Tag Archives: Famine

Who Ate All the Pies? On Famine and Fasting

by Natalia Doran

man holding a chicken

Warnings of an impending world food crises are currently being issued by multiple organizations and media of mass communication. A recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation press release points out many factors that are threatening to bring about a famine of Biblical proportions: climate change, legacy of COVID-19, public debt burdens and, last but not least, shock waves of geopolitical conflicts. The website of the World Food Programme tells us that “there are 50 million people in 45 countries at the ‘emergency’ phase of food insecurity in 2022, just one step away from a declaration of famine.”

It is tempting to conclude that there is not enough food to go round, and new and more intensive ways of producing it should be sought. But such a conclusion would be false. The same sources continue to affirm that enough food is produced on this planet to feed everybody. A more likely answer might lie along the lines suggested by a traditional English football fans’ chant: “Who ate all the pies?”

As it turns out, a staggering amount of food produced in this starvation-threatened world is not eaten by humans at all. The Economist magazine article, aptly entitled “Against the Grain”, states that 43% of grain is either burned as biofuel or fed to animals, who are then going to be consumed by humans. (The overwhelming majority is used for animal feed, rather than biofuel.) The quantities thus used, the article informs us, “equal to six times the grain output of Ukraine and Russia combined”. The animals are, of course, ultimately intended for human consumption, but this process is incredibly wasteful, since for every 100 calories contained in the grain, only three get to the person if the grain is fed to a cow and the person eats the beef (“Against the Grain: most of the world’s grain is not eaten by humans”, The Economist, June 25th 2022).

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