Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Food sustainability, an essay

I was calculating how much land is it required to feed a person on a year, with eggs, beans, grains, and meat. The conclusions are pretty interesting and it pushes us towards a vegetarian diet, which relies a bit on grains (but not so much), and more in potatoes, pulses, nuts and also eggs. Meat is very unsustainable. Grains are also not the most sustainable option.

It is much better is to convert a fraction of an area (about 60m2) to feed 3 chicken hens for a year, and then provide an average of 2 eggs per day, rather then occupying 480m2 to grow grains, to be produce our staple foods (bread, rice, pasta).

Seems that eggs are significantly more sustainable than grains! However if you want meat instead of eggs - let's say to eat one chicken per week - than the amount of land required is 3000m2 (which is 6 times more than growing grain for a year). Eating meat is even more terribly unsustainable than growing and eating grain!

Land required per year:
Beans or peas (every other day) - 30 m2
Eggs (2 eggs per day) - 60 m2
Potatoes (1 meal per day)- 72 m2
Rye/grains (130 g per day) - 480 m2 (corn requires less land) (quinoa and amaranth are also better options)

Chicken meat (1 animal per week) - 3000 m2 (and other types of meat are even more unsustainable)

Being vegetarian has a much less impact in our planet. It requires much less land.

As a final remark, nuts are probably well worth to consider (walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, almonds, peanuts). The area occupied to feed a person on a year is similar to the area required by grains. However, we must remember that this will be an area ocuppied by a forest (nut trees), which provide more habitat for animals and other plants, and it is a low input crop, yielding for many years without any effort.

Peanuts (like most culinary nuts) are excellent choices for a sustainable lifestyle. Buy peanut butter without additives (like the organic one), it is much healthier and more tastier. It's the real thing. It's also easy to do spreads of hazelnut with cocoa powder (basic nutella), much healthier than the commercial processed nutella.

Perennial starch and perennial protein should be two of the main preocupations of permaculture people nowadays. However I see everyone growing and focusing their attention on vegetable gardens and their veggie garden designs, but no one stops to think about the meat, milk and grains they still eat. It's a completely unsustainable matter that deserves our attention!

I have pointed out, often, sources of perennial protein and perennial starch, and perennial sources of oil. This should be one of the "number 1 topics" in the permaculture circles. But it is still not. Please let us focus more attention and experimental work on this topic!

It's the real tenet of "permanent agriculture".

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