Meat, egg and milk production is a great economic loss. It is one of our most wasteful follies. As the earth's population continues to increase man will be forced to be contented with a proportionately smaller area in which to produce his food. The land now used for hunting purposes and cattle-raising purposes can be (and will be) more economically utilized in raising fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Scientists estimate that about 40 square miles of land are required to maintain one man in a primitive hunting community. It requires ten times as much acreage to grow cattle as it does to grow corresponding food values of wheat. Many more acres are required to grow game than to grow cattle. A tract of well-cultivated land will sustain at least twenty times more people by its crops than can be nourished on the meat of cattle supported by the same tract. Reinheimer says: "A pair of ravens or peregrines require a square mile of territory for a hunting ground, but twenty linnets will nest in one hedge.
It is roughly estimated that "about 24 per cent of the energy of grain is recovered for consumption in pork, about 18 per cent in milk, and only about 3.5 per cent in beef and mutton." The farmer who feeds wheat, oats or corn to pigs and cows "is burning up 75 to 97 per cent of them in order to provide us a small residue of roast pork or beefsteak."
The American farmer, in what Milo Hastings calls, "The Official Method of Making Human Food Abundant by Feeding It to a Pig," gives "to his 100,000,000 fellow human consumers only one-twelfth as much of the vegetable food he produces as he does to the country's 529,000,000 cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry." Our livestock consume sufficient food to support a population of 500,000,000 men, women and children.
Mr. Hastings says that "for each unit of human food produced in the beef industry there is consumed about sixteen units of vegetable food substances. In the production of milk the ratio is about one to twelve; in pork production the ratio is about one to eight.
"Refiguring these proportions on the basis of our present livestock industries, we find that enough food is derived from the animal products to food units required to support forty million humans.
"Meat food sufficient to support but two-fifths of the human population is the return we get for the loss of vegetable food supply sufficient for five times our population."
Hindhede calculated that if people lived on vegetable foods Europe could sustain a population 5.4 times and the United States 15.1 times their present populations and "everybody be well-fed." He pointed out that the starving Central Powers, during World War I, "in converting grains and vegetables into pork and milk," lost "a food value of 80 per cent and into beef of 95 per cent."
In a paper read before the Association of American Geographers, April, 1922, Prof. O. E. Baker, of the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, said: "Fully three-fifths of the crop acreage in the United States is used to provide feed for farm animals; and in addition our livestock consume the product of about seventy-five million acres of unimproved grass land and pasture in farms and national forests, besides that of perhaps five hundred million acres of arid and semi-open range land in the west. It seems safe to say that the livestock consume two-thirds of the product of unimproved pasture, or fully eight per cent of the total food and feed produced by tame and wild vegetation in the United States."
The folly of this immense economic waste should be immediately apparent to every intelligent person. And yet, in the greater part of the North American continent the chief work of agriculture is the raising of cereals, grasses and vegetables as food for animals for meat production. Instead of raising wholesome vegetables, fruits and nuts for man, agriculture gives most of its attention to first feeding the animal and then we prey upon the animal.
For each 100 pounds of digestive organic matter eaten, the cow gives back 18 pounds of digestible milk solids. The cow must be fed 100 pounds of nutritious matter in order to produce 18 pounds of nutriment. It would seem that it is a great economic waste to first feed the cow and then let her feed us.
Egg production is as much of a waste and expense as milk production. It involves feeding enormous quantities of food to poultry and receiving back from them, in the form of eggs, a small percentage of the food material fed to the poultry.
A thousand acres of wheat will feed ten times as many people as a thousand acres of cattle. A thousand acres in many other foods will feed more people, and feed them better, than a thousand acres in wheat. Minerals are drawn from greater depths by fruit and nut trees than by cereals, as the strong roots of the trees are capable of reaching the deeper and richer strata of soil, permitting, therefore, a more intensive utilization of an area of land. Fruit and nuts are not only man's best food, but his most fruitful and least wasteful crop. Besides this, the trees themselves serve many other very useful offices, such as the purification of the air, protection against sudden changes in atmosphere, etc. The garden and the orchard should soon supplant the ranch, the dairy and the grain fields.
Agriculture has always been the backbone of civilization. The more advanced civilizations have depended more on the farmer and less on the herdsman and the huntsman. Hunting is a sport, not a livelihood among the civilized--a cruel sport, but a sport and nothing more. The herdsman is passing. There is no longer room for his great herds. Economic necessity will force vegetarianism and fruitarianism upon our grandchildren. The tremendous waste of feeding grain to cows and getting back just one-tenth its food value in meat will not be tolerated.