The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has declared today World Food Day and this year is concentrating on the issue of "healthy food systems". This focus comes as governments and international institutions are casting around for solutions to feeding the ever-growing world population.
The fact is, enough food is already produced to feed the world. The scandal is that so much of it is wasted. The answer cannot be to continually intensify animal agriculture, confining livestock to factory farms. This makes the problem worse, it adds to the waste. For every 100 food calories of edible crops fed to livestock, we get back just 30 calories in the form of meat and milk, a 70% loss. At least part of the answer has to be to stop the scandal of food waste.
The meat equivalent of 50million chickens, 1.5million pigs and 100,000 beef cattle is being wasted by UK households every year, according to new estimates released by my charity, Compassion in World Farming, for World Food Day.
Compassion also calculates the retail sector, in fresh meat alone, wastes the meat equivalent of 16million chickens, 400,000 pigs and 50,000 beef cattle per year.
The estimates for the hospitality sector are just as shocking, coming in at the equivalent of around 6million chickens, 150,000 pigs and 20,000 beef cattle each year.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's World Food Day this year is dedicated to Sustainable Food Systems, which are sorely needed with a reported one billion people in the world undernourished.
These waste figures are staggering. If we want a food system that can support our ever-growing population, we have to stop wasting food.
Food waste is one of the biggest scandals of our time. We're not just wasting meat, we're wasting other food by feeding it to animals in intensive farms, who convert it inefficiently into meat and milk, when we could be feeding it directly to people.
We can build a sustainable food system by using simple common sense. We can feed appropriate food waste to pigs and poultry, make sure cattle and sheep are farmed on the land, so they can convert plant life that humans can't eat into meat and milk. We can stop feeding fish to intensively farmed animals and feed it to people instead and cut down on the terrible amount of food that we waste.