Optimal Diet for Land Use

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Diet With A Little Meat Uses Less Land Than Many Vegetarian Diets

Land UseAlthough a low-fat vegetarian diet is very efficient in terms of land use, Cornell researchers believe that adding limited amounts of meat and diary products may improve land-use efficiency.

“A person following a low-fat vegetarian diet, for example, will need less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce their food,” said Christian Peters, M.S. ’02, Ph.D. ’07, a Cornell postdoctoral associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author of the research. “A high-fat diet with a lot of meat, on the other hand, needs 2.11 acres.”

“Surprisingly, however, a vegetarian diet is not necessarily the most efficient in terms of land use,” said Peters.

The reason is that fruits, vegetables and grains must be grown on high-quality cropland, he explained. Meat and dairy products from ruminant animals are supported by lower quality, but more widely available, land that can support pasture and hay. […]

“It appears that while meat increases land-use requirements, diets including modest amounts of meat can feed more people than some higher fat vegetarian diets,” said Peters.

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