I’ve definitely got to start farming worms

Just look at these estimates of total biomass on Earth. Why are we wasting our time harvesting cows, when there’s so much more worm and mollusc meat available to us?

Of course, even that’s a silly question. Go take a look at total plant biomass.


  1. says

    Thing I am okay with in the above: Eating molluscs. Yum yum yum. Except octopodes, out of respect – they’re too smart.

    Thing I am not okay with in the above: Explicitly measuring birds in cubes of cow.

  2. quotetheunquote says

    Cool chart! No idea just how much of the world is made of archea.

    But I couldn’t help but notice a slight oddity in it – at the most expanded level, at the bottom, they’re showing 1,000 tons of distinctly odd-looking “wild birds”. (Very over-fed Brown-headed Cowbirds perhaps?)

  3. says

    Most of plant biomass is indigestible to us, but what looks interesting on that chart are arthropods. Not as difficult to grow or harvest as annelids, and many are much more effectual at converting plant material into digestible protein.

  4. weylguy says

    Even with a ready supply of mollusks and worms, they’re still a finitely renewable resource that like everything else today is gonna run out. The human population now stands at 7.6 billion (still growing linearly if not exponentially), but outside of our proclivity we seem to have no way of understanding the concept of limits.

    Mollusks and worms are yucky, but could perhaps be rendered into something tasty, like Soylent Green.

  5. chrislawson says

    Vox ran this as a “see how insignificant humans are on the scales of life” piece, but I took it as terrifying evidence of our destructive impact on natural habitats. If the chart is correct, then there is >10x as much biomass in livestock as all the wild mammals and wild birds combined.

  6. Rich Woods says

    @Oggie #3:

    I thought we had to use a spherical cow

    Cubic cows are preferred when it comes to simple stacking problems.

  7. Oggie. says

    I thought we had to use a spherical cow

    Cubic cows are preferred when it comes to simple stacking problems.

    When you use enough of them in a stacking problem, the shapes tend to become irregular. And quite space efficient.

  8. Amphiox says

    I have to say, though, that the article’s spin about humans being “insignificant” is a little specious.
    They are comparing a single species against whole classes, kingdoms, phyla and even domains.
    The fact that humans outweigh all wild mammals by a factor of 10:1 should give some pause….