“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

Wheat Field 640960 960 720
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

Pizza 386717 960 720
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 14, 2004
  • 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 (122’ 8”) 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 puree
  • 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.

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