New Study Looks At An America Without Meat

Nov 28, 2017

Credit CC0 Creative Commons

A new scientific study asks the question: What if everyone in America suddenly went vegan and stopped eating meat, eggs, milk, and fish.

As the Highland Plains Journal reports, the authors say that in that extreme scenario – the nation’s food supply would increase by 23 percent and greenhouse gas emissions would drop by 2.6 percent. However, to ensure people are getting their vitamins and minerals, we would need to grow different crops and take supplements to meet recommended dietary guidelines.

Currently, we benefit from animals eating crop byproducts like cotton seeds or almond hulls, which are inedible to humans. Animals convert crop byproducts into foods that contain important nutrients, some of which are not present in plants. So, if we would keep growing crops in current proportions -- and eat the grains we’ve been feeding to animals ourselves -- the population won’t be able to meet its nutritional needs. Additionally, manure from livestock can be used to fertilize crops, saving from the large amount of energy it takes to manufacture fertilizers.

Other scientists question some of the study’s assumptions. For example, if land currently used to feed livestock is used to grow biofuels, emissions could be further reduced. And, they point out that we don’t need to go fully vegan -- reducing meat intake below current levels would also benefit the environment and our nation’s health, while allowing us to utilize livestock's other benefits.

Overall, however, the paper points out that even if everyone goes vegan, it wouldn’t be a cure-all for climate change.