United Nations to End Hunger by 2030: Eating Less Meat is Key

September 28th, 2015


End Hunger with Less Meat“It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food.”United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2

This week the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit made eliminating world hunger by 2030 an official goal for the next 15 years. The UN has drawn up a series of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, all focused on human and environmental welfare. One of the first goals in the series: ending hunger through a series of specific, measurable goals.

“If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centred rural development and protecting the environment.
Right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on, increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods. Many rural women and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in search of opportunities.
A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today’s 795 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.
The food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for development, and is central for hunger and poverty eradication.” – United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2

One of the top changes experts recommend? Reducing the world’s red meat consumption.

Red meat is one of the most ecologically costly foods eaten by humans, and it is being consumed around the world at an increasing rate. The production of red meat requires 11 times the amount of water needed to produce chicken or pork, and creates greater quantities of greenhouse gases than either of these more sustainable livestock animals. We’ve known for some time that over consumption of meat is a global problem, but the spread of the western diet and climate-related issues have brought the production cost of meat into the spotlight.

Researchers have found that moving to a more plant-based (rather than animal-based) diet would be a healthy change for individual well-being, public health, and the environment. “Sustainable and healthy diets will require a move towards a mostly plant-based diet,” said Colin Khoury, a biologist at the Colombia-based International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. If the global population were to reduce the amount of meat in their diets, there would be lasting global benefits.

Today we could easily feed everyone – it’s a distribution issue,” said Michael Obersteiner of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. The current system for producing meat uses a massive amount of land, water, and other resources to grow and process a relatively small amount of food. Growing grain, fruit and vegetables for direct human consumption would be a far more efficient use of the land, but people would have to start making room for these foods at the table. “Diets will have to change,” Obersteiner said.

I don’t think it’s all that ambitious to eliminate hunger,” said Jomo Sundaram, assistant director-general of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Achieving the SDGs means that over over the next 15 years, the international community will need to find ways to produce and distribute nutritious food for the 795 million people currently living in hunger. By focusing on the most efficient means of producing human sustenance, we could see massive change in how humanity feeds itself moving into the future. A daily diet with a little less meat could be an important piece of the puzzle.