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Q. Dear Umbra,

If humans stop eating animals, will we have enough grains to provide for everyone?

— Cancelling Omnivorism Widely

A. Dear COW,

Diet is no small factor in the carbon footprint department. Agriculture accounts for more than a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s not even taking into consideration factors like how your food gets from the farm or ranch to your grocery aisle.

The resounding message in the environmental community is: If you want to cut your carbon footprint, go vegetarian. It makes a difference! Since animals aren’t super efficient at converting plants to meat (blame the food chain for this one), it’s always going to take fewer resources to cultivate a plant-based diet than a meat-based one. But if you’re asking if animal feed could skip the cow or pig and go directly to feeding people, it’s not quite so simple.

A 2017 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that only 14 percent of what goes to feeding livestock worldwide is currently considered edible by humans. That translates to about 840,000 metric tons of human-appropriate food per year. But the bigger... Read more

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