top of page

Why Now?

We have reached a critical juncture. The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. In order to stay within the planetary boundaries and ensure a livable planet, scientists predict that consumption of red meat will need to fall by 50 percent (The Lancet). However, the opposite trend is occurring. Global demand for meat is projected to rise by 50 percent in the next 25 years, putting an immense strain on our ecological systems and hindering the availability of nutritious and diverse food options (World Health Organization). Radical food systems transformation is urgently needed. In order to effect change, we must be bold and decisive. Food 4 Thought stands at the fulcrum of this change– creating a site for education, innovation, and collaboration. Through our four pillars of concern, we are applying a multidimensional approach to tackling the greatest food challenges of our generation.

4 PILLARS OF CONCERN

Food
Security

Public
Health

Animal Welfare

Environmental Justice

The current food system is highly inefficient and resource intensive. Animal-based food production requires 83 percent of the world’s farmland and contribute to 56-58 percent of food-specific emissions, despite providing only 37 percent of our protein and 18 percent of our calories (Science). This strains resources that could be used more efficiently to grow crops for direct human consumption. Additionally, the industry's vulnerability to disease outbreaks can disrupt food supply chains while its contributions to climate change can lead to extreme weather events that threaten crop yields. Transitioning to plant-based diets would add enough food to feed 350 million additional people, more than the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food loss (PNAS).

Meat consumption is one of the most significant contributors to chronic diseases. Just two servings of red or processed meats has been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke (National Institutes of Health). Red meat is also a known carcinogen; daily consumption of minimal amounts of processed meat has been shown to increase one’s risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent (WHO, American Institute for Cancer Research). Meat production is also a major source of toxic particulate matter released from methane and ammonia fumes. When inhaled, these particulates increase the risk of heart disease, asthma, and pulmonary disease (AGU). Additionally, antibiotic resistance has become the leading cause of human death worldwide, killing an estimated 1.2 million people in 2019 alone (The Lancet). Among antibiotics sold in the United States, 80 percent are being used for animal agriculture, making it the largest contributor to antibiotic resistance (Medical News).

 

An estimated 99 percent of US farmed animals currently live in factory farms (Sentience Institute). These animals are often kept in cramped, stressful conditions, leading to poor health and reduced quality of life. They are also subjected to harsh treatment, including direct exposure to extreme weather and long-distance transportation with insufficient food or water. Livestock are often slaughtered inhumanely and long before their expected lifespan. Globally, more than 100 billion land animals are killed for meat and other animal products every single year (FAO). In addition, it is estimated that anywhere from 1.1 to 2.8 trillion fish are killed every year (NOAA). These numbers are incomprehensibly high and will continue to grow as global meat demand surges. 

 

The meat industry is a significant contributor to environmental degradation, including deforestation, pollution, and climate change. Farmland expansion is responsible for 90 percent of deforestation worldwide, including crops grown for animal consumption and clearing forests for animal grazing (FAO). Livestock production alone accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of anthropogenic land use. (UBC). In addition to land, raising animals for food takes up half of all water used in the U.S. (One Green Planet) Unfortunately, global emissions from food production are expected to rise by up to 80 percent by 2050 (Science). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the global food system is essential to meeting the 1.5o or 2oC targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Even if all non-food systems emissions were immediately stopped, emissions from the food system alone would exceed the 1.5oC limit by 2063 (Science).

6 LEVELS OF CHANGE

Educational Initiatives: We want to create more opportunities for students to pursue educational enrichment regarding food systems and future food technologies through course offerings and programs of study.

Interdisciplinary Research: We strive to create student research opportunities, promote academic collaborations, establish new research centers and consortia, and pursue original lines of scientific inquiry.

Career Development: We want to establish and enable connections between the student talent pipeline and existing companies, nonprofit organizations, and governments working on future food issues.

Campus Engagement: We aim to catalyze conversations, cultivate new ideas, and increase excitement about food across a wide spectrum of experiences and identities.

Community Building: We strive to build inclusive communities and harness the power of student collaboration to maximize our collective impact across universities.

Knowledge Dissemination: We strive to disseminate takeaways from discussions to various stakeholders within the food system as well as to influence change on a personal level through informal social networks.

bottom of page