Global pasture has peaked. Global cropland has not. This might come as a surprise as global meat consumption is increasing. How, then, can pasture for
This might come as a surprise as global meat consumption is increasing. How, then, can pasture for livestock have peaked and now be falling?
The world produces three times as much meat as it did 50 years ago. But how this meat is produced and what types of meat we eat have shifted. First, we produce a lot of pork and chicken which are not fed on pasture.
Second, a lot of our beef production has moved from open pasture grazing towards more intensive farming methods; this has spared land. This presents an important dilemma: grain-fed livestock is often more land-efficient than pasture-fed livestock, so you need less land overall; but the biodiversity on grazing lands is often better than intensive croplands.
What this means is that more and more animals are being fed from crops grown on croplands, rather than on pasture. In fact, almost half of the world’s cropland is used to produce animal feed. Unfortunately, this conversion process from crops to meat is still an inefficient one, meaning we need a lot of land to produce a small amount of food.
Biofuels, too, have added additional pressure on croplands, especially in countries such as the US and Brazil.