The inexorable rise in global meat consumption

Although recent decades have seen an increase in interest in vegetarianism in some developed countries, global meat consumption continues to rise. According to a report from the Washington DC based Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project (;, “worldwide meat consumption has triped over the last four decades and increased 20 percent in just the last 10 years”. Per capita meat consumption averaged 41.9 kilograms (kg) in 2010 (increasing from 41.3 kg in the previous year), with people in developing countries averaging 32 kg of meat compared with 80 kg per person in the industrialised world.  With the world’s population passing the 7 billion mark in 2011, this figure equates to nearly 300 million metric tons of meat from around 60 billion animals.  Apparently, pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world, followed by poultry, beef and mutton.  Other figures from the report show that raising livestock accounts for roughly 23 percent of all global water use in agriculture (equivalent to 1.15 litres of water per person per day), and 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, including 40 percent of the world’s methane and 65 percent of the world’s nitrous oxide, two potent greenhouse gases.  An incredible 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in 2009 were used on livestock (as prophylactics and to boost weight gain), of which three-quarters was excreted in waste, posing a serious risk to public health, with only 20 percent of antibiotics used to treat human illnesses.

Not surprisingly, the Worldwatch Institute blame “industrial livestock production” for the problems, but see “pastoral farming systems” as part of the solution (which strikes me as a case of ‘wanting your meat and eating it’).  To be fair they also advocate “eating less meat”, athough they don’t put a figure on how much less meat people should eat. 

How about none at all?!

 Paul Appleby



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