The world is experiencing a protein shortage as more of the world’s population turns to meat heavy Western diets, according to a new study released by Lux Research. The study shows that access to high quality protein sources such as beef is becoming increasingly challenging.
With the “considerable water and energy requirements” needed to grow beef and many other protein sources, there needs to be more research devoted to how to increase the amount of protein produced without harming environmental resources.
Camilla Stice, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report, says, “Our analysis demonstrates that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to protein resource use intensity. No single protein source emerges as a runaway winner, and each analyzed source has opportunities for improvement – whether in protein quality, ease of production, or overall resource intensity. Small changes to production can have cascading impacts throughout the supply chain that could mitigate resource risk or make it worse.”
Water shortages are a major hurdle in protein production with agriculture comprising 90 percent of human water use, and one-third of that being used for farm animals. Some agricultural crops that are a rich protein source are also more highly dependent on water than those with a low protein component.
The report summary says it takes an average of 380 megajoules of primary energy – the equivalent of about 11 liters of gasoline – to produce 1 kilogram of beef protein. Chickens come in second at 340 MJ per kilogram and salmon third at 260 MJ per kilogram.
The study results suggest what many westerners might not like hearing – everyone should be eating more vegetables and fruits, and less beef and other meats. Health experts have been cautioning that Western diets, and primarily American diets, are too meat heavy dependant anyways.