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randomusername8472 t1_j6rlxem wrote

It's always worth pointing out that 80% of humanities land use is purely for growing food for, and rearing, livestock. This only produces about 20% of humanities food.

There's plenty of room for people :) it's the 60 billion odd animals (especially the cows and other mammals!) that are the problem.

If people treated red meat and dairy like a luxury, (say, reduced consumption to once every two weeks) it would more than half humanities land use! It would also be cheaper, and better for their health so they'd live longer with a higher quality of love.


Pantssassin t1_j6s9035 wrote

I think you misspoke, "purely for growing food and rearing livestock" includes both growing human food and livestock feed when I think you only meant growing livestock feed.


randomusername8472 t1_j6shfxh wrote

You are correct, I meant to say growing food for livestock and rearing livestock. Basically, 80% of land is to make meat and dairy and it only produces 20% of our food. The other 20% of our land use is for plants, and that produces 80% of our food.

All other human land use is about 1% of habitable land - a rounding error compared to farming


Fearlessleader85 t1_j6tqp5c wrote

I think you're making an error in the implied assumption that the aforementioned land is all equal. It isn't. For example, there's a county of roughly 10000 square miles in southeastern oregon that has arouns 7000 people in it. It's got a little bit of protected area, but the VAST majority of it is cattle rangeland interspersed with hay/alfalfa fields. There's occasionally other crops, but not much. There's a lot of meat coming out of that country, but it's not dense. Every cow needs a massive amount of space to graze enough to slaughter, but that's because there's just not much out there. There's not enough water to sustainably grow food crops, but a cow can wander a few miles a day munching on bunch grasses and be fat and happy.

Additionally, a lot of rangeland is far closer to wild than farmland. Cattle are grazed on huge swaths of BLM land in the western US, that is essentially just wild land. To convert even 20% of that to any other use would be a massive ecological disaster. And the cows do some damage, too, but nothing like clearing forest and planting crops.

This use would DRASTICALLY affect any such statistics like the one you're quoting. Meat production on factory farms fed by monoculture feed crop field have their own problems, but they are far more space efficient than the story your numbers paint.


randomusername8472 t1_j6u53jk wrote

I think you are making the mistake of taking one biome that has cows in and which cows aren't the worst option, and assuming all biomes are like that. What percentage of the world's agricultural land is what you describe?

I'm talking about things like deforested tropical and temperate forest/rainforest. Like, the Amazon isn't being cleared just for kicks. England isn't kept as rolling green fields just for the postcards (and has a similar thing to the US cattle with sheep, which are relatively self sustaining and low impact suited to a lot of the UKs more rugged areas, like for cows how you describe).

I'd agree that animals raised in ways like that aren't the worst. But there's 1.5billion cows in the world and most of them are gorged on high calorie food grown on fertilised fields that would have been - if not for human intervention - something completely different.

(Plus, if you want to live off food like that, you basically have to become a vegan on steroids with how rigourously you study ingredients. Vegans can just look at a packet of chips and be like "damn, it's got milk in, guess I'll get a different brand". People who only want to eat meat from natural farming processes have to either reach the same conclusion, or go on a lengthy research journey to try and figure out if Lays use milk they find acceptable - which inevitably they don't. Sorry for the tangent!)


Fearlessleader85 t1_j6u7tzy wrote

I'm not making that mistake at all. I'll pointing out that a huge percent of the Western US is considered "used for cows", even though there's only a few cows per square mile, and the cow's use of that land is pretty low impact.

If you lump that in with factory farms where even considering the area required for feed, you're getting multiple cows per acre, you end up with a drastically skewed statistic where the average land use per cow is very different from the median land use per cow.

And since the vast majority of our meat comes from factory farms (I'm seeing 99%, but that's not just beef), the median land use is far more important. So, if you include the few hundred thousand square miles of rangeland with barely any cows on it, you think every cow we don't raise frees up like 4.6 acres that can go towards something else. But in reality, if we don't raise one median cow it only frees up a couple hundred square feet.

Do you see how the statistic is skewed? I've been around feed lots and live in agricultural areas. I see feed crops. I also live near rangeland. A simple statistic of "percentage of human land use" doesn't really tell any of that story with any degree of accuracy.


randomusername8472 t1_j6ueaqp wrote

I mean, we're from completely different parts of the world so I get we are coming from different view points. But the key factor I'm considering is that cows need a certain amount of calories. Those calories either come from low density area (like you describe) or high density crop.

I guess I should have said how much of the world's beef comes from low density crop lands in the USA?

And another thing I'd wonder about, do those cattle live entirely off the land? In the UK we have "grass fed" cows, which are premium and reared entirely off the land, but they require huge amounts of land in order to have enough food available to them, plus higher calory supplements to actually put on weight. So unless you actually know a small hold farmer, in Europe, any meat/dairy you get is from "unnatural" means, with cows being reared more intensively than the land would allow. That intensity comes from other land, elsewhere, being used as well. I know the same applies in Australia and much of South Africa, but I can't comment on the Western US.

And, to be fair, I haven't focused on land use exclucively. My point was that we are actively destroying many biomes in order to produce food for livestock. If we stopped eating as much meat and dairy (reduce it to the recommended amounts medically, in the US and Europe) that would take off a huge amount of pressure from biomes we are destroying.

To go back to my original point, if people treated meat and dairy like a luxury, that would probably just leave cows in the habitats you describe (although that's just a wild guess)


Fearlessleader85 t1_j6ukfnf wrote

If you're coming from europe, i can understand how it's hard to wrap your head around the type of land in the western US, because there's isn't really the same type of thing anywhere in Europe to my knowledge.

Just the Bureau of Land Management handles around the area of one tenth of all of Europe (around 1 million km²). That's public land, no one lives on it. Almost all of it is used as grazing land to some extent. It's not really used otherwise except for recreation. That doesn't include national parks and national forests which are also commonly grazed in part. It doesn't include huge ranches that aren't factory farms. It doesn't include small farms and landowners that rent out fallow fields to cattle ranchers.

And the yield of that land is extremely variable. My 3.4 acres are listed among the highest potential yield crop land I've seen at well over 100 bushels per acre of most common crops. 10 miles north of me there's rolling hills of pasture land that probably could yield 25-40 bushels per acre if you could farm it. 100 miles southwest of me, your crops are probably just going to fail, but cows can scratch together enough food to gain weight for 11 months of the year.

So, factory farms put feed lots on land like that to the southwest of me and then buy feed from my neighbors here in the extremely fertile area. They can actually have 100 cows per acre. The ranchers to the north of me are probably running 1 cow per acre. Any ranchers to the southwest doing grazing are probably more like 5 acres per cow.

The factory farm needs crop land, and i can't find the actual calories per acre for just grass hay, but wheat is significantly more calorically dense and that's around 6.4 million Calories per acre. Corn is 12+ million, and that's for human consumption, but cows eat the stalks, too. So, i think a reasonable estimate would say a feed crop produces perhaps 3x the calories per acre of grassland on the low end and upwards of 10x at the top end.

So, ranching cows on pretty decent grassland is 1 acre per cow. Factory farming requires 0.11-0.31 acres per cow (0.1-0.3 acres for feed, 0.01 acres for pen space, plus a tiny bit for waste control). And the worse the land yield is the more acres you need. Factory farms exist for a reason: they're cheap and efficient.

But ALL that land is weighted the same in your narrative. It isn't the same at all. Factory farms and cropland is essentially worthless to wild animals. Rangeland is some animals primary habitat.

Monoculture crops can actually be much more damaging to the environment than rangeland raised meat, even when you account for the area required per calorie.


Fearlessleader85 t1_j6u8hk6 wrote

Oh, and as for your tangent, it's easier to know what you're eating if you can get a ways out of the city. Most of our eggs come from our chickens, we can easily get beef and pork from people that we know and can go see the animals in the fields. Hell, i can get the ear tag of the cow i put in my freezer if i want.


randomusername8472 t1_j6uehkx wrote

I think this is very country dependant :) I live in the countryside of Nottinghamshire in the UK, and UK countryside is very different from US countriside!

More crowded, for a start!


Fearlessleader85 t1_j6ufefz wrote

Without a doubt, but if you know a danger, you can probably buy a part of a cow.