What’s Your “Food Print”?

Locavore is so 2007 already. According to an article in the London Times, food print is the designation on the rise.

The latest buzz phrase is ‘food print’, the amount of land needed to supply one person’s nutritional needs for a year. With the world population growing by an estimated half a billion every decade, and a concomitant loss of agricultural land to housing and development, it’s not hard to understand why this has become the hot topic de nos jours.

The term comes from a Cornell University land-usage study, published recently in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. It is the first study to look at how much land is required to grow the food needed to support different diets: vegetarian, carnivorous, etc.

‘A person following a low-fat vegetarian diet, for example, will need less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce their food,’ said Christian Peters, M.S. ‘02, Ph.D. ‘07, a Cornell postdoctoral associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author of the research. ‘A high-fat diet with a lot of meat, on the other hand, needs 2.11 acres.’

Interestingly enough, a vegetarian diet was not necessarily the most land-efficient: More prime land is needed for farming fruits and vegetables. A diet with minimal animal products (2 ounces cooked meat and eggs a day, rather than the American average of 5.8 ounces per day recorded in 2005) would make use of marginal land that would not otherwise be able to support crops.