Biofuel, Livestock, Feed Conversion and Global Food Security.

Posted on June 8, 2008

A quick analysis of the FAO figures for expected cereal production and use in 2007/2008 reveals that much more food is wasted in feeding livestock than used in biofuel production. The global cereal output in 2008 will be around 2126 million tones (mt). Of this, it is expected that 1006mt will be eaten directly as foods, almost as much, 756mt will be fed to animals raised for food, and 100mt will be used to produce biofuel 1.

An animal uses a certain amount of energy to stay alive, and most of its weight is not eaten by humans. Thus the amount of life-sustaining food we get back from the animals feed is 10%, averaged from the various species we breed. So out of the 2126mt of cereal that will be grown in 2007/8, 680mt, more than a third will be immediately wasted. Most people, due to attachment to meat or misunderstandings about nutrition, will not recognize this wastage. Roughly 1/3rd of the global protein harvest will be lost in the food conversion from plant to animal 2.

The amount of grain wasted in the plant to animal conversion is nearly seven times the amount used for biofuel production. We must consider cereal wastage in terms animal agriculture as well as biofuel production. Coupled with the knowledge that the vegetarian and plant-based (vegan) diets are viable and healthy alternatives to others, this wastage is something which needs to be carefully and immediately examined from practical and ethical perspectives.