Global meat consumption

I saw this graph in my Twitter feed today. It comes from an article in the World Economic Forum:


I’m not surprised to see Australia at the top but the numbers are still mind-boggling – 93kg of meat per person, per year. I almost doubt their accuracy but the numbers come from here. They’re extraordinary and also unsustainable.

The recent bombings in Paris are terrible. My heart goes out to all of those affected. The media coverage of the disaster has been extensive. However I wonder how much media coverage the up and coming climate conference in Paris will generate when it begins at the end of this month? I suspect it might make headline news for one day if we’re lucky. And yet the ramifications of what is decided there will affect our species, and all the others living on earth, for centuries to come.

Livestock farming accounts for about 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions which is more than the entire transport sector put together. That’s all the trucks, planes, buses, trains, cars, and ships on the planet. Reducing our meat consumption is an easy and attainable win for the climate. It might even save the NHS some money which is surely a good thing 🙂

Oh and good article from Peter Singer here:
Paris and the Fate of the Earth.

13 thoughts on “Global meat consumption”

  1. I have been a vegetarian for almost 40 years now, and remember seeing numbers like these at that time. Clearly, we have made progress in this regard in Canada – there are more vegetarian options, more locally grown produce, and more vegetarians than when I switched – but there is a lot more than can be done to reduce our carbon footprint. Speaking out, the way you do, about living without a car, and meat helps to strengthen our resolve and to make others question their own values. Nice post.

    1. That’s so great! Canada also looks pretty good on that graph, compared to Australia anyway. I think the EU is about the same as Canada.

      Climate change sometimes feels like such an impossible problem to solve but there are huge gains we can make as individuals like eating less meat.

      1. We can all contribute by cycling more, eating less meat, buying locally, and simplifying our lives, and it is encouraging to see progress being made in that regard. But it is a complex problem and requires a co-ordinated, world-wide effort. I’ll be watching the climate change meeting in Paris with interest.

  2. I have also been a vegetarian for 40 years. It was was initially for emotional reasons but I did read ‘Diet for a Small Planet’ by Frances Lappé, who showed how much more efficient it was to feed the (growing) population being vegetarian. She also put to bed the nonsense about vegetarianism delivering inferior protein [there are 20 Amino acids and it takes little effort to ensure you get all you need with a ‘complementary diet’ ]. The ‘Westernisation’ of diet in China and elsewhere is scary because that 14.5% could grow significantly, and is already having an impact as China acquires assets in several countries to provide all sorts of commodities, including meat … e.g.

    1. The Australian live export trade has a terrible reputation for abusive treatment of animals. When I lived in Australia (more than 10 years ago now) I can remember writing letters to end the trade but despite all the efforts of animal welfare groups, nothing has changed. I don’t see why they can’t slaughter the animals at home and send them frozen.

      The thought of countries like China eating a Western-style diet with all the meat we consume is so depressing. We already slaughter ~10 billion animals every year. Imagine what that number would be if everyone in China ate as much meat as Australians eat.

  3. > Reducing our meat consumption is an easy and attainable win for the climate.
    Wow, now I am proud that I am doing my part to prevent the climate change 🙂

    1. You should be! Apparently Albert Einstein once said:

      Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet

  4. So SA’s on average are eating about 1kg of meat a week. This doesn’t surprise me. When I came here from UK I was astounded at the amount of meat eaten at a braai (barbecue). One person would eat more that the total size of my family’s Sunday roast back in UK! As you say, it is just not sustainable!

  5. So many reasons to stop consumption of animal products. Greenhouse gas emissions. Benefits to health. The cruelty of raising animals to eat. The cruelty of killing them. I doubt my last two reasons would sway many people. However, I’m keeping fingers crossed that the implications for climate change might result in a kinder world for animals. 🙂

    1. I feel the same way. I think humanity is heading in this direction but it’s probably going to take a long time – a century or more. It took at least a hundred years for women to get the vote and animals can’t speak.

  6. Dr Sarah Beynon on BBC Radio 4 Midweek talking about what needs to be done to feed the world in 2050, and the answer appears to be bugs!

    I mentioned about vegetable vs. meat efficiency factor (I think the typical number os 6x better), but for bugs this can be as high as 25x. Here is her sight.
    While it does not appeal to our sensibilities, we certainly need some creative lateral thinking to resolve the issues we face in energy, food production, etc.

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