A per­son may have lit­tle means of com­mand­ing food if he or she has no job, no oth­er sources of income, no social secu­ri­ty. The hunger that will result can coex­ist with a plen­ti­ful sup­ply of food in the econ­o­my and the mar­kets.” — Amartya Sen, Noble prize-win­ning economist

Our col­lec­tive vora­cious appetite is putting strain on our plan­et. In this sec­tion, we share with you some inter­est­ing facts and sta­tis­tics show­ing how food and glob­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty issues relate to one another.

Stats and facts about food pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion around the world

Over one third of world grain pro­duc­tion is fed to live­stock.
UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organ­i­sa­tion, 2005

Amer­i­cans eat approx­i­mate­ly 100 acres of piz­za each day, or 350 slices per sec­ond.
– Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Piz­za Oper­a­tors (USA), 2005

Every day, about 78-mil­lion serv­ings of Coca-Cola prod­ucts are con­sumed in Africa.
– The Coca-Cola Com­pa­ny, 2005

400-bil­lion cups of cof­fee are con­sumed around the world each year.
– British Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, 2005

Pet food con­sumed in Europe and U

nit­ed States annu­al­ly: $17-bil­lion.
Esti­mat­ed cost of elim­i­nat­ing hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion world­wide each year: $19-bil­lion.
– World­watch Insti­tute, 2004

World­wide milk pro­duc­tion topped 614-mil­lion tons in 2004
UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organisation

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A third of the world’s grain is fed to livestock

In South Africa, peo­ple eat on aver­age about 17kg (38lb) of beef per year, 24kg (53lb) of poul­try and 4kg (9lb) of mut­ton per year.
How­ev­er, these fig­ures are skewed, with the rich eat­ing much more than the aver­age and the poor much less.
– World­watch Insti­tute / Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, 2005

Food pro­duc­tion and glob­al pat­terns of pover­ty are close­ly linked. In gen­er­al, the rich North­ern Hemi­sphere is well-fed, and the poor South­ern Hemi­sphere is rel­a­tive­ly under­nour­ished. In most of Africa, India and parts of Asia, more than 35% of the pop­u­la­tion is under­nour­ished, com­pared to less than 5% of the pop­u­la­tion in areas like North Amer­i­ca and the Euro­pean Union, accord­ing to the Food and Agri­cul­tur­al Organ­i­sa­tion of the Unit­ed Nations.
UN Food and Agri­cul­tur­al Organ­i­sa­tion, 2005

Aqua­cul­ture has become the fastest grow­ing food pro­duc­tion sec­tor in the world and now accounts for over 30% of all fish con­sumed. Most of the increase has occurred in Asian coun­tries, with Chi­na pro­duc­ing 70% of the glob­al total of farmed fish.

UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organ­i­sa­tion, 2005

An acre of cere­al pro­duces five times more pro­tein than an acre devot­ed to meat pro­duc­tion; legumes (beans, peas, lentils) can pro­duce 10 times more pro­tein and leafy veg­eta­bles 15 times more.
In the US, 157-mil­lion met­ric tons of cere­al, legumes and veg­etable pro­tein suit­able for human use is fed to live­stock to pro­duce 28-mil­lion met­ric tons of ani­mal pro­tein for annu­al human con­sump­tion.”
– Jere­my Rifkin, The Guardian, 2002


South Africa’s main crop is sug­ar cane

About 1-bil­lion peo­ple rely on fish as their pri­ma­ry ani­mal pro­tein source.
UN Food and Agri­cul­tur­al Organ­i­sa­tion, 2000

Over 70% of the world’s fish species are already either ful­ly exploit­ed (i.e. their annu­al catch is close to their max­i­mum sus­tain­able lim­its) or ove

UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organ­i­sa­tion, 2005

Our plan­et is home to about 13.5-billion chick­ens and near­ly 1-bil­lion pigs.
UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organ­i­sa­tion, 2004

Trag­i­cal­ly, some 80% of the world’s hun­gry chil­dren live in coun­tries with food sur­plus­es, much of which is fed to ani­mals which will be con­sumed by only well-to-do con­sumers. The major­i­ty of these hun­gry chil­dren are from sub-Saha­ran Africa. — Jere­my Rifkin, The Guardian, 2002

Belch­ing, flat­u­lent live­stock emit 16 per­cent of the world’s annu­al pro­duc­tion of methane, a pow­er­ful green­house gas.
UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organ­i­sa­tion, 2005

A calo­rie of beef, pork or poul­try needs 11 – 17 calo­ries of feed.
– World­watch Insti­tute, 2003

Recy­cling just one alu­mini­um can saves enough elec­tric­i­ty to run a lap­top com­put­er for 4 hours.
– World­watch Institute

South Africa’s largest crop is sug­ar cane, which aver­ages over 20-mil­lion tons pro­duced per year.
- UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Organ­i­sa­tion, 2004

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of hectares of indige­nous bush have been cleared to plant this crop.

Pover­ty and food production

Every year, hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple suf­fer from hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion, and mil­lions of them die because of it, includ­ing more than 6-mil­lion chil­dren under the age of five. Sub-Saha­ran Africa has the high­est inci­dences of under­nour­ished peo­ple in the world, with sta­tis­tics creep­ing up each year.

Glob­al food pro­duc­tion has also become increas­ing­ly a polit­i­cal issue over the past cen­tu­ry. Gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies paid to farm­ers in var­i­ous coun­tries such as the Unit­ed States and in the Euro­pean Union, for exam­ple, help to pro­vide them with eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty, but under­mine efforts by farm­ers in coun­tries where gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies are not paid. This includes much of the devel­op­ing world, in Africa and South America.

Facts and quotes about food

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The record for the largest piz­za ever baked was set in South Africa in 1990

  • We nev­er know the worth of water till the well is dry.” – Thomas Fuller, British physi­cian, preach­er and schol­ar, 1732
  • Czechs are the world’s biggest beer drinkers, with a per capi­ta con­sump­tion of about 160 litres (42 gal­lons) per year. In com­par­i­son, South Africans drink about 60 litres (16 gal­lons) per capi­ta per year. – US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, 2005
  • Orange juice is the offi­cial bev­er­age of Flori­da. About 95% of oranges grown in Flori­da are processed into orange juice – some 1.2-billion gal­lons in 2002/2003. – Flori­da Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, 2005
  • Think you’re addict­ed to cof­fee? French philoso­pher, Voltaire, report­ed­ly drank about 50 cups of cof­fee a day!
  • The great­est dis­tance walked by a per­son con­tin­u­ous­ly bal­anc­ing a milk bot­tle on the head was 130.3 km (80.96 miles) by Ashri­ta Fur­man of New York, USA, around Vic­to­ry Field track, For­est Park, Queens, on April 22 – 23, 1998. It took him 23 hours 35 min­utes to com­plete the walk.” – Gui­ness World Records
  • The largest bowl of pas­ta weighed 3,336 kg (7,355 lb) and was made by a US tele­vi­sion show in Hart­ford, New York, USA on Feb­ru­ary 142004
  • Fish and Chips is Britain’s favourite take-away. In 1995, the British con­sumed an aston­ish­ing 300-mil­lion serv­ings of fish and chips – that equates to six serv­ings for every man, woman and child in the coun­try. – Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of Fish Friers (UK)
  • The largest piz­za ever baked, mea­sur­ing 37.4 m (1228”) in diam­e­ter, was made at the Nor­wood Hyper­mar­ket in Johan­nes­burg on Decem­ber 8, 1990. The ingre­di­ents includ­ed: 4,500 kg (9920 lb) of flour 90 kg (198 lb) of salt 1800 kg (3,968 lb) of cheese 900 kg (1,984 lb) of toma­to purée
  • It takes about 20 min­utes of active aer­o­bic exer­cise, or a 30-minute walk, to burn off just one plain doghnut’s calories
  • Every­thing you see, I owe to spaghet­ti.” – Sophia Loren, Ital­ian actress.
  • Bun­ny chows – a unique­ly South African meal which com­pris­es a hol­lowed-out quar­ter- or half-loaf of white bread filled with cur­ry – report­ed­ly orig­i­nat­ed in Grey Street, Dur­ban, in the 1940s. The sto­ry goes that black peo­ple were not allowed to enter Indi­an restau­rants such as Kapitan’s in the area. The man­ag­er, nick­named Bhanya”, came up with the idea of the bun­ny, which required no eat­ing imple­ments and could be eas­i­ly eat­en on the pave­ment. And so, over time, Bhanya’s chow” became the leg­endary Bun­ny chow”.
  • Bangladeshi-born Abdul Latif claims to make the world’s hottest cur­ry, dubbed Cur­ry Hell”, which he serves at his restau­rant in New­cas­tle, UK. The dish is made using just chilli pow­der, chilli seeds and water with meat or veg­eta­bles. The restau­rant draws chal­lengers from all over the world, but not many have suc­ceed­ed. If patrons can eat the full por­tion, they get it for free.

Return to the Exhi­bi­tion Guide.