In 2020, stores sold garden seeds, cooperatives and rabbit cages. Now we have an idea of how much protein people can grow in their backyards.
The meat shortages of 2020 have left many wondering what to eat for protein when supply chains are disrupted. Some people have turned to collecting eggs, raising animals and growing their own food. A team from Michigan University of Technology and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks found the work to be worth it. In a new study published in Durability, researchers looked at how a typical household with a typical backyard can raise chickens, rabbits or soybeans to meet its protein needs.
People eat a lot of protein in the United States, and the average person needs 51 grams of protein per day, according to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This works out to 18,615 grams per year or, for an average household of 2.6 people, 48,399 grams per year. Americans love burgers, but few have room to raise a steer next to the garage – and most ordinances in town shake at the thought of a rogue cowpie. But small animals are more efficient protein producers and are often allowed within city limits. The average backyard offers a lot of space, typically 800 to 1,000 square meters or about 8,600 to 10,700 square feet.
“You don’t have to convert your entire backyard into a soybean farm. A little goes a long way,” said Joshua Pearce, one of the study’s co-authors and a full professor of science and engineering. Michigan Materials Tech Richard Witte and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “I am a solar engineer; I look at the surface and I think of photovoltaic production. A lot of people don’t – they don’t treat their backyard as a resource. that they have to mow and add fertilizer. But we can actually be very autonomous when we treat our sites as an asset. “
Pearce’s co-authors are interdisciplinary and include Michigan Tech students Theresa Meyer and Alexis Pascaris, as well as David Denkenberger from the University of Alaska. The lab group originally met to conduct an agrovoltaic study to assess rabbit farming under solar panels. But when they looked to buy cages in the spring of 2020, they discovered shortages of animal and vegetable garden equipment across the country. Like many laboratories, the group has pivoted and refocused its work on the impacts of the pandemic.
They found that using only yard resources to raise chickens or rabbits offset protein consumption by up to 50%. To meet the full demand for protein with animals and eggs, it was necessary to purchase grain and raise 52 chickens or 107 rabbits. That’s way more than most city ordinances allow, of course, and raising a creature isn’t as easy as dropping a planter. While the pasture-raised rabbits mow the lawns for you, Pearce says “the real winner is soy.” Consuming plant proteins directly instead of feeding them to animals first is much more efficient. Plant-based protein can supply 80% to 160% of household demand and when prepared as edamame, soy is like “high protein popcorn”. The team’s economic analyzes show that savings are possible – especially when food prices rise – but that savings depend on the value people place on food quality and personal effort.
“That takes time. And if you have the time, it’s a good investment, ”said Pearce, referring to other research on building a community with gardens, the mental health benefits of being outdoors and simply a deeper appreciation for foods raised at home. “Our study showed that many Americans can participate in distributed food production and help make the United States not only more sustainable, but also more resilient to supply chain disruptions.
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Material provided by Michigan Technological University. Original written by Allison Mills. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.