Bread or Trough

Animal Feed, Competition for Land and Food Security

Centre for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America (FDCL)

Berlin, January 2013

Author: Thomas Fritz

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Introduction

While the phenomenon of land grabbing has led to a wider public debate, essential drivers of this trend still remain comparatively underexposed. This is particularly true for land-use changes caused by the growing demand for animal-based products and the associated cultivation of animal feed.

The high consumption of animal feed is a result of diets with a high proportion of meat, milk, eggs and other animal products. This type of nutrition uses a large number of resources such as arable land, water and energy and is also very wasteful due to the inefficient conversion of plant energy and proteins into animal-based foods. The risks of this consumption pattern increase with the growing number of people switching to diets with high proportions of animal products. Nevertheless, it still remains a highly unequal consumption model excluding the majority of the human race. It presumes that not all humans have equal access to the Earth’s natural resources.

It is therefore urgent to deal with the continuous boom in animal feed, its drivers and consequences. With this publication, the Centre for Research and Documentation Chile-Latin America (FDCL) aims to contribute to the public debate on this pressing issue.

The publication describes how the increasing consumption of meat is encouraging the cultivation of feed crops. It analyses the European Union’s high deficit in animal feeds, particularly with regard to protein-rich crops, as well as its heavy dependence on the imports of soy. It then outlines the social and ecological impacts of the cultivation of this protein crop in the main supplying countries of South America. The publication also asks to what extent a dietary change reducing the consumption of animal products could contribute to limiting the risks of the excessive demand for animal feed. Finally, it offers a range of recommendations on how animal feed consumption can be reduced in order to mitigate the growing number of land disputes and ensure global food security.