How much meat do we eat? Consumption statistics

May 19th, 2009
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As I was driving out in the country recently, I looked out over hills that were totally denuded of native vegetation – just pastures and paddocks, most of them growing fodder for livestock.

To some it would have been an idyllic rural view and while it’s far better than seeing factories for as far as the eye can see; it’s a shame that a landscape that remained pretty much unchanged for thousands of years has fallen so quickly to cater to our desire for meat.

The usual disclaimer – I eat meat and even with recent reductions, I fully acknowledge it’s still too much. Articles I write on the topic of meat are just another way for me to come to grips with the scale of the issue, to drive home the fact that it’s something I and many others really do need to change if we can.

In my article on reducing meat consumption, I outline some of the environmental issues associated with meat eating – and they are quite shocking. Another item on the cruelty aspect of some factory farms challenges us to meet our meat.

A good way to get our heads around the issue is to compare what was then with what is now and gain an idea of exactly how much we’re consuming. Here’s some interesting statistics I dug up.

USA

In 1970 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in the USA:

Beef: ~ 80 pounds
Chicken: ~ 27 pounds
Pork: ~ 54 pounds
Turkey: ~ 7 pounds

A total of 168 pounds (around 76 kilograms) per year.

In 2005 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in the USA:

Beef: ~ 63 pounds
Chicken: ~ 60 pounds
Pork: ~ 48 pounds
Turkey: ~ 14 pounds

A total of 185 pounds (around 84 kilograms) per year.

Growth: 17 pounds

This information was sourced from the USDA. Going back further to the 1950′s, meat consumption was under the 100 pound mark per capita. While 17 pounds more may not seem like a lot, multiply that by a population of 300 million.

Australia

In 1968/69 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in Australia:

Beef and Veal: 40 kilograms
Poultry: 8.3 kilograms
Pork: 6.7 kilograms
Lamb and Mutton: 36.4 kilograms

A total of 91.4 kilograms (around 200 pounds) per year.

In 2005/06 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in Australia:

Beef and Veal: 36.7 kilograms
Poultry: 38 kilograms
Pork: 22.2 kilograms
Lamb and Mutton: 13 kilograms

A total of 109.9 kilograms (around 242 pounds) per year.

Growth: 18.5 kilograms. 

These statistics were sourced from the Victorian Department of Primary Industry. It seems like an incredible amount, but thinking back to my “meat and three meats” days; I’m sure I would have chomped my way through at least that much.

UK

I had some difficulty finding “apples to apples” (for want of a better term) statistics for the UK, but consumption of poultry meat appears to have doubled over the past 20 years, while red meat and pork consumption has remained static.  Britons’ overall meat consumption is now 50 per cent higher than it was 40 years ago.

Canada

In 1969 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in Canada

Red meat  (boneless weight) : 48.63 kilograms
Poultry  (boneless weight) : 13.70 kilograms

A total of 62.33 kilograms (around 137 pounds) per year

In 2005 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in Canada

Red meat  (boneless weight) : 39.34 kilograms
Poultry  (boneless weight) : 23.27 kilograms

A total of 62.61 kilograms (around 137 pounds) per year.

These statistics were sourced from Statistics Canada

Take a bow Canada, but not too deep as as the global average in 2003 was 38 kg (around 84 pounds) per person according to the report “Global Production and Consumption of Animal Source Foods” from the United Nations.

According to the Food Ethics Council, The UN also projects global meat consumption and production to rise as population and incomes increase in poorer nations. By 2050, it’s expected meat demand will be twice the 229 million tonnes the world ate in 2000.

Is that even possible given the environmental issues posed by the livestock industry now? Something has to give.

What sort of conditions will these animals have to live in given that so many of them will be factory farm raised? Imagine the methane production (methane is another potent greenhouse gas).

Imagine all those animals being slaughtered, some of them in terrible ways. Imagine all the land that will be utilized to feed our desire (over and above our needs) for meat.

Consider *all* the environmental damage being wreaked in the process.

Faced with this information and the prospect of a planet ringing with the screams of animals being crushed, drugged, beaten and cruelly butchered, I think we can all make an effort to reduce our meat consumption. Even if you aren’t a big fan of vegetables, there’s some half decent mock meat products around these days.


Michael Bloch
Green Living Tips.com
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