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Human food security requires the production of sufficient quantities of both high-quality protein and dietary energy. In a series of case-studies from New Zealand, we show that while production of food ingredients from crops on arable land can meet human dietary energy requirements effectively, requirements for high-quality protein are met more efficiently by animal production from such land. We present a model that can be used to assess dietary energy and quality-corrected protein production from various crop and crop/animal production systems, and demonstrate its utility. We extend our analysis with an accompanying economic analysis of commercially-available, pre-prepared or simply-cooked foods that can be produced from our case-study crop and animal products. We calculate the per-person, per-day cost of both quality-corrected protein and dietary energy as provided in the processed foods. We conclude that mixed dairy/cropping systems provide the greatest quantity of high-quality protein per unit price to the consumer, have the highest food energy production and can support the dietary requirements of the highest number of people, when assessed as all-year-round production systems. Global food and nutritional security will largely be an outcome of national or regional agro-economies addressing their own food needs. We hope that our model will be used for similar analyses of food production systems in other countries, agro-ecological zones and economies.
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