Can We Feed the World on the Primal Blueprint Diet? – Part 2

Last week, I opened the discussion of whether or not the whole world could go Primal. As you may recall, I noted that given the realities of our infrastructure, our policies, and the entrenched interests who wield considerable amounts of power and influence, practically speaking such a dramatic shift simply isn’t likely anytime soon. While it may be true that much of the world can’t access or afford grass-fed beef or other examples of privileged dietary staples it shouldn’t keep those that can from enjoying it. In fact, pulling out wallets can go a long way toward changing the state of things as they are now. That was last week, though. Today, I’m going to address some of the logistical concerns many of you raised regarding a transition to a world of Primal eaters. This is a huge topic beyond the scope of any one blog post, and there’s no magic bullet, but I’ll give it an honest go.

What follows are a few commonly cited logistical concerns folks express regarding feeding a world of Primal Blueprinters, slightly embellished with selective use of punctuation and followed by my thoughts. It may not happen (probably won’t), but it’s helpful, I think, to entertain the possibility of a global shift. First, the most basic concern of all:

“Primal can’t match the calories people are currently eating!”

First of all, we waste a lot of food, folks. A lot. Globally, a third of edible food (PDF) is never eaten, mostly in industrialized countries. A third! It exists and can be eaten by humans, but it simply isn’t. In America, food waste jumps to 40%, or about 1400 calories per person. And when you look at the household level, at actual families bringing food home, 25% of it is wasted. In these studies, the definition of “food waste” is a food loss caused by retailers or consumers; other “food losses” occur in production, post-harvest, and during processing. The food, then, is there. We’re just squandering it.

Second, do people even need the amount of calories they are currently getting? Take a look at this interactive world map of global daily per capita calorie intake. The United States is, unsurprisingly, at the top of the heap with 3770 calories per person per day (up from 3510 calories in the early 90s). Most other developed nations fall in the 3000+ range, while emerging nations like China (2970 kcal/day, up from 2580 in the 90s) and India (2300 kcal/day, same as the early 90s) get by on far fewer. Calories don’t tell the entire story, of course, but it makes you wonder. Do humans really need 3770 calories every day? Unless they’re on a mass gain protocol of whole milk and squats (to which the vast majority of the 3770 calories-eating population of the country is assuredly not subscribing), I’d argue that they generally don’t.

I certainly don’t.

Although I don’t habitually track my food intake, my carbs, or my calories, I’ve done it for the blog on a number of occasions, and I’ll typically come in right around 2500 calories (or maybe even a bit less). Maybe a bit more on an active day, but it stays pretty consistent as near as I can tell. As my buddy Aaron Blaisdell says, I eat When Hunger Ensues Naturally, and since going Primal, my hunger tends to ensue calmly, naturally, and justifiably. Because I’m eating Primal foods, I get hungry when my body honestly needs the calories and nutrients. No tricks, no unnatural spikes in hunger brought on by industrial foods designed to induce ravenous, unnatural eating even though you’re already overweight and replete with energy.

So, yeah, maybe a Primal food system couldn’t match the hypercaloric intake of a sick, overweight population eating foods that dysregulate appetite (both by express design and by evolutionary mismatch) – but the point is it wouldn’t have to match it. I posit that caloric intake and “needs” would spontaneously drop, as they have for the many thousands of people who have already gone Primal. How far might they drop? A study (PDF) from 2000 examined, in addition to other stuff, the average daily caloric intake of extant hunter-gatherer populations. The authors found that average daily caloric intakes generally stayed between 1200 calories and 2700 calories, with one outlier dipping lower and one (the Hadza people of Tanzania) obtaining 4030 calories per day.

(Somehow, I doubt the Hadza were very fat.)

Next up are the myriad concerns folks have with the viability of grass-fed, pastured beef (and other animals):

“There’s not enough pasture for everyone to eat steaks!”

Perhaps so, but:

Grass-feeding cattle can be done far more efficiently. Take the famous (but not famous enough, it seems) Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, whose rotational grazing method gets him 400 “cow days” per acre; a cow day is the amount of grass a cow will eat in a day. Farms in his area average 80 cow days per acre. If everyone converted to his methods, or at least incorporated some of them, we could provide a lot more grass-fed steaks per acre than we currently provide.

There’s more pasture available than most people think. Consider that all cows, even grain-finished cows, generally begin on pasture. You know all those cows you see nibbling on lush grass besides highways? The vast majority of them will end up on a feedlot somewhere. If we keep them on grass, convert the cropland currently being used to grow animal feed grains to pastureland, and make sure to use efficient rotational grazing, yields would increase further.

We’re not just eating cows here. Other animals exist, like sheep, or the goat. We may not see many goats in the United States or Europe, but Africa has 511 million of the things domesticated, and Asia has almost 300 million. Goats produce milk, meat, and can thrive on forage that other animals wouldn’t know what to do with. In fact, incorporating other livestock, like sheep or goats, into your cattle grazing actually increases the overall output of all three. Since sheep, goats, and cattle prefer different types of forage, they work very well together.

Who said anything about eating nothing but steak, anyway? People would obviously have to utilize the entire animal from nose (or beak) to tail. Offal of all kinds would have to be eaten, including various glands, sacs, linings, cartilaginous tissues, skin, fat, blood, and bones that normally get processed into animal feed, discarded, or repurposed for other culinary and non-culinary products. A cow that weighs 1150 pounds live will produce a dressed carcass weighing just 715 pounds. From that 715 pounds, 146 will be discarded as “fat, bone, and loss.”

And now, the environmental impact of all those farting, chewing cattle:

“But grass-fed cattle produce more greenhouse gases!”

Ah, yes, that one. While a couple studies have found that grass-eating cows produce more methane than grain-eating cows (which shouldn’t really surprise you; just imagine the incredible farts you could produce by running pounds and pounds of fibrous grass through multiple stomach chambers), I’m not sure we’re getting the whole story. Feedlot-fed cattle may not fart as much, but they also don’t enrich the soil, generate new grass growth, or create viable sinks for carbon dioxide (PDF). Furthermore, grain-fed cattle consume grains that require the burning of fossil fuels for production and transport – they get “takeout” almost exclusively – whereas grass-fed cattle eat nourishing food at home that requires little to no external input. Overall, the “environmental footprint” of grass-fed cattle is lower.


“Yeah, but everyone knows grazing causes desertification!”

Not when you employ holistic grazing methods, like Allan Savory’s. Savory (who greatly influenced Salatin) has been reversing desertification in African lands by reintroducing cattle and grazing them in a very specific way. Instead of letting them go where they please across the land, he allows them to intensively graze on one section at a time. The cows are densely packed together and allowed to intensively graze. Their hooves break up the hard, barren ground, allowing water to enter and plant roots to gain purchase. Their manure acts as fertilizer, spurring vegetal growth, enriching the soil, and creating a sink for both water and carbon. As a result, once desertified lands are now lush pastures teeming with life and open water.

Hmm, maybe there’s more room for livestock than we think, eh?

Well, that’s it for today. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I had hoped to get to some of the (many) other logistical issues, but cattle and calories – two incredibly important topics – took up more room than I expected. Before you go, remember that these aren’t meant to be definitive answers. I’m not saying Primal eating will, or even can, sweep the world. I’m simply trying to explore these problems from a different angle than absolute defeatism since a better world is something worth being optimistic about, and because they appear to be of particular concern to many of you reading.

Next time, I’ll discuss and try to counter some of the other logistical concerns. Until then, thanks for reading! Be sure to leave a comment, and see you next time.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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111 thoughts on “Can We Feed the World on the Primal Blueprint Diet? – Part 2”

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  1. As long as markets are allowed to work and there is a profit incentive entrepreneurs will produce. The real problem is there is a “war” on non-big agriculture farming, which is the antithesis of a free market.

    Todayregulations are written by funded, big agriculture lobbyists, then implemented via bought off politicians, and finally enforced with tax payer money. What I just described is today’s status quo and it has name: Fascism.

    Fascism is not free markets yet pundits erroneously call it “capitalism”. Crony capitalism, yes. But not real, free market capitalism.

    I highly suggest anyone interested in agriculture and health to google the paleolibertarian, Karen DeCoster.

    1. I am self imposed grammer fiend. Unfortunately I am working with an antiquated work browser that keeps jumping the page around, making it difficult to coherently type.

      1. I usually type my comments in Word first (where I can spell and grammar check). Then I copy and paste them into the comment field in the browser. I seem to catch more errors that way.

      1. With you on the Capitalism/Facism bit rather than being a grammar fiend.

    2. The phrase “free market Capitalism” is insane gibberish. Capitalism and the free market are inherently in conflict.

      The Capitalists erect barriers to entry to destroy the competition, because they don’t want people who see a better way coming in from out of nowhere and disrupting the massive profits of the established players. (This erection of barriers does not require government intervention.) The situation we have today, which you named Fascism (and I don’t disagree), IS Capitalism. The claim “No, it’s crony Capitalism, not the good kind!” is BS.

      Therefore, keeping the free market free requires constant gov intervention, to prevent the Capitalists from closing the market.

      1. The “Capitalists” you speak of, Jeffrey, use that very same gov intervention to force small upstarts out of their respective fields through regulations(usually conceived and written by lobbyists for said industry), licensing, taxation and subsidies. That is not free market capitalism.

  2. I like the way that Joel Salatin explains keeping the cattle packed together and constantly moving by stating that he is emulating the predators which in a natural environment, keep the herd tight together and constantly on the move.

    1. I’m really happy to see both Joel Salatin and Allan Savory’s names on MDA!

      A few weeks ago, after watching a mind-opening lecture by Allan Savory, I made a post in the ideas section of the forums, suggesting that Allan Savory be invited to do a TED talk. The original post has expired now, but excited by Mark’s mentioning him in this post, I’ve created a new one here:

      If at least some of the people frequenting MDA would register on TED (which is worthwhile in any case) and give a thumbs up or a positive reply to the post, maybe we could help Allan Savory get the exposure he needs. As most of you probably know already, TED has a huge, well-read, intellectual audience around the world.

      1. I have done this too.. he sounds like he’s a man worth hearing.

    2. Joel Salatin is a snake oil salesman who makes many claims for his products which are not true, including the implication that many of his products do not require grain consumption.

        1. He might be referring to the chickens, but Mr. Salatin has said that they are not sustainable, i.e. are fed with grains obtained from elsewhere.

        2. Salatin’s pastured pigs eat mostly corn: they live on grass but are fed corn from a large feeder which is put on the field. When they finish the corn, they are moved to another field and given more corn.

          All of his chickens and such are fed mainly corn and kept in quite confined conditions: 100 chicks in a 10×12 pen is not much room. He raises standard cornish cross chicks which butcher out at 8 weeks and are too stupid to forage, yet charges $5 a pound for this. Ditto turkeys.

          I’ve been to his farm days and seminars. It’s a fraud.

  3. The logistics of this are interesting, because grass farming (or pasturing animals) is the only sustainable way to farm. Every time you till the land for crops you lose part of the soil and nutrients, and if you go no-till the soil gets more and more compacted and overrun by weeds.

    Having a rotational method focused primarily on pasture and some grains is the ideal solution to the farming problem, and it just so happens that this also coincides with primal eating!

    What a coincidence!

    1. Also, monoculture crops are shallow-rooting and fail to aerate the soil properly allowing deep absorption of water and nutrients. Grass, on the other hand is deep-rooting, aerates the soil and promotes water absorption and retention. Here in Iowa there are people using pasture grass areas near their crops to absorb heavy rainfall and field runoff to prevent crop loss due to flooding. It’s pretty effective since pasture land can absorb 5-7 times the amount of rainfall than shallow aerated crop land in the same amount of time. Imagine how much flooding could be mitigated or flat out prevented if more land were used for pasture.

  4. I really appreciate the mention of goats, as they are incredibly thrifty and versatile animals. I suspect that the average suburban back yard could support a small herd of dwarf goats (and a small flock of chickens, too) if only the local laws or covenants would allow it. And think of all of the highly chemical-infused shared turfgrass areas that we refer to as “green space” — and all of the animals we could be grazing there!

    1. Goat meat is the most popular meat worldwide. Ain’t bad, either.

      1. Yes. Goat is grand. I shed a tear when my pastured goat herder closed up shop at the Culver City farmers market a month ago because he was moving back to Libya.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with the view that if you rotate in more types of livestock you can get even better utilization of the same grazing area. Reminds me of the part of the documentary ingredients where the goat farmer (in Washington State I believe) was rotating goats, cattle, and ducks through the same pastured area. Allowing for better usage of the land and the ability to grow not just one but effectively three types of naturally fed organic livestock.

    The food market is radically distorted at this point given that these more efficient methods of using the land which produce a higher quality product are viewed as inefficient compared to industrialized farming. If the true costs of industrial farming were included in the the price of the meat grass feed animals might even be price competitive. Particularly when you consider the price of these unhealthy animals is being subsidized by the federal government through corn subsidies.

  6. I’m a big guy (not as big as I was a year ago), I’m 6’4 and 250 lbs, I have a bit more percentage points to drop for fat content, but unless I get into the mixed nuts I rarely go above 2500 calories in a day and I cook for a living. (talk about temptations)

    More pasture land could be created as well is homes are built in places that animals couldn’t graze. Take back the housing tracks and give them to the animals.

    1. I’m bringing down the US average with you!

      Pre-primal is was pulling in close to 3500 calories a day (not good on a 5’7″ frame). When I take the time to add it up now, I rarely go above 2000.

    2. One thing people don’t seem to understand is that once a housing tract is built, it will never be able to be used for any kind of farming again. Too many pollutants and no way to extract them efficiently or effectively. You wouldn’t want to eat a cow that had been grazed on that land. Better to just preserve what we have and encourage the rotational grazing methods described above. Oh, and vote with our wallets, of course.

  7. You didn’t address the clothing issue. With so many people losing weight and getting fit, they will all have to buy new clothes.

    Are there enough 30-inch jeans to go around for everybody?

    1. We’ll need a new boom industry when ConAgra and Monsanto and Cargill go belly-up… LOL!

    2. I’ve got it covered both ways. I have enough fabric to “insulate my house when the big one hits” (sewing joke), and I know how to use it. Alas, I have no denim.

  8. I love this! People get so caught up in mantras that they forget to think through the implications of their assumptions!

  9. A well thought out and informative article, I love your way of thinking Mark, it just makes sense.

  10. I love this. I really wish I had this information when I was going through college and was getting tired of hearing the same non-sense over and over again from vegans and nutritionists and vegetarians and health food nuts. If you read the Vegetarian Myth you’ll find it’s much more damaging to the environment to eat mono-crop plants like soy than a nice piece of grass fed beef. Sadly, we are very inefficient with our farming practices because it can be costly to implement and does not produce as much profit. The big food corporations are not going to go for food models that endorse healthy eating habits. It’s up to us to take our health in our own hands and share the beauty of a good lifestyle with others (when they are open and receptive to such info).

  11. Mark. I have been a primal diet man for almost a year. Long story short i have lost 50 lbs and at almost 60 years old have never felt better in my life.
    But that is not what i want to talk about today. Thank goodness some city folk are finally getting exposure to intensive Rotational grazing and Holistic management as in the ranching community it is far from mainstream and never will be if the urban community doesnt strongly push for these methods.
    There are ranchers out there who believe and follow methods of livestock production that believe it or not are very similar to what we are trying to do with Grok and the Primal diet. Livestock have evolved over million of years and can get along fine without all the technology and artificial inputs but the vested interests will continue to push their toxic products on livestock people in much the same way as they do in artificial human food production.
    It is i repeat that urban consumers must push very hard for more natural production of food in our society and then and only then will it happen.
    In closing after a lifetime in the livestock business it amuses me how we urbanites refer to all bovines as cows.THe proper term is cattle. The term cow is for the female of the species that have young called calves. Their fathers are bulls and the female young offspring are heifers and the neutered males are steers. Neutered why you say can you imagine the pandomonium if you exposed one young woman who was in the mood to a roomful of young men who only job is to reproduce. It is the same with cattle so you have to remove the testostrone factor to keep things under control in the pasture.
    Love the Grok way of life

    1. Ivan, you are correct in your nomenclature for bovines, but I’m afraid that some modern dictionaries are now allowing “cow” as a generic non-gender-specific term for any bovine. I still use the correct terminology myself, however — even if my audience has no idea what a “steer” is.

  12. Some good thoughts here. Of course, there’s a huge variation in the amount of calories people get on so-called “primal” or “paleo” diets from plant matter. Even in the case that the earth’s ecosystems are incapabable of providing a 16 oz steak for everyone, every day, there’s an enormous amount of land currently in north and south temperate latitudes that could yet be devoted to plant and animal production. Take a look in your own yard or all those strips of landscaping and grass on your drive to work.

  13. My grandfather did rotational grazing with his sheep back in the 50/60s, in New Zealand! I thought that was the norm, he wasn’t the only farmer around that did it either. He’d allow the sheep to graze for a couple days, move them off to another paddock. By the time he moved them full circle the grass was up again. Rinse and repeat!

  14. In my area, the city is using goats to eradicate invasive plant species. So raising goats isn’t necessarily restricted to a rural setting.

  15. We could eat other animals too, such as deer and geese. Perhaps pigeons too. Pigeons are something you can raise in an urban setting and lots of people already do on the rooftops of apartments (if you don’t want to catch the ones walking everywhere in the city). I think it’s very do-able. We just don’t think of many of the animals that live near us as potential food. Squirrels? Sure. Why not.

  16. “Yeah, but everyone knows grazing causes desertification”

    I’d say the midwest is more of a desert now than it was when countless millions of buffalo roamed there. Just think how much meat could be produced if we grew that in the plains instead of wheat.

    1. I recommend the book “The Worst Hard Time,” which is about the Dust Bowl years. It’s difficult reading due to the intense human suffering involved, but well worth it to understand the worst-case scenarios that occur when humans use land without understanding its limitations. Basically, using the prairie for farming rather than grazing bison or cattle destroyed its viability, and to this day large swaths of it still remain desertified.

  17. It’s sad how many lots are for sale in my area. I bet there used to be a lot more farmers in this area by the look of the lands for sale…

  18. Lots of very good points. Occasionally environmentally unsound ideas are thrown around in the primal crowd. (Such as getting coconuts and cocoa sent all over the globe) But this article provides a strong argument that, at the very least, primal eating is not inherently environmentally unfriendly.

  19. Very good article!

    If people tell me that a primal diet is bad for the environment, I usually reply: “Like we’re doing so great right now.” If a primal diet can’t feed us all, no diet probably can.

  20. Excellent! Sane, logical dismantling of reflexive regurgitated objections. Bookmarking for future reference. Love your reference to Allan Savory’s project reversing desertification in Africa. Awesome. I didn’t realize it predated/influenced Joel Salatin, another hero of mine. Very cool.

  21. I’m pretty sure I could beat a grass-fed cow in a farting contest.

  22. Great documentation. I love the interactive map. I remain skeptical that the world can sustain anywhere near 7 billion people, but this gives me somewhat more hope. Long term, an ancestrally oriented diet is the only possible way for us to survive.

  23. Mark, has anyoone told you recently what an excellent writer you are? I read and write for a living and you really are good.

  24. Before reading this today I was searching online for grass-fed farms across the country, just those that sell online, and I was encouraged by how many I found. I know there are even more small farms that only sell locally. It gives me hope that the trend toward grass-fed, pastured farming is growing and will continue to grow and hopefully fundamentally change the industrialized feedlot system someday.

  25. We could also utilize pigs better. I don’t remember where I read it but there was an article that pointed out that basically pigs turn garbage into meat. What’s more green than that?

  26. What about fish? They don’t take up pastureland.
    Regardless of the feasibility I don’t have a choice
    my immune and digestion system led me to this diet not a book and if I don’t follow it I would croak I am sure of it. Are frogs Paleo?

  27. If you want to see some of the best pasture land in the country check out the Flint Hills section of south east Kansas. Several years ago a rancher being interviewed stated “I’m not in the cattle business, I’m in the grass business. If we don’t keep our grass healthy we are out of business.”

  28. I liked the posts because they form an excellent synthesis and summary on the subject for use as a reference, in the event of useful debate, but the question itself isn’t legitimate. I didn’t personally procreate seven billion people into existence, and I most certainly didn’t procreate irresponsibly under conditions of extreme poverty and starvation. I don’t own that problem and it’s not my burden to bear. I have a responsibility to tend to myself, my family and especially my offspring to create the best conditions of survival and the chance to thrive, for them and them only. The culture of guilt can argue among itself and leave me out of it.

    1. You don’t live on an island. You can ignore the world around you, but it won’t ignore you. Helping to make the world a better place for everyone helps to make the world a better place for you and your offspring.

      Starving people do desperate things in order to survive. Things that will have an impact on you. You can build a fortress to keep them out, but that’s a lousy way to live when better options are available.

      1. That’s so broadly conceived as to be useless for anything but grand emoting. If I took the premise seriously that I’m personally morally responsible for the poor decision making going on in the world, I would live a life of endlessly decreasing quality. When the world reaches 10 billion, I would have to hold my diet to a standard that’s appropriate for feeding 10 billion. And when it reaches 20 billion I’ll presumably be eating some kind of amino acid and vitamin/mineral glop that barely preserves minimal vital functions in order eat “morally”. Any question that begs me to justify thriving is nonsense and deserves no heed.

        1. Who said anything about you being morally responsible or having to change your diet? Talk about grand emoting.

          You said you only care about yourself and your immediate family and the rest of the world be damned. Guess what? The world doesn’t work that way. You will be impacted by the rest of the world and the competition for resources whether you want to be or not. The increasing competition for oil is already causing energy prices to rise which in turn is causing food prices to rise. So, your choice. Find out if there are any ways you can contribute or organizations you can support that will help lessen that impact or ignore it until you can no longer maintain your lifestyle no matter how hard you try and your offspring are competing for even fewer and more expensive resources.

        2. I successfully raise food on my own property without the vast need for petroleum derivatives to keep it going. I’m not into the culture that believes in purchasing health and wellness. I don’t believe in voting with my dollars, I vote with my sweat. Are the huns going to row across the Pacific to get my food, or is America going explode in population over the coming decades? What scenario specifically could drive the price of food, even to the point of tripling, in such a way that the average American consumerbot can’t eat?

        3. *So … you were never a child? From birth, you were hunting and gathering your own food? You never had a mother to “hand” you milk?

          You’re completely self-educated? At age 4, you sought out your own knowledge, and paid teachers out of your own pocket?

          I don’t think you did. I’d have seen something about it on the news.

          I think your parents poured untold resources into your hungry mouth. I think you had a roof over your head that was paid for by other people, I think you went to schools that were built and staffed and paid for by other people, I think you felt safe because the streets were patrolled by other people, I think you drove to your three jobs on roads paved by other people, in a car built by other people and burning oil that was drilled by other people in a nation whose borders were defended by other people.

          Let’s say some mean, rich guy, like a wealthy gangsta rapper, hired a bunch of armed thugs to come take your farm. What would you do? Your shotgun won’t fend them off — they have a hundred bigger shotguns. What will you do, call the cops? That is, other people, who will risk their lives while being paid with still other people’s tax money, who will try these bad guys in a court funded by yet other people’s tax money, under laws passed by legislators paid with other people’s tax money? Whoa, slow down there, welfare queen!

          But if none of that stuff existed, there would be nothing stopping Jay-Z from taking your farm. In other words, you don’t “own” anything. The entire concept of owning anything, be it a hunk of land or a house or a bloody sandwich, exists purely because other people pay other armed men to protect it. Without society, all of your brave, individual talents and efforts won’t buy you a bucket of farts.

          So when you hear “We’re all in this together,” it’s not just some feel-good slogan; its’ a fact about the way human life works. No, you never asked for anything to be handed to you. You didn’t have to, because billions of humans who lived and died before you had already created a lavish support system where the streets are all but paved with gold. Everyone reading this — all of us living in a society advanced enough to have Internet access — was born one inch away from the finish line, plopped here at birth, by other people.

          So when somebody else asks whether the Primal way of eating is sustainable for all of us, you can cite all sorts of reasons for disengaging (“I don’t care” or “I’m too tied up with my own problems” ), but the one thing you can’t say is, “I’ve got mine, screw you!” to the rest of the world. You owe a debt to the rest of the world that got you to where you are.

          *(excerpted and adapted) from David Wong, Senior Editor of, “6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying,” 03/05/12)

    2. I think you may have missed the point.

      I don’t think that Mark is saying we are each responsible for the current situation the World is in. I think that he’s saying that in spite of the population boom and re-purposing of land, can we ALL still eat healthily, or have we gone too far.

      I believe that you’re already doing exactly what he suggested, living your life the best way that you can, it doesn’t matter about everyone else. The hope is that your friends/family/co-workers/neighbours will be inspired by the way you live and choose to follow your example… If and when that happens, is there enough natural resources to go around? That’s the take home point. The answer seems to be ‘yes’, providing people are willing to make fundamental infrastructure changes.

      So you don’t need to care about the rest of the World. By doing the right thing yourself, you might just end up doing enough to help everyone else.

  29. After reading what you had to say I’m feeling more positive than ever about the future of Primal eating. Yes, it just might be possible to feed the world.

    And the world might just be almost ready. The latest thing in my community amongst the 20 year olds isn’t vegetarianism any more – it’s Paleo. And they love it. And it’s spreading. How great is that!

  30. hope I didn’t miss this in the comments, but the US subsidizes farmers, which in fact actually subsidizes big corporations like Cargil, and ADM. If we would subsidize farmers of sustainable vegetable farming and cattle grazing, we could end the monopoly that these companies that control 80%+ of the cattle in America, and use all of that land dedicated to growing feed corn for Grazing. at the same time we will employ more Americans. I recommend watching the documentaries, fresh, and food inc.

  31. I have a farm in the north of Thailand and I bought 3 cows for my father-in-law who is totally cow obsessed- he actually drives off on his motorbike everyday to hunt for the best grass (it is now the dry season) which he then cuts and delivers back to the cows on his trailer.

    I think he sees them as part of the family, to me they are tomorrows BBQ.

  32. A recent book by the British writer and farmer Simon Fairlie lays out the best case yet for sustainable meat eating in a book entitled Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Fairlie, who lives on a vegetarian commune, became more and more puzzled by the paradoxes of arguments that meat consumption necessarily increases global warming. His arguments have led Britain’s most famous environmentalist, George Monbiot, to renounce veganism. Here’s Monbiot’s Guardian article on the subject:

    1. Sorry but Moonbat(Monbiot) is a fraud,how can you say he is Britains most famous envirnmentalist???Where did you get that idea?He want’s to cover the UK in wind turbines.

  33. 3,770 calories per day? Damn. I don’t think people realize how many calories they consume with sodas and other processed foods. I am trying to gain muscle mass right now, so I take in around that on workout days. When I tell this to people, they groan in shock, but I imagine they can’t be too far behind based on their food choices. Good read, Mark.

  34. It seems like it should be possible to get a pretty clear answer to this question. There are boatloads of data around about food consumption, food production, and the amount of land required for different kinds of agricultural. There is also a lot of data around regarding the amount of available farm land, how it is currently used, how it could be used, etc. So well-researched and quantified estimates for how many people could be fed with a Paleo diet could be made by those with the right expertise, and access to the data. However, most of those folks seem largely preoccupied with the issue of getting enough calories in the mouths of the 1 to 2 billion poorest people in the world. I believe that the number of people with marginal to inadequate food supply right now is in the range of 800 million to a billion.

    First World members of Paleo community need to understand that the majority of the world survives on a high carbohydrate diet, and that decision is forced by economic considerations. Cereal grains are the cheapest calories available, and much of the world is quite poor by US standards. Here is a summary from a paper regarding the impact of global warming on food production:

    “The researchers focused on the six most widely grown crops in the world: wheat, rice, maize (corn), soybeans, barley and sorghum–a genus of about 30 species of grass raised for grain. These crops occupy more than 40 percent of the world’s cropland, and account for at least 55 percent of non-meat calories consumed by humans. They also contribute more than 70 percent of the world’s animal feed.” (1)

    Displacing that much grain for fresh (non starchy) vegetables, meat, and dairy would require an enormous increase in the amount of meat, dairy, and fresh vegetable production. All of those foods are much more perishable than dried grains, so storage costs and waste would likely go up with such a transition. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that the answer to Mark’s question is a resounding NO.

    Right now, Paleo eating is for rich people. Poor people, particularly those outside the developed world, are very lucky if that can get enough of those cheap grains to avoid starvation.

    For a broad perspective on the issues related to feeding the world, this issue of Nature may be useful:

    “Can Science Feed the World”

    (1) “Crops Feel the Heat”

    1. “Right now, Paleo eating is for rich people.” This is true when we think of it in terms of our American experience (i.e. buying salad and grassfed beef at the grocery). But what about the millions of people who ate largely “Paleo” diets only a generation or two ago, because that’s what their families had done for centuries? Many of the world’s poorest, who are now relying upon (cheap, subsidized, largely imported) grains, live in areas where “Paleo” eating was the norm in their parents’ or grandparents’ lifetimes.
      Most world areas inhabited by humans have climates/land suitable for small-scale farming, in which transportation/storage shouldn’t be an issue. The really tricky issue there seems to be the rate at which people in the developing world are leaving their more rural homes and relocating to the cities in search of higher wages/more prestigious jobs. It seems much more difficult to provide non-storable Paleo food for the massive cities that have sprung up across the world.

      Obviously, the answer to Mark’s question right now is “No,” if all world systems, politics, and economics remain the same, and if we’re visualizing feeding every starving child with Whole Foods beef and lettuce farmed in California. But every step away from the current monoculture system, toward local, traditional food, makes the world more “Paleo” and more sustainable at the same time.

    2. The problem isn’t the cost, I’m pretty sure I earn more than Grok did. The problem is that people want everything on a plate (no pun intended, but it made me smile), a large portion of the food price is the wages in the supply chain.

      Mass hunting probably isn’t a great idea in heavily populated areas (Jumungi?) but we could all do more to grow fruit/veg/herbs at home, even in flats/apartments.

      We choose to pay a higher price for the convenience of store brought food. That includes farmers markets, although the supply chain is naturally shorter.

      The “3rd World” wouldn’t need to pay £14 per kg for steak if they tended their own heards.

    3. Perhaps through relying on grains these people have outbred their environment?The land can only sustain so many whether grain or paleo based.

  35. We should all eat farmed insects. Totally primal food source. Won’t solve world hunger, energy/environmental crises or make everyone magically healthy but it would be a huge step in the right direction. Not joking.

    Cue the cries of “Oh, that’s toooo gross, I could neeever eat thaaat!”

    What a shame that insectivory will never even come close to being embraced by the mainstream. Hell, it’s still treated like a joke even in the paleo crowd, reserved for ‘reenactors’ and other extremists.

    1. I’m going to have to correct you…
      entomophagy WOULD help solve world hunger and environmental degradation. Insects are an excellent source of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and have a much higher food conversion efficiency than traditional livestock. “Minilivestock” also require much less space and water.

      As for people who refuse to eat them, well, they already do… the USFDA permits 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams of wheat flour without considering it ‘contaminated’.

      1. I guess I wasn’t very clear in my original statement. I do think it would help some of these problems. I just don’t know if it, alone, could completely ‘fix’ them.

        I try to practice what I preach, but because of low demand, buying insects in the US is usually less than ideal because A) they can be expensive, B) they’re hard-ish to find, though this usually varies from species to species and C) they’re usually shipped from far away.

        I’m trying to gather enough information so I can either start colonies at home, or start harvesting them in the wild.

        1. They also require little to no light to thrive. They love living in small cramped conditions, literally crawling all over each other, so their growing boxes can be stacked floor to ceiling, with no specific lighting, minimal water, and they eat waste scraps.

          Never personally eaten them though (knowingly at least), nor have I ever had the opportunity (UK)

        2. One of the major issues here is the Worlds huge population, all those mouths to feed.

          Even in this hypothetical situation, we should probably focus on the poorest people on the planet.

          Well, a lot of (3rd world) families are large due to the high mortality rate, so the larger your family, the more chance you have of having surviving offspring, and the more children there are to take care of you when you get ill or are dying. Of course some religions stance on contraception has not helped this situation.

          This off course leads to less local resources to go around, which leads to malnutrition and high mortality, which requires more offspring… and the circle completes. If reversing desertification can happen – and this is the first time I’ve ever heard that it’s possible, frankly I find it amazing – then rather than propping up these societies with grains, they may be able to recover lush pastures to raise livestock. Grasses/plants also filter waste water, so sanitation improves.

          The 1st World provide huge quantities of grains to the staving poor, however I wonder how much additional damage that causes through inflammation? It’s certainly better than death by starvation for the folks involved, but is it the best we can do with modern resources/technology?

          If it were possible for them to have rich lush pasture land to raise animals on, perhaps the mortality rate would drop (remember that vegetation also filters waste water, so that’s a step in the right direction for sanitation), which in turn would reduce the requirement for huge unsupportable families, so in only a few generations, the population growth may slow down significantly.

  36. The really important reason is missing. Non grain foods cannot be transported easily.
    To feed the people you have to transport food efficiently. Most of the wastage happens in transportation and storage.

    To really feed the whole world the production will have to get decentralized. People will have to start eating only local food, and not rely on food imported from elsewhere. This would also mean that economies of scale cannot be employed to reduce production costs and labor requirement.

    This would mean that lots of people will have to get into food production. Yes world will be very different to do this :-).

    This probably will be only practical when robots become much much cheaper:-).

    1. what it means to me is that food company execs will have to settle for a 80′ boat instead of 100′. At the same time more jobs will be created putting more money into our economy, and in the long run it will work like what I call trickle up economics. I could care less if the world eats primal, bit I think that sustainable farming can be immediately profitable and can solve a lot of problems.

    2. At this point in human history, the transport of grain foods depends entirely on the continued exploitation of non-renewable fossil fuels. When we inevitably run out of this stuff, we will have no choice but to look to totally revamp our food production system, because there won’t be anything to fuel our ships, planes or trucks. Unless by that time we’ve already sucked all the nitrogen out of the atmosphere and replaced it with carbon dioxide, and made the earth’s surface unlivable for anyone who isn’t a prokaryote.

  37. There is so much land that is excellent for grazing and marginal at best for cropping in the world, we should eat more animals, yum. Easily transportable, New Zealand has been sending frozen meat to Britain since 1880!

    And pasture raised sheep/cattle are carbon neutral, it’s the mechanical and chemical inputs that enlarge the carbon footprint. My cattle are probably carbon sinks.

    1. And the stupid thing is that your NZ lamb is cheaper to buy in the shops in Britain than our own rather good lambs produced in the fields and mountains within 20 miles of here. Whats that all about?? It’s come by boat half way round the world… so I’m afraid I don’t buy it…. can’t you encourage those Kiwis to eat a bit more.
      Which begs another question, and its a controversial one.. Should we be moving people to nearer the food supply?

      1. Plus all NZ lamb is halal killed by having it’s throat slit.I can’t support that way of killing my food.

  38. Another point about the methane issue is that there is already innovation under way. Probiotics for sheep have already been developed in New Zealand and they’re using them for their lamb production. The probiotics drastically reduce the amount of methane that enters the atmosphere and improve the health of the livestock. I suspect that within 10 years all of the enviro-savvy ranchers will be using these, making grass-fed meat an extremely low-emission product. Actually even more of a net-reduction than now.

  39. Short answer yes the only way to feed the would is to focus on quality and appreciation. anything that empowers people to eat better food and rely less on the corporate food industry is going to help feed the world.

  40. Remember the outcry when Jamie Oliver killed the lamb on tv and then prepared it and cooked it. Some of these eat local foods posts reminded me of that. Could I do it? Yes I think so. If I was shown how by my father as a young person. My mother recalls killing chooks in the backyard for dinner and she is 58 (or would be if she was still alive). Skip forward one generation and I’ve never even collected an egg from under a chooks bum.

    Oh for all you Americans… a chook is a chicken.

  41. There is loads of badly utilised land here in Britain, the way the EU fund farming by way of subsidies has scewed the way farmers farm.
    Here in the North the uplands are totally unsuitable for cereal production anyway.. they are however great for sheep and goats.
    So why are the fields empty most of the year here? Subsidies to farmers?
    Remember that not all the world are adults requiring those calories either. Not every one of the 7 Billion of us need 2500 cals a day.
    The only way things will change is by changing our own buying habits and through being good ambasadors for a healthy way of life amongst our piers and friends.. remember 6 degrees of seperation? Thats the way to go.

  42. Informative article, thank you! Our household has gone almost completely Primal, and we don’t even eat beef. We don’t like it. We eat a lot of venison. Just got a nice big doe last week that a friend had hit with his truck. We got 25 lbs of good meat from it and a hide to make a new drum head out of. We raise rabbits, chickens, and pigs; and a huge garden on 2 1/2 acres…. the old adage Think Globally, Act Locally? To me that should be all about food.

  43. Just imagine if all those fields of corn and wheat in America’s heartland were turned over to kale, or beets, or whatever. Plenty of salad for everyone!

    1. No, those fields should be in perennial forage crops or pasture. Kale and beets require too much water, and there aren’t enough laborers to harvest them.

  44. “I am self imposed grammer fiend.”

    As in most cases, it’s the message and not the messenger.

  45. We can do anything we want to.

    What people REALLY want to do, they do.

    Of course, effective sharing of expertise combined with wise planning and action will help too.

    Thank You for having the courage to address a touchy topic and for helping the world to become a more balanced place.

  46. Isn’t most of the rest of the world already eating grass fed beef? Most countries do not allow the use of antibiotics in their meat. If cows eat corn and soy they get sick. If they get sick they need antibiotics.
    The US not only feeds cows with corn and soy but to add insult to injury feeds them with GMO corn and soy.

    1. They are also fed on occasion other animals, and corn syrup sweetened manure. our pigs, which are more adapted to eat grain, are fed table scraps. Near Las Vegas there is a pig farm that buys all of the food waste a lot of which is scraped from the unfinished plates at the buffets. Which is better than the anchovies some pigs are fed, but still gross. The anchovies are being over fished, and penguins are starving because of it. Trying to squeeze an extra out of every business venture is killing our planet.

  47. I think Craig makes some valid points.

    Yes, the food production and distribution industry could be more efficient. Yes, we could eat less. But I wonder whether our planet can really support 6 billion healthy primal/paleo eaters even on a healthy, waste free, low calorie diet?

    I first read about the relationship between population and the ownership of food production in “My Ishmael” (Daniel Quinn). His point is, when we mass produce food we have surpluses (in some years), and the population increases to meet this level. Then we produce more food to meet the increased population, and the population increases again. The population increases exponentially due to the positive feedback loop which is clearly not sustainable… for any food production method or diet.

    A hunter-gatherer does/did not take more than could be used, the the population stayed stable. Populations used to be controlled by the direct connection between the amount of food available, and the fact that we had to go and get it (collect, migrate etc.) We are so removed from the source and production of our food now, that the checks and balances are no longer effective.

  48. I have killed chickens, gathered eggs, and helped dress and butcher wild game. This year, I am overjoyed that I will be able to use a small garden in the yard of my rental home. Many of us would be in good shape and intelligent enough to survive, and maybe that’s the best revenge, to outlive them all.

  49. considering maybe 10 percent of the population has IBS and most of that can be controlled with the primal diet, and of course people with uncontrolled IBS fart A LOT (I should know)…i think that would cancel out the cow farts. also I agree on calories. I eat far fewer calories on this diet (especially when my gut is “stable”.) Some of it must go to wasted fat stores, but i have this hypothesis that a lot of the grains and carb “filler” ends up excreted–maybe those who take in 3500 on the SAD use 2500 for energy, store 100 as flab and flush 900 down the toilet. just a hunch.

  50. I just want to throw the word Permaculture out there. I haven’t seen anyone mention it in the comments yet. But I most likely missed it. Google Sepp Holzer, Google Geoff Lawton & the Permacultue Research Institute of Australia, Google Geoff most famous permaculture video for beginners Greening the Desert, Check out his Urban Permaculture video, Check out Paul Wheaton’s stuff like this on hugelkulture

  51. Whoops, posted this as a reply rather than a new comment – mods can delete the other on to keep things tidy if they wish

    One of the major issues here is the Worlds huge population, all those mouths to feed.

    Even in this hypothetical situation, we should probably focus on the poorest people on the planet.

    Well, a lot of (3rd world) families are large due to the high mortality rate, so the larger your family, the more chance you have of having surviving offspring, and the more children there are to take care of you when you get ill or are dying. Of course some religions stance on contraception has not helped this situation.

    This off course leads to less local resources to go around, which leads to malnutrition and high mortality, which requires more offspring… and the circle completes. If reversing desertification can happen – and this is the first time I’ve ever heard that it’s possible, frankly I find it amazing – then rather than propping up these societies with grains, they may be able to recover lush pastures to raise livestock. Grasses/plants also filter waste water, so sanitation improves.

    The 1st World provide huge quantities of grains to the staving poor, however I wonder how much additional damage that causes through inflammation? It’s certainly better than death by starvation for the folks involved, but is it the best we can do with modern resources/technology?

    If it were possible for them to have rich lush pasture land to raise animals on, perhaps the mortality rate would drop (remember that vegetation also filters waste water, so that’s a step in the right direction for sanitation), which in turn would reduce the requirement for huge unsupportable families, so in only a few generations, the population growth may slow down significantly.

  52. I also wonder what the affect on the economy would be if we all took more responsibility for the source of our food. The main reason we work is to survive, if we lived in communities that provided their own food, then we’d only need to concern ourselves with shelter and luxuries.

    I feel that working as a community would actually satiate a lot of the desires for modern luxuries. TV/Internet etc are social tools now that we don’t socialise in large groups, and a release from the chronic stress of modern work.

    I think the Mormans have it right, other than no electricity and the whole God thing. A strong community, where everyone grows food and cooks together, helps build each others houses, and generally lives within the limitation of the land.

    Perhaps we should all become Pagan – the Paleo Pagans of Earth.

  53. And if we improve the pastureland (and don’t get all Taker about it) we can see deer, elk, buffalo and other grazers move in beside our cows to share it. Talk about a variety in the diet. Daniel Quinn also wrote a little book titled “Beyond Civilization” that is worth reading. How to be tribal where you are, who you are and no trips to live in the wilderness required. Quinn is an authentic thinker and well worth reading.

  54. I like to turn things around on the vegans. I ask them how things would work if suddenly everyone stopped eating animals and all animal products. What would we do with all the cows, chickens, pigs, etc..? Would we set them loose? Or would the people who had them just be stuck caring for them? Funny, nobody ever has a good answer for that.