Vast amounts of land are required for the production of food, but the area suitable for growing crops is limited. In this paper, attention is paid to the relationship between food consumption patterns and agricultural land requirements. Land requirements per food item that were determined in a previous study are combined with data on the per capita food consumption of various food packages, varying from subsistence to affluent, leading to information on land requirements for food. Large differences could be shown in per capita food consumption and related land requirements, while food consumption, expenditure, and the physical consumption of specific foods change rapidly over time. A difference of a factor of two was found between the requirements for existing European food patterns, while the land requirement for a hypothetical diet based on wheat was six times less than that for an existing affluent diet with meat. It is argued that in the near future changes in consumption patterns rather than population growth will form the most important variable for total land requirements for food. Trends towards the consumption of foods associated with affluent lifestyles will bring with them a need for more land. Lifestyle changes, changes in consumer behavior on a household level, can be considered as powerful options to reduce the use of natural resources such as agricultural land.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 2002
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