Opinion | Let’s rethink food in Iowa

In order to feed the future, we need sustainable change now.

Sophia Meador, Opinions Columnist

By 2050, the world population is expected to be nearly 10 billion. However, due to population growth, urbanization and increase of demand for animal sourced protein, the world food demand is expected to increase up to 70 percent by 2050.

Iowa supplies a substantial amount of agriculture globally, which makes our voice and actions critical in this task. We must take sustainable actions now to feed the future; this includes adopting a plant-based diet.

I presume many readers saw the words plant and diet and immediately turned away. As off-putting as a plant-based diet may sound, it’s a great way to begin moving towards a sustainable diet and lifestyle.

Plant-based diets encompass eating plants predominantly, and yes, it goes beyond just salads. Plant based diets seek to incorporate a diverse selection of plants, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains while abstaining from meat and dairy when possible.

There are exciting and new foods to try with a plant-based diet, but this transition will undoubtedly be a challenge for many. However, that is no excuse to become negligent to the problem. We must all do our part to build a more sustainable future. That demands changing the way our culture consumes and sources meat.

Iowa is the largest pork producing state. In 2018, Iowa producers marketed almost 48 million hogs for retail. Though Iowans have an undeniable amount of pride in our diverse livestock success, this industry needs to transition to a more sustainable alternative.

Livestock methane emissions account for 32 percent of human-caused methane emission globally.

Methane, a greenhouse gas, contributes to the overall temperature and leads to the overheating of the planet, which scientific consensus concludes is currently happening to our planet. In the past two decades, methane emissions have increased 143 percent.

Climate change is the greatest threat to the future of global food production because it will create uninhabitable conditions for livestock and farming. With a rising population and infertile conditions for agriculture, there is bleak hope for feeding the future.

But Iowa can change the way our culture eats. If we show a dynamic change in the way we farm and eat, we can set an example for the rest of the country.

One action the agriculture industry in Iowa can take is to improve land and crop management. This includes fertilizing crops with the appropriate amount of nitrogen required for optimal crop production, rather than over-fertilizing crops. As a result, less nitrous oxide is emitted.

The agriculture industry in Iowa should also improve livestock management by improving pasture quality to increase animal productivity. Large operations should also reduce the amount of stock they breed to decrease the overall methane emission of animals.

As consumers, we should also make changes in the way we source food. This includes supporting local farms that practice sustainable and ethical methods for food production. A great way to support these small farms is by shopping at local markets or small businesses.

We should also reevaluate the way we eat out. Large corporations and restaurant chains usually source industrial farms. Eating out at local restaurants that source their food ethically from small farm operations is a great way to be both environmentally sustainable and supportive of your community.

Will consuming less meat and dairy fix the extensional crisis of climate change? No, it won’t, but no action is too little in this fight.

The actions we take as Iowans can reflect positive change across the country. In order to feed the future, we must take important steps now like adopting plant-based diets and reshaping current agriculture methods. Together, we can build a sustainable future fit for 10 billion hungry people.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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