Meat Production and Consumption Continues to Grow

Danielle Nierenberg | Nov 12, 2009

The world’s appetite for meat continues to grow—in 2008, meat production topped an estimated 280 million tons and production is expected to exceed 285 million tons by the end of 2009.1 (See Figure 1.) Meat production has doubled since the mid-1970s and over the last 50 years has increased fivefold. Experts project that by 2050 nearly twice as much meat will be produced as today, at more than 465 million tons.2 More than half of all meat and dairy products are produced in developing nations.3 (See Figure 2.)

Meat consumption is also growing worldwide. Currently 42 kilograms of meat are consumed per person worldwide. Consumption varies greatly, however, between countries.4 In the developing world, people eat about 32 kilograms of meat a year—a 17 percent increase over the last 10 years.5 But consumers in the industrial world eat more than 81 kilograms each in a year.6

Rising meat consumption is the result of several factors, including increased population growth, the movement of people to cities, and growing incomes.7 The income elasticity of demand for meat products is high; in other words, increases in income are positively correlated with meat consumption.8

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