A whisper from the woods

Food for Thought, August 2023

Jul 31, 2023

“Food security remains a critical global crisis, with many countries grappling to ensure a steady supply of healthy, nutritious, and affordable food for their people.” – Imam Maiyaki, in Food Security and the way forward.

After reading Imam’s article, I was inspired to write about this urgent topic. In his article, Imam presents the context of food security, in Nigeria.

Following his article – which I honestly recommend – this month’s Food for Thought piece will go through some facts and figures about global food security and add to Imam’s list of possible solutions.


Food Security: Facts and Figures

According to the 1996 World Food Summit, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

The SDG Report 2022 shares that 1 in 10 people worldwide suffers from hunger, while 1 in 3 people does not have regular access to adequate food. This means that even if food availability is not compromised, the nutrient quality of the food is often poor and people follow unbalanced diets.

The same forum defined four dimensions of food security: physical availability determined by the supply chain; economic and physical access to food; the way food is utilized; and the stability of all other dimensions.

Even though the four dimensions need to be considered, there is a relative consensus regarding the disproportionate impact of unequal distribution (this would fall on the second dimension, access to food) when compared to the physical absence of food.

The EAT-Lancet Commission clearly states that “Although global food production of calories has kept pace with population growth, more than 820 million people have insufficient food and many more consume low-quality diets (…)”.


Meat & Dairy Industries vs. Food Security

In recent years, topics like climate change and biodiversity loss have made their way into the public sphere. The energy sector is under the spotlight and governments make promises about a green transition away from fossil fuels.

However, the food sector and the animal industry, in particular, are seldom mentioned.

Similarly, hunger and food insecurity are not disregarded by the population. The average person worries about hunger and extreme poverty and recognizes food security as a basic right.

Nonetheless, the largely unequal distribution of resources (and of food in particular) are not sufficiently addressed.

Going back to Imam’s article, he lists several key actions that could help Nigeria out of food insecurity.

One thing I would like to offer for consideration is the impact animal industries have on food security.

According to an article from Our World in Data, crops for direct human consumption account for 22% of the land used for food production, while 77% of this land is used by the meat and dairy industries. However, only 18% of the global calorie supply comes from meat and dairy. The rest (82%) comes from plant-based crops.

As we have seen in past articles, animals are extremely intensive in their use of resources, namely water, feed, and land.

Drastically reducing our animal products consumption would free up space to produce food for people. It could even allow us to halt deforestation for cropland conversion, to rewild land, adopt regenerative forms of agriculture, and create more jobs.


Moving Away From Beef: A Plant-Based Alternative


Beef is one of the most resource-intensive products one can choose.

One hundred grams of beef needs 1,550 liters of water, compared to the same amount of beans which take 190 liters. When it comes to the area of land required – 163.6 m2 for beef and 7.3 m2 for beans for 100g of protein.

Finding plant-based alternatives to a beef hamburger, for example, is not so hard. One can make hamburgers out of anything, really! In a past article, we’ve shared a tofu-bean-and-walnut-burger recipe; today we’ll experiment with different ingredients: black beans, beetroot, mushrooms, and more.

These go well with a salad, spaghetti, or inside a bun. The amounts listed below will serve four burgers. One idea is to make a bigger batch and freeze the leftovers.

  • 260g (2 cups) cooked black beans
  • 120g (1 cup) cooked brown rice
  • 1 small onion (100g), chopped
  • 5 button mushrooms (200g), chopped
  • 30g cooked beetroot
  • 1 tbsp worth of chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 45g (½ cup) rolled oats
  • Salt & black pepper to taste
  1. My first step was to cook the black beans. If you prefer using canned beans, you can skip this step. Please note that I seasoned the beans while boiling them in the pressure cooker. I added salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I cooked the beans for 13 minutes after the pressure cooker started to steam. Cook the brown rice and prepare the vegetables.
  2. Preheat a frying pan. Sauté the onion and mushrooms together. Season with salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Cooked the mushrooms for around 10 minutes until they’ve reduced in size and lost their moisture.
  3. Add all ingredients, except the rolled oats, to a food processor, and pulse until you get a roughly homogenous texture.
  4. Add the rolled oats and pulse again until just combined. Let some of the oats remain whole for some texture.
  5. Form patties out of the dough. Turn on the oven at 180º C (356F).
  6. Seal the burgers on a frying pan, for 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Transfer the patties to a lined baking dish or tray and take it to the oven for 15 minutes.
  8. Once you take the burgers out of the oven, let them set for around 5-10 minutes.



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