Emily Meredith
Emily Meredith

In many ways, America is the land of plenty. This is certainly the case when it comes to food--most Americans are lucky enough to have an abundance of choices at the grocery store. But for 1 in 6 people in the United States, America is not the land of plenty.

Last month was National Hunger Awareness month, and for the millions of Americans struggling with food insecurity, hunger is a reality that is not confined to small pockets of society, certain areas of the country, or certain demographics.

We hear a lot about the global food crisis that’s coming in 2050--how we’ll have to feed 9.1 billion people with the same--or fewer--resources. But for countless Americans and millions of people around the world, there’s a global food crisis right now. It’s a crisis from the standpoint that they can’t make ends meet and feed their families.

It’s a crisis we don’t hear nearly enough about. Unless, of course, it’s from animal rights activist groups who are quick to blame animal agriculture and meat-based diets for food insecurity in this country and abroad. Then we can’t hear enough about world hunger.

According to PETA’s website, “There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population. We funnel huge amounts of grain, soybeans and corn through all the animals we use for food instead of feeding starving humans.”

Similarly, HSUS argues, “of the world’s nearly 6.8 billion humans, almost 1 billion people are malnourished. Feeding half the world’s grain crop to animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk instead of directly to humans is a significant waste of natural resources, including fossil fuels, water, and land. Raising animals for food is also a major contributor to global warming, which is expected to further worsen food security globally.”

Disappointingly, we’ve come to expect the circulation of this misinformation by groups that will do anything in their power to bring about an end to animal agriculture. (For some actual science-based logic on the food vs. feed conundrum, I would highly recommend Dr. Jude Capper’s most recent paper, “Is a Cow Eating my Lunch?”).

But I know I wasn’t the only one to be shocked by the blatant slap in the face that came near the end of Chipotle’s latest digital short entitled “The Scarecrow.”

I know I was already fuming as I watched the sad Scarecrow board the bus towards home. As the bus pulls away what can only be seen as a “factory farm,” he stares out upon a bleak, barren landscape and a billboard with the slogan “Crow Foods Feeding the World.”

Now, it’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of that messaging point. I think it makes those of us in the agriculture community look like we have a huge superiority complex, which I’m guessing is why Chipotle took great pains to use our own words against us.

That said, the truth is that America’s farmers and ranchers are indeed feeding the world, but not just by growing and raising the food that appears on our grocery store shelves. They literally give back and try to feed those going hungry every day within our borders. 

Not only are individual farmers donating their surplus harvests of corn and vegetables, but so are companies deemed to be “big food” by hipster companies like Chipotle. Tyson Foods, for example, partners with FeedingAmerica to help stock the shelves of food banks nationwide.

It’s easy to take pot shots at “big food,” “industrial agriculture” or “factory farming,” and even easier to hide behind some misguided notion of moral superiority (yes PETA and HSUS I’m looking at you), or a million-dollar, allegedly “fictitious” virtual reality scheme (ehem, Chipotle). 

But it’s difficult to strive to actually solve a problem, or at least try. Looking towards the looming 2050 global food crisis, I feel much more secure relying on sound science, modern agriculture, and dedicated farmers and ranchers with a proven commitment to feeding the hungry.

After all, the average American farmer feeds 155 people worldwide (and probably many more when you count up all the farmers donating extra food above and beyond what they sell).   

Whereas, the average American activist organization feeds...zero. And I’m pretty sure an $8 Chipotle burrito isn’t feeding the hungry either.