How Much Meat Do We Eat? New Figures Show 6 Countries Have Hit Their Peak

How Much Meat Do We Eat? New Figures Show 6 Countries Have Hit Their Peak

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Eating meat comes with an unlimited environmental footprint, with meals methods chargeable for an estimated 34% of world emissions. And but, in most nations, meat consumption is constant to rise.

Our new study investigated whether or not meat consumption will increase as earnings will increase. We particularly examined if there’s a degree at which enhancements in GDP per capita are now not related to larger meat consumption. In different phrases, in a world of accelerating GDP, when would possibly meat consumption peak?

After analysing knowledge for 35 nations, we recognized such a tipping level at round US$40,000 (A$57,000) of GDP per capita. Only six of the 35 nations, nevertheless, had reached this, with different nations persevering with on an rising trajectory.

Overall, we discovered every particular person worldwide ate, on common, 4.5 kilograms extra meat per 12 months in 2019 than in 2000. While we will’t say what’s behind the final option to eat extra meat, our examine identifies some insightful developments.

The drawback with meat

Emissions from meat manufacturing are largely as a result of land clearing, together with deforestation, to create extra pasture and develop feed for livestock.

To put it into perspective, human settlements occupy only 1% of the planet’s landmass, whereas livestock grazing and feed manufacturing use 27%. Compare this to 7% used for crop manufacturing for direct human consumption, and 26% occupied by forests.

As a outcome, a latest UK examine discovered a vegetarian weight-reduction plan produces 59% less emissions than a non-vegetarian one. And apparently, it discovered that the typical weight-reduction plan for males within the UK had 41% extra emissions than that of ladies, due to their larger consumption of meat and different animal-based merchandise.

Australia is among the world’s high meat-eating nations. Jo Anne Mcarthur/Unsplash, CC BY.

Despite the rising proof and consciousness of the local weather influence of our diets, we discovered the typical quantity of meat – beef, poultry, pork and sheep – an individual ate every year elevated from 29.5kg in 2000 to 34kg in 2019.

Poultry is the most well-liked possibility (14.7kg), adopted by pork (11.1kg) and beef (6.4kg).

Poultry on the rise

Nearly all nations studied (30 of 35) skilled a gentle improve in annual per capita poultry consumption between 2000 and 2019. It doubled in 13 nations, with greater than 20kg eaten every year in Peru, Russia and Malaysia.

In addition to the poultry business’s long-term deal with creating low-cost and handy meals, many western shoppers at the moment are changing beef with poultry. One doable purpose is due to its smaller environmental footprint: chickens require much less land and generate a lot decrease emissions than cattle.

However, this comes at a worth. It exposes the world, together with Australia, to new virus outbreaks such as the bird flu, and ends in the overuse of antibiotics in cattle. This may result in antimicrobial resistance growing, and the loss of antibiotics to deal with human bacterial infections.


Industrial farming practices have added additional pressures, with animals raised in confined spaces the place they’re simply uncovered to pathogens, viruses and stress, making them extra liable to illness.

We have seen related impacts in China, the world’s largest producer and shopper of pork. Our evaluation revealed main dietary fluctuations, equivalent to when pork consumption dropped considerably in 2007 after costs elevated by over 50%, following outbreaks of swine influenza and SARS outbreaks in people at the time.

Which nations have reached peak meat?

While meat consumption elevated world wide on common, taking a more in-depth take a look at particular person nations reveals a extra difficult story.

Of the 35 nations we studied, 26 had a transparent correlation between GDP development and meat consumption ranges. For the remaining 9, there was no such a correlation, whereas six appeared to have reached a meat consumption peak: New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Paraguay, Nigeria and Ethiopia. The causes for this span each side of the financial wealth spectrum.

The three western nations could have decreased meat consumption due to acutely aware preferences for plant-based meals, because the well being and environmental advantages turn out to be extra well-known. Most notably, individuals in New Zealand decreased their common consumption from 86.7kg in 2000 to 75.2kg in 2019.

For the remaining three nations, reaching the height in all probability wasn’t voluntary, however associated to financial downturn, climate calamities and virus outbreaks. In Paraguay, for instance, an outbreak of foot and mouth illness in 2011 resulted in cattle slaughter.

Australia continues to be one of many world’s high meat-eating nations, with an annual consumption of 89.6kg per capita in 2019, up from 88.2kg per capita in 2000. Most of this was poultry.

Outdoor livestock are extraordinarily weak to excessive climate occasions, equivalent to droughts, warmth waves and floods. This is one purpose the share of beef in Australia’s meat exports decreased by 15%, as a result of climate extremes and drought throughout 2019. Beef consumption in Australia nonetheless stays excessive in relative phrases.

Meat was unnoticed of local weather talks

Meat consumption was largely left out of the debates on the worldwide local weather change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, final month. Our examine makes it clear this omission is unacceptable.

The meals we eat is a private selection, but it surely must be an knowledgeable private selection. The local weather, environmental and well being and welfare implications of our meals decisions require consciousness and function setting not solely by local weather warriors equivalent to activist Greta Thunberg, but in addition by coverage leaders.

There have been two optimistic developments on the local weather summit: the settlement to place a stop to deforestation (which was joined by Australia) and the collective pledges to cut back the levels of methane (which Australia didn’t be a part of).

The relationships between deforestation and livestock, and between methane emissions and livestock, have to be made clear. Otherwise, it is going to be troublesome to count on individuals to shift their meals preferences in the direction of extra plant-based meals.

The change may begin with what we placed on our plates this vacation season.

This article is republished from The Conversation underneath a Creative Commons license. Authors: Diana Bogueva, Team Manager/ Adjunct Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sydney; Clare Whitton, , Curtin University; Clive Phillips, Former Foundation Professor of Animal Welfare, University of Queensland, Curtin University, and Dora Marinova, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University

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Cover picture by Rumman Amin.

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