Why You’ll Be a Vegetarian in 25 Years, Like it or Not

Draught Will Lead to Vegetarianism

photo: Stockholm International Water Institute

Global meat consumption will have to decrease drastically by 2050, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Water Institute.  The changing climate is decreasing the available global water supply. This is causing droughts, which are leading to high price for agricultural commodities needed to raise livestock. Prices of corn and wheat rose by 50% in just the last 2 months!

What you need to know:

A pound of animal protein (beef, pork) requires 10 times more water than a pound of vegetarian protein (lentils, beans). If you take into account global population growth and an increased hunger for meat in developing nations, we’re headed for a catastrophe. The world today consumes 20% of its protein from animal sources. That number may need to go down to 5% in the next few decades. This would mean little or no meat consumption, and barely any dairy or eggs to boot. For more fascinating stats, download the report [PDF].

It’s scary for us to think of a day when we wont have cheap meat and dairy products waiting for us at the supermarket. But for a majority of the world, this is their reality. Ask most people living in India or China what they eat every day.

If free market economics were to come into play, the gradual price increases would naturally cause people to cut back on meat consumption. Imagine a pound of sirloin beef at Shoprite for $40 in 2037,  instead of today’s price of $6.99. Imagine paying $20 a pound for boneless chicken breasts (instead of $1.99 per pound)…

Can we somehow reverse this worrying trend? Maybe improve agricultural output so that we can continue to feast on steak and potatoes? Some biotech companies think that their patented, drought resistant, genetically modified crops are the answer. To date, we haven’t seen any evidence to this effect. And long term safety concerns have not been settled either.

So what to do? Old habits die hard, and if you’ve been eating meat all your life, the though thought of giving it up is frightening. It certainly is for me! Meat is just so tasty.

But we should definitely begin to appreciate more vegetarian options at home and at restaurants. “Meatless Monday” can be an easy first step in learning to eat, prepare, and enjoy plant based meals.

While 2050 seems a long way off, the writing is on the wall. Make sure your palate is prepared…

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  • Amanda

    As much as I love Fooducate for a great many things, I really would like it if you would stick to what you are good at: (mostly) facts and information about ingredients that allows people to make their own choices about what to consume.
    Ignoring political bias and junk science, this “information” is at best pure conjecture.
    Talking about things like the “rising population” ignores recent census and fertility information that predicts a *declining* population by 2020 (which is closer than your 2030 meat doomsday). It also ignores the recent trend of food awareness, and educated people like myself going to private farmers and landowners for food which has been raised in an humane and more eco-friendly manner.
    Meat doesn’t have to be bad for the planet any more than wild animals are “bad” for the planet. It’s irritating to me that the only side you present is one of doom and gloom based on current (deplorable) livestock raising practices, encouraging meat be dropped from the diet instead of looking at incredibly viable and sustainable sources of animal protein.
    Of course, this does not solve the PETA problem that you perhaps unknowingly played right into. information like this is heavily pushed and disseminated by “animal-friendly” organizations who don’t want you to be vegetarian for any other reason than enforcing their own views and morals on the majority of the population.
    I’ve been a subscriber to Fooducate for a long time, and I would have thought you could see through this propaganda.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Hi Amanda, Don’t limit your thinking to the US. Over 200 million new middle class members in China are getting their meat and dairy from factory farms imported from the US courtesy of the large CAFOs here. Yes, we’d love everyone to buy from local organic farms, but that’s not happening any time soon for a majority of meat consumption in the world. And while population is declining in the western world, look at India, Indonesia, Turkey, China, and other countries to bring the world population 9 Billion by 2050.

    • Minnie

      Dear Amanda, its because of people like you who ignore the obvious facts, that are staring at your face, and choose to be victims of your tastes and ‘meat industry propoganda’ who are hurting the planet more than anything. Please educate yourself first rather than blatantly flaunting your ignorance.
      Meat is a real problem, like it or not we all have to address it one day, sooner rather than later.

      • Brian

        It’s not just the meat industry propaganda, it’s the food industry in general… The whole damn system. It’s all being propped up by our government (ie: taxpayers). Vegan/vegetarian influence leads many to believe that it’s just the meat that is the problem. It’s the meat and pretty much everything else to do with the food supply. It’s much more complicated than cutting out only animal products. I’m no scientist or economist, but that’s really where the problem is. If people sourced their food locally, it would put an end to all the CAFO operations, and many the large farms of corn and soybeans would be far less needed. What’s the impact on the American economy? I don’t know. But I don’t care either. It’s the right thing to do. Environmentally, and for the health of our families.

    • Violet

      I agree. Every time Fooducate slips out of its awesome zone (helping consumers decode food labels and find better choices at the supermarket) the quality of the posts drops.

    • Brian

      Good points Amanda. America and the rest of the world do need to change how the meat is raised. The subsidies for grain crops need to be stopped. Once that is done, we will have far less tractors farming the land, and far fewer trucks moving grains around the world. I don’t know if meat will be cheaper or not in this scenario, but the world will be a healthier place, both environmentally, and the humans consuming the meat.

      • Old Mac

        Brian is going to till all our crops for us with his long handled hoe so we can park all those scary tractors in the shed. Then he’s going to pack all our grain to mill in a hemp gunny sack slung over his back. No need to renew the insurance on the truck, ma. I wonder if Brian will donate all his stoop labor? Such a practical man, that Brian.

        • Brian

          That’s actually very funny. Thanks for the laugh! But one inconsistency… I wouldn’t be dealing with any grain, now, would I? Just need the pasture. And a hoe. And who needs the truck when you can grow all your own food!

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.evans.503 David Evans


    • purexplorer

      I agree, the point is that you stray from your main message (and the reason I subscribe). Listen, don’t merely justify your reasoning for re-publishing this article. There are plenty of outlets for doomsday reporting. There far less that provide meaning food information without a bunch of nonsensical hype.

  • Shannon S.

    This blog is factual. People don’t understand the true cost of food. So much of what is consumed is subsidized (farmers are given money to farm or to withhold certain crops) by our tax dollars making prices artificially low, but what we deem as fair. Water scarcity is a real global concern and the effect is starting here in North America. I was in Iowa this summer and saw the massive failing corn and soybean. Then there are the GMOs…I shudder at the thought of eating food that is Round Up ready. Do people understand that means the GMO plant is sprayed routinely with this deadly herbicide and still thrives! Just not right.

  • Tracy

    Thanks for sharing this article! Whether or not this prediction is true or just an exaggeration, it is important to think about where we will end up if we continue down the path we are on and if we will like it when we get there, meatless or not

  • George Babbitt

    I’ll raise guinea pigs like the Peruvians and dogs like the Koreans. Both are cheap to raise and don’t need any help to propagate. Meat is awesome, and it will continue, even if those that would regulate it out of existence or try to convince the world that meat is murder and your dog is family. I’ll hunt local pets and run an underground restuarant like the liberty loving folks that continue to serve foie gras in California.

  • http://www.facebook.com/debra.sunshine.75 Debra Sunshine

    Great article!! Maybe it will wake up the unconscious!! http://veganamericanprincess.com

  • Calvin

    In 25 years I will still be an omnivore and most of you will still be idiots.

    • Me

      That is rude to say if u say something mean to someone that meams u are that bad thing so u called your self an idiot

      • Kevin Poss

        Wrong, Calvin is hilarious, you are scared and humorless.

  • shasta todd

    meat eaters are so hostile… wow

  • Mariah

    Thanks Fooducate!

  • http://www.vistavillagefamilydentistry.com/ VistaFamilyDentist

    Thank you for posting this article. The facts and evidences seem to be legit. But I am still hoping that it will not happen. Meats are good sources of protein and though they are not that much of a healthy option, I guess what we can do now is to take them in moderation. What do you think?

  • Christine Cronau

    The Vegetarian Myth is a great book about this very topic. Here is the description… Lierre Keith believed in the plant-based diet and spent twenty years as a vegan. But in The Vegetarian Myth, she argues that we’ve been led astray—not by our longings for a just and sustainable world, but by our ignorance.
    The truth is that agriculture is a relentless assault against the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. In service to annual grains, humans have devastated prairies and forests, driven countless species extinct, altered the climate, and destroyed the topsoil—the basis of life itself. Keith argues that if we are to save this planet, our food must be an act of profound and abiding repair: it must come from inside living communities, not be imposed across them. Here is a link to chapter 1: http://lierrekeith.com/book-ex_the-vegetarian-myth.php

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Most grains grown are to service the needs of livestock husbandry…

      • Brian

        That and ethanol production for gas… And it’s not needed for either one. It’s really a no win situation for anyone involve aside from the large land owners who keep raking in the government checks. We could use the land currently used for grains as pasture land for animals, and to grow more nutritious foods that restore the soil, and the world would be better off.

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  • Darryl Miglio

    Perhaps the number of people on the planet is too much. The earth can only support so many humans. The answer, SOYLENT GREEN!

  • benjamincgessel

    I think pretty much everyone here has some good points, minus the occasional more personal comments… As I am considering changing what I buy a bit in September, regarding meat/poultry/fish/eggs, but poultry in particular (I don’t do dairy-rather, almond/rice milk, etc.), I am trying to get some down-to-earth, common sense information about the pros and cons of different kinds of chicken, affordability, healthiness, etc. essentially. Why? Because EVERY other source of animal protein I eat is rather secondary to chicken (it would probably go in this order for me: 1.) Chicken, 2.) Beef, 3.) Eggs, 4.) Seafood (focus on tuna, salmon, clams and sometimes something else like shrimp or mahi mahi), 5.) Pork, 6.) Turkey, 7.) Everything else). So basically, I have eaten (this is more like what I ate a little while back, not so much recently) about 25 chicken thighs a month (give or take 5 or so), sometimes other parts like drumsticks, etc. (but I DON’T like dried out white chicken meat-so the hot rotisserie chicken tends to be lower on my list-its a convenience food, essentially), which turns out to be a little less than 1 thigh a day a while back. More recently (the last half year or so), we’re talking more in the vicinity of like 15-20 chicken thighs a month. More like 15, so 1 every other day. (Its a Nutritarian thing, I’ve been trying to cut back for some time now-Nutritarians are even more hard core than that… Like eggs only-1-2 eggs a day… 1 serving of poultry a day, then skip a day or two, etc. (meatless days are fairly common for hard core nutritarians, etc.)

    With beef, I buy generally between 3-5 steaks a month or so, sometimes less, like 2, plus I order something with beef if I eat out once-a few times a month, maybe some ground beef on occasion (somewhat more recently, (last 6 months) I have just NOT had the desire to buy ground beef, its just better to buy a few steaks, etc., ground beef is just not THAT healthy…), and ground beef already in things like Nalley’s Thick Chili, etc. (didn’t look like it had anything bad in it, it was on sale, so I have been eating it a bit more recently). Of course, I have read up on some things with beef (and everything else), and I still don’t think I’m ready for that really expensive beef-I’ll go with the stuff I can afford, thank you very much (especially since I make it a priority to not eat beef very often). But I will buy the free range, organic, etc. chicken and eggs, etc. But probably not exclusively right now. I’m hearing the back and forth dialogue, and its kinda confusing and sometimes downrght angry… Eggs-eh, I do like them (but not like I like beef), but I can only eat so much of them before I get “sulfur” mouth, so to speak… Its only about the breath aspect really, gotta have those mints/mouthwash ready afterward, etc. But eggs are cheap, they have plenty of protein, etc., so I buy them from time to time. I ate a lot of canned tuna when I was younger (mom’s tuna sandwiches), but now, not quite as often-though they certainly are economical. Pork is kinda a “dessert” meat, in my opinion, and its pretty unhealthy, but tasty as heck. I don’t eat bacon, etc. very often. And I should probably eat turkey a bit more, as well as wild caught salmon from Alaska etc. (but wild caught salmon is pretty darn expensive).

    Basically, I know what is going on… However, I don’t feel the need to break the budget on overpriced “healthier” meat, so its more about going with the eggs a bit more, tuna here and there, and of course, eating more nuts, beans, seeds, etc. (I have been eating a fair amount of nuts since my early college days). A little bit of meat/poultry goes a long, long, long way…

  • Chef Mike in Burlington ON

    As a chef and happy meat eater, I am astonished at my fellow meat eaters for their ignorance about basic food and political science…
    FACT…world population going up and will continue to do so at an accelerating rate, demanding more food and water to sustain it.
    FACT…our climate is changing, potable water more scarce, extreme weather more common and whether or not you want to blame cow farts doesn’t matter, its changing and not it’s for the better here in North America.
    FACT…there are only 6-7 net food exporting nations on the earth and 3 of them, U.S, Canada and Australia have all seem dramatic changes in crop output, rainfall, drought and average temperature. Again, cow farts or not, it doesn’t matter, its changing and not it’s for the better
    FACT…it takes enormous resources to put a pound on my table and the cost of every one of those inputs, breeding stock, land for pasture, daily feed, transport to market, storage and my fuel to drive and process it are all going up, far faster than inflation and there is nothing that will change that.
    FACT…simply put, large scale meat production is harder on the environment that a plant based diet, it’s fact, to what degree may be debatable, but it’s a fact the vast majority of the world lives on every day.
    FACT…most Americans have no idea what the REAL cost of the food they eat is, because of a very generous, and soon to be unsustainable, production subsidy programs, it that masks what it really costs, some estimates say by 50%. Luckily, a $14Trillion national debt will kill this program in the next decade or less.
    FACT…excessive meat consumption leads to more health issues requiring more healthcare $$’s. Again, to what degree is debatable, but denying that a plant based diet is not healthier is just ignorance and stupidity.
    FACT…North America is only 5% of the worlds population yet we consume 20+% of the world’s resources, and I’m not sure when, but the rest of the world will be coming for some of that back sooner than later…

    The article may not be perfect, but fundamentally, its not wrong. There is a “food” storm coming, and the sooner the world biggest economy and consumer adapts, the longer you can stave it off, but make no mistake, it’s coming…

    • Brian

      FACT: You will become deficient in a few very important nutrients if you eat an entirely plant based diet without supplementation for your entire life. Do we need the amount of meat we consume today? For most people the answer would be no. We should scale back the production of meat. We should eat more of plants that are vegetables (not grains or sugars.)

      Some commentary on a few of your other bullets:
      Crop outputs of the food exporting nations are generally the wrong crops. Today’s farming methods are taking nutrients out of the soil, and making our crops less drought resistant.

      I don’t think the pro-meat people in this list advocate for the way most meat is farmed today. And some plant-based production is very hard on the environment, too, but is largely ignored.

      • Chef Mike in Burlington ON

        Huh ???? Billions of people around the world live long healthy productive lives on plant based, meat free diets and have for centuries, your science is inaccurate. And please cite the case where traditional plant agriculture farming is even remotely as destructive as high density meat farming ??

        • Brian

          Research has shown that those who have a diet strictly w/o animal products end up with vitamin b12 deficiency, and they do not get the levels of omega 3′s, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc and riboflavin they need either if they haven’t appropriately planned their diet. (If you google, you will find many studies.) Will they live? Yes. but they will be deficient in those nutrients and will be at risk for diseases, and may not have “perfect health” without supplementation. Can it be healthy? Yes. But it doesn’t take away the fact that plant-based diets result in those deficiencies.

          As far as I am aware, the only population that has gone vegetarian for any length of time is those in India. And if I’m not mistaken, they are generally lacto-vegetarian, so they are using some animal products. Please cite the other populations that have done this, as I would like to research this more. All other traditional populations that I’ve read about have survived with at least some animal products, even if minimal.
          Pasture based animal raising vs CAFO is significant in the effect on the environment. (Pasture, much better… it’s close to being wild game. If wild game is a problem, then we should probably go ahead an kill all wild game too.) And CAFO production is SIGNIFICANTLY worse than vegetarian production. I wan’t saying that it wasn’t more destructive. But that doesn’t mean vegetarian production isn’t harmful. Anytime you have a large corn/soybean/wheat field and you are running tractors over the land, you kill lots of small animals, and are burning all kinds of fossil fuels to transport these foods. Not to mention that by planting the same crops in the same fields year over year, you are depleting the land’s nutrient content and it’s ability to produce in the event of a drought. And the issue of soil runoff… it goes on.

        • Brian

          Also, you should check your science as well. According to Wikipedia, there are 7 billion people in the world right now. By your estimation of saying billions of people are living plant based lives, you would assume that 2 or 3 billion people are vegetarians, which would be a third to a half of the people would be vegetarians. The best estimates I could find on Google (yes I know, not a reliable source,) says that about 6% of the world is vegetarian… that would half a billion. So you could say millions of people.

          It’s interesting that all my comments get the down rating in Disqus, but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable by demanding that we should source our food differently. Meat especially, and my comments reflect that. I’m also being factual about the vegetarian comments I am making, and not trying to criticize at all. I have no problem with people living vegetarian lives, and I even said it can be a healthy way to live, assuming that you know about the possible deficiencies and account for them. If the prices of meat ever got to the point that Hemi talks about in this article, I would most likely become vegetarian myself (and maybe raise my own chickens for eggs and the occasional meal of chicken.)

          • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

            Brian, thanks for staying on point and providing interesting food for thought in your commentary.

  • malachite2

    Why is there no mention of the requirement in the US that a significant % of corn grown in the US be used to make ethanol–as fuel for motor vehicles. I am not sure but believe the % is around 30%.

    Not all land is good for raising any kind of veg or fruit, soy, rice, whatever. Some land is best used for grazing, whether it’s by buffalo, steers, or sheep. Or geese or goats.

    Maybe more people will eat less meat but the wealthy will continue to eat meat and live just as wastefully & lavishly as anyone. See the wealthy in mainland China, in Russia, etc.

    Many of the food shortages now are caused by inefficient & unequal food distribution systems, NOT lack of food itself. Corporate ag doesn’t want to sell their product to those w/no money to pay for it, so poor people, poor nations go without. When food relieft is offered–if the area has a poor distribution system (i.e., few to no highways, no decent rail system, few to no airports) or the distribution system has become hazards due to natural hazard (floods, earthquakes, etc.) or human hazard—crime, guerilla warfare, civil war, other violence, then it is difficult to get food AND clean water OR medicines/medical assistance to those who need it.

    And destructive financial policies on the part of (1) “developed” nations; (2) IMF & the World Bank have in the past, resulted in some nations that were once self-sufficient or close to self-sufficient in staple crops to become no longer so. Why? Because these nations owe money, they need to pay loans back or at least the interest. How to do that–you grow cash crops. Crops you can export. Those are usually NOT staple crops. But that’s what gets grown on much of the land that was formerly used for growing staple crops. Now that nation needs to import food and/or becomes dependent upon food relief/charity and so becomes used to eating non-native crops as staples.

    The global food supply issue is a whole lot more complex then corporate meat. As is global ecological issues.

  • Julia

    I’m a pescatarian and I love it! Being pescatarian really opened my eyes to how much meat I consumed. It was way too much! I personally think that people should cut back on meat consumption, but not completely stop. There’s some awesome meat free meals out there! People should try some of them out :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/heather.byers.754 Heather Byers

      I was working to a more pescatarian diet until I was given some media arguing that fish should not be eaten due to the uncontrolled and highly polluted environment the wild ones grow up in…. ie: they are considered toxic according to what I read. The farmed ones are no better according to other news I have read and heard. I don’t want to believe it but how can we deny the highly polluted state of our oceans and waterways and think it isn’t affecting what grows in it? Isn’t that like believing plants grown in pesticides are not affected by the poison in which they grow or that Beefalorkens (Beef, Buffalo, pork and chickens) are unaffected by hormone injections and improper feeding? It depresses me. All I see around me are assertions that everything is poison and we are all going to be without any edible food of any kind in our lifetimes. If there is no hope, why not just enjoy what we like, while we can and in the meantime, learn how to hunt and garden so that when Armageddon comes, the survival of the fittest will be in our favour?

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