NY Times editorial: less meat-based eating as solution to net protein loss prob
- November 10, 2008
The Protein Pyramid
Per capita meat consumption more than doubled over the past half-
century as the global economy expanded. It is expected to double
again by 2050. Which raises the question, what does all that meat
eat before it becomes meat?
Increasingly the answer is very small fish harvested from the ocean
and ground into meal and pressed into oil. According to a new report
by scientists from the University of British Columbia and financed
by the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, 37 percent by weight of all
the fish taken from the ocean is forage fish: small fish like
sardines and menhaden. Nearly half of that is fed to farmed fish;
most of the rest is fed to pigs and poultry.
The problem is that forage fish are the feedstock of marine mammals
and birds and larger species of fish. In other words, farmed fish,
pigs and poultry and the humans who eat them are competing for
food directly with aquatic species that depend on those forage fish
for their existence. It's as if humans were swimming in schools in
the ocean out-eating every other species.
The case is worse than that. When it comes to farmed fish, there is
a net protein loss: it takes three pounds of fish feed to produce
one pound of farmed salmon. This protein pyramid small fish fed to
farmed fish, pigs and poultry that are then fed to humans is
unsustainable. It threatens the foundation of oceanic life.
The report's authors suggest that it would be better if humans ate
these small fish, as many cultures once did, instead of using them
as feed. That is one way of addressing the problem of net protein
loss. The real answers are support for sustainable agriculture in
the developing world and encouraging healthy, less meat-based eating
habits as a true sign of affluence everywhere.