Stop reproaching vegans for eating soy, meat consumption is to blame
We love to talk to you on social media, to get to know you, your experiences, your thoughts and, this way, we feel we can help many people going vegan and help you get to know how animal products are made. And navigating through these interactions, there's one question or comment we have seen repeatedly, and we would like to answer and clarify for everyone.
"Vegans don't eat meat because of the environment, but then they eat soy, it ends up being the same."
"You suggest we switch to plant-based milk, but we would need monoculture and we would have environmental impacts just like we do with dairy."
This is a myth that people keep repeating, and we have got to stop it because it's simply not true.
We can start by agreeing that a human being doesn't eat as much as a cow, right? Therefore, we would need much fewer cereal to feed a person than to feed a cow. As a matter of fact, it takes 7kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, and 4kg to produce 1kg of pork. For every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories from eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef. Talk about food waste!
In the end, indirectly, a meat-eater is responsible for consuming much more, really much more soy than a vegan eating its tofu. For example, estimates are that the average European consumes approximately 61kg of soy each year, mostly through animal products such as chicken, pork, salmon, cheese, milk and eggs.
We have a similar scenario when it comes to water use. In the US, grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food. Raising broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to make a kilogram of meat. In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat, 900; and potatoes, 500 liters.
These numbers lead to the fact that only 55% of the world’s crop calories are feeding people directly. According to the NGO WWF, 79% of the soy produced worldwide is used for feeding cattle. If you were shocked by the Amazonia's fires, you should probably know 80% of the soy produced there (which is one of the main reasons for deforestation, besides cattle ranching) is destined to animal agriculture around the world.
So, no, vegans are not responsible for the monoculture of soy, deforestation and all the other issues that come with it. Meat consumption is.
Can we imagine the difference it would make if we could use these grains and water to feed humans, instead of ultimately feeding animals that will be transformed into meat that only a few people can afford, while all others starve? The animal protein industry causes an inequality with food distribution and is one of the main reasons for us having one in nine people on earth malnourished, and at the same time, people eating far more than what's necessary and recommended for healthy nutrition, especially with animal-based ultra-processed foods.
With no intermediaries, we would be able to feed the whole world, with less land and water use. There's even a study that proves that the US alone could feed 390 million more people only with the grain that livestock eat, sustaining more than twice as many people as it does now. The plant-based alternatives used for the comparison provide the same amount of calories, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
The same study found that the same area that can produce 100g of edible protein from plants, can only produce 60g of edible egg protein, 50g of chicken meat, 25g of milk protein or, even worse, just 4 grams of protein in the form of beef.
By replacing beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs by a nutritionally equivalent combination of potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and other plants, the total amount of food available to be eaten would increase by 120%, the researchers calculated. Therefore, once the production adjusts to the demand, agricultural production would decrease.
The UN says, globally, there is enough cropland to feed 9 billion in 2050 if the 40% of all crops produced today for feeding animals were used directly for human consumption. On the other hand, if global demand for meat grows as expected, soy production would need to increase by nearly 80% by 2050.