change is only going to increase this impact.