How much meat do we eat? New figures present 6 international locations have hit their peak
Eating meat comes with an unlimited environmental footprint, with meals methods accountable for an estimated 34% of world emissions. And but, in most international locations, meat consumption is constant to rise.
Our new examine investigated whether or not meat consumption will increase as revenue will increase. We particularly examined if there’s some extent at which enhancements in GDP per capita are not related to higher meat consumption. In different phrases, in a world of accelerating GDP, when may meat consumption peak?
After analysing information for 35 international locations, we recognized such a tipping level at round US$40,000 (A$57,000) of GDP per capita. Only six of the 35 international locations, nonetheless, had reached this, with different international locations persevering with on an rising trajectory.
Overall, we discovered every particular person worldwide ate, on common, 4.5 kilograms extra meat per yr in 2019 than in 2000. While we can’t say what’s behind the overall option to eat extra meat, our examine identifies some insightful traits.
The drawback with meat
Emissions from meat manufacturing are largely on account of land clearing, together with deforestation, to create extra pasture and develop feed for livestock.
To put it into perspective, human settlements occupy just one% 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 consequence, a latest UK examine discovered a vegetarian weight-reduction plan produces 59% much less emissions than a non-vegetarian one. And curiously, it discovered that the common weight-reduction plan for males within the UK had 41% extra emissions than that of girls, due to their higher consumption of meat and different animal-based merchandise.
Despite the rising proof and consciousness of the local weather influence of our diets, we discovered the common 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 choice (14.7kg), adopted by pork (11.1kg) and beef (6.4kg).
Poultry on the rise
Nearly all international locations studied (30 of 35) skilled a gradual improve in annual per capita poultry consumption between 2000 and 2019. It doubled in 13 international locations, 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 cause is due to its smaller environmental footprint: chickens require much less land and generate much decrease emissions than cattle.
However, this comes at a worth. It exposes the world, together with Australia, to new virus outbreaks such because the fowl flu, and leads to the overuse of antibiotics in cattle. This may result in antimicrobial resistance creating, and the lack of antibiotics to deal with human bacterial infections.
Industrial farming practices have added additional pressures, with animals raised in confined areas the place they’re simply uncovered to pathogens, viruses and stress, making them extra vulnerable to illness.
We have seen related impacts in China, the world’s largest producer and shopper of pork. Our evaluation revealed main dietary fluctuations, comparable to when pork consumption dropped considerably in 2007 after costs elevated by over 50%, following outbreaks of swine influenza and SARS outbreaks in people on the time.
Which international locations have reached peak meat?
While meat consumption elevated around the globe on common, taking a better have a look at particular person international locations reveals a extra sophisticated story.
Of the 35 international locations 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 either side of the financial wealth spectrum.
The three western international locations could have lowered meat consumption due to acutely aware preferences for plant-based meals, because the well being and environmental advantages develop into extra well-known. Most notably, folks in New Zealand decreased their common consumption from 86.7kg in 2000 to 75.2kg in 2019.
For the remaining three international locations, reaching the height most likely 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 prime meat-eating international locations, with an annual consumption of 89.6kg per capita in 2019, up from 88.2kg per capita in 2000. Most of this was poultry.