Is Paleo Sustainable for 7 Billion People?

Is Paleo Sustainable for 7 Billion People? | The Paleo Diet

Can our planet support 7 billion people following the Paleo Diet? We cannot dispute that there are negative environmental factors, such as excessive water and fossil energy use and large emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting from the standard process of agriculture and livestock farming. These methodologies make it seem unrealistic that even our current food production system can sustain our planet, let alone support the Paleo diet alone.

Obviously, no one wants to contribute to an ecological collapse. If 7 billion people adopted a diet higher in animal meat under the existing methods of production, it would continue to tax our planet. However, the rising numbers of diet related illnesses1 indicate that something has to change when it comes to how we produce food and how we choose to eat. Let’s take a closer look at how we can all participate in following a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to the Paleo diet.


We are truly what we eat. Although pastured meats cost more, this money is an investment in both the environment and your future physical wellbeing. If we suppose there is a greater demand for sustainable animal protein, then agricultural boards and organizations can provide more research and education to ranchers to reduce their use of water, pesticides, and feed grain. In turn, this may bring the price per pound down as it becomes more desired on grocery shelves.

Commercial livestock production stresses the land. However, with proper methodologies, ruminants can actually be benefactors to preserve ecosystems, produce food from inedible sources, restore soil fertility, and recycle plant nutrients. 2EAT THE WHOLE ANIMAL

Boneless, skinless chicken and tenderloins of beef taste good, but there is more to the animal than muscle to embrace on a regular basis. As previously covered in Offal, Not So Awful: Organ Meats and the Paleo Diet, our hunter-gatherers ancestors consumed the entire animal from nose-to-tail and recognized the wealth of nutrients obtained from the brains, liver, kidney, heart, blood, lungs, and all other visceral organs.4 The carcasses and bones can also be used to make rich, nourishing bone broths, and the fat can be used to make high-quality cooking oil.5 The whole animal offers minerals, nutrients, and calories to properly fuel our bodies, while also respects the food source where it came from.


Ingesting insects, or entomophagy, is probably completely off your radar and most likely more repulsive than eating organs. However, insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people in the world, including individuals in Mali who hunt and eat grasshoppers. There also existed a long history of insect eating 25-50% of North American tribes.6

Significant environmental benefits exist to support cultivating insects for food. They are highly efficient to produce. For example, crickets require only 2 kg of feed for every 1 kg of bodyweight gain, compared to the 8 kg a cow needs.7 Insects produce very little greenhouse gas, and can be cultivated on using very little water or land, such as an organic side-stream, which reduces environmental contamination.8 Insects are also a great source of fat, protein, vitamin, and minerals.9 Ease into the idea of eating insects by using cricket flour or cacao covered ants, which can be incorporated into your Paleo cooking.

If we evaluate the current food production system and dietary norms based on the rising levels of lifestyle related illnesses, the obesity epidemic, and the negative environmental impacts of farming, we can conclude that the entire system needs to change. The Paleo diet has been shown to reduce inflammation,10 improve waistlines, and regulate blood sugar and insulin response.11 We cannot afford to not choose the foods that best serve our bodies genetically, while also protect our planet.



[1] WHO, Joint, and FAO Expert Consultation. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1990.

[2] Janzen, H. H. “What place for livestock on a re-greening earth?.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 166 (2011): 783-796.

[3] Cingolani, Ana M., et al. “Can livestock grazing maintain landscape diversity and stability in an ecosystem that evolved with wild herbivores?.” Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 16.4 (2014): 143-153.

[4]  Cordain L, Eaton SB, Brand Miller J, Mann N, Hill K. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: Meat based, yet non-atherogenic. Eur J Clin Nutr 2002;56 (suppl 1):S42-S52.

[5] Webb, E. C., and H. A. O’neill. “The animal fat paradox and meat quality.” Meat Science 80.1 (2008): 28-36.

[6] Available at: // Accessed on February 4, 2015.

[7] ATES, S., et al. “Performance of indigenous and exotic× indigenous sheep breeds fed different diets in spring and the efficiency of feeding system in crop–livestock farming.” The Journal of Agricultural Science: 1-16.

[8] Paoletti, Maurizio G. Ecological implications of minilivestock: potential of insects, rodents, frogs and snails. Science Publishers, Inc., 2005.

[9] Available at: // Accessed on February 4, 2015.

[10] O’Keefe, James H., Cordain, L. “Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 79. No. 1. Elsevier, 2004.

[11] Ballard, K et al.Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves insulin sensitiv­ity, blood pressure, microvascular function, and cellular adhesion markers in individuals taking statins.Nutr Res.2013 Nov;33(11):905-12.

About Stephanie Vuolo

Stephanie VuoloStephanie Vuolo is a Certified Nutritional Therapist, an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer, and a Certified CrossFit Level 1 Coach. She has a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. She is a former contributor to Discovery Communications/TLC Blog, Parentables.

Stephanie lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for how diet and lifestyle can contribute to overall wellness and longevity. She has been raising her young daughter on the Paleo Diet since birth. You can visit her website at

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“3” Comments

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  2. Pingback: GMOs: To Be, Or Not To Be | The Paleo Diet : The Paleo Diet™

  3. I’m thinking that the majority of industrial meat production must go to servicing the fast food, packaged/canned food industry. In theory, if everyone magically switched off of fast food and onto Paleo, there’d be no net gain in meat production – perhaps a net reduction? I think the question “is Paleo sustainable for 7 Billion people” unreasonable, because it’s not like all 7 billion are going to go Paleo – there will always be vegetarians and vegans etc., and power to them. The remainder could all go Paleo sustainably if the fast food/packaged stuff were taken out of the equation.

  4. Pingback: Is Paleo Sustainable for 7 Billion People? | Health Fitness Daily

  5. Holistic management for grazing animals and diversity by planting a diverse food environment as well as managing animals to promote diversity, will all assist in re-building much needed top soil which is currently severely depleted due to modern agriculture (monoculture) practices. With this severely depleted top soil comes a decrease in essential nutrients for plants, animals and humans. We can heal this planet by chosing which foods to eat and by promoting diversity and humane animal management.

  6. The state of Louisiana has thousands of acres of green pastures where animals could graze if there were a will to do it. People can’t even give away the hay from these lands; no one will take it.

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