40+ Facts and Statistics About the Meat Industry to Inspire You to Eat Less Meat (or Go Vegetarian/Vegan)

40+ Facts and Statistics About the Meat Industry to Inspire You to Eat Less Meat (or Go Vegetarian/Vegan)

People eat more meat now than they ever have. What was once a luxury food item for those privileged enough to afford it has quickly become a staple in most people’s diets (most people in the developed world that is). This increased meat consumption is due in part to rising incomes and better standards of living across the globe, hyper-industrialisation (note: factory farming), globalisation of the industry spearheaded by multinational food companies, and improved science and technology where farmers can efficiently raise livestock and animals for maximum profits to ensure customers can buy cheap meat all year round.

But this love of meat is having serious impacts on the environment and human health and by delivering facts and research findings, we hope to empower you to a kinder, greener and more compassionate way of life. We’ve also broken the facts and stats down into subcategories for your reading pleasure.

Related Post: Free E-Book ‘Questioning Meat’ by Robin Schaper is for the Wannabe Vegan

So whether you’re writing a report on the links between animal agriculture and climate change, completing an assignment for school or just interested to learn more about the environmental and social impacts of animal farming, here are some facts and statistics about the meat industry that may shock you… and hopefully encourages you to eat less meat at the very least, or at best, embrace a plant-based or vegetarian diet.

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Meat consumption habits

1. It is estimated that 70 billion land animals are slaughtered each year for food (this excludes fish and other seafood). (FAOSTAT)

2. The global average meat consumption is 34.1 kilograms. (From the book, On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

3. Australians are among the biggest meat eaters in the world, consuming on average of 110 kilograms of animal meat each year. (On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

4. Australia and the US have similar meat consumption habits; with poultry the most consumed meat at over 40kg per person. Beef, veal and pig meat each account for between 20-30 kg per person. Fish accounts for around 15kg per person and sheep meat less than 10 kg per person. (Agriculture.gov.au)

5. In 2018, global meat consumption was 360 million tonnes. (Agriculture.gov.au)

6. Over the 20 years to 2019, global meat consumption increased by 64%. (Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2019 State of the Industry Report)

7. While the number of people on the planet has doubled over the last 50 years, the amount of meat consumed has tripled. (Ourworldindata.org)

Raw chickens for sale. Photo: Muhammad Taufik.

8. By 2050, the demand for meat and milk is projected to grow by 73% and 58% respectively, from their levels in 2010. (Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock Report, FAO 2013)

9. Chicken has overtaken beef as the most popular meat in both Australia and the United States. (On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

10. China’s meat consumption increased by 72% between 1998 and 2018. (Agriculture.gov.au)

11. In Australia and the US, meat consumption increased over the 20 years to 2018 because of greater poultry consumption. (Agriculture.gov.au)

12. In 2017, Australians on average consumed 300g per day of meat, compared to the global daily average of 93g. (On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

13. Australian per capita beef consumption was around 3x higher than the global average in 2018. (Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2019 State of the Industry Report)

14. In 2018, sheepmeat accounted for 5% of total global meat consumption (excluding seafood) while beef and veal accounted for 22%. Chicken and pork each accounted for 37%. (Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2019 State of the Industry Report)

15. Food fish consumption grew from 9kg in 1961 to 20.2kg in 2015, at an
average rate of about 1.5% per year on a per capita basis. (FAO. 2018, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals)

16. Fish provided about 3.2 billion people with nearly 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein. (FAO. 2018, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals)

Credit: Sung Jin Cho

Livestock production

17. One-third of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock. (Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare, Emily S Cassidy et al 2013).

18. Twice the world population could be fed with today’s global harvest (2019) if we did not feed farmed animals but rather consumed the yield ourselves. (ATKearney article, How Will Cultured Meat and Meat Alternatives Disrupt the Agricultural and Food Industry?)

19. In 2018, India and Brazil were the top beef and veal exporters with Australia ranked in third position. (Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2019 State of the Industry Report)

20. In Australia, feedlots produce about 80% of the beef sold in supermarkets. (On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

21. Nearly 50 billion chickens are killed every year for human consumption. (World Economic Forum 2019)

22. An estimated 1.5 billion pigs are slaughtered to feed the global appetite for pork, bacon, ham and sausages; a number that has tripled in the last 50 years. (World Economic Forum 2019)

23. Roughly 500 million sheep are slaughtered each year for food. (World Economic Forum 2019)

24. Each year, approximately 1.5 billion cows are slaughtered for meat. (World Economic Forum 2019)

Photo: Juliana Amorim.

Animal treatment

25. Dairy cows have been bred to produce up to 10x more milk than they would naturally. (Compassion in World Farming, ‘The Life of Dairy Cows’)

26. Modern day chicken growth is considered a ‘scientific mastery’ getting it from egg to the cooking pot in just 35 days compared with 84 days in the 1960s. (On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

27. Most chickens are grown intensively, with up to 42 kgs of live birds per square metre of floor space. (On Eating Meat by Matthew Evans)

“Meat chickens have been selectively bred over the past 60 years for a variety of characteristics, including growth rate and efficiency to convert feed into meat. This is why they reach the desired market weight and quality more quickly than the progenitor breeds of chickens from which they were originally derived.” – Australian Chicken Meat Federation website, 2019

28. Dairy cows have a lifespan of 20 years, but poorly managed farms with high-yielding cattle or high rates of disease will slaughter their animals at just 5-6 years of age and sometimes at 2-3. (Compassion in World Farming, ‘The Life of Dairy Cows’)

29. In the UK, roughly 48% of eggs are produced in battery cages. (RSPCA UK)

30. Australia exported over 1.1 million live cattle and 1.1 million live sheep in 2018. (Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2019 State of the Industry Report)

Meat industry and climate change

31. The livestock industry consumes an estimated 40% of global arable land, 36% of crop calories produced and 29% of agricultural freshwater. (Chatham House, Meat Analogues 2019)

32. Meat farming produces much higher emissions per calorie than vegetables. (Skeptical Science)

Photo: Amber Kipp.

33. The meat industry contributes roughly 14.5% of all human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock Report, FAO 2013)

34. Beef production releases 4x more greenhouse gases than a calorie-equivalent amount of pork, and 5x as much as an equivalent amount of poultry. (Skeptical Science)

35. Livestock production accounts for more direct greenhouse gases than all trains, ships, planes and road transportation combined. (From the book, Every Woman’s Guide to Saving the Planet by Natalie Isaacs)

36. Beef cattle need 28x more land and 11x more water than poultry, pork, dairy, or eggs in the US. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, ‘Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States’)

37. A ‘low-impact’ litre of cow’s milk uses almost twice as much land and creates almost double the emissions as an average litre of soymilk. (University of Oxford, 2018, ‘New estimates of the environmental cost of food’)

38. Brazil has the largest population of cattle in the world leading to the destruction of vast areas of the Amazon rainforest, accounting for 80% of deforestation. (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies)

39. Animal product free diet deliver greater environmental benefits than buying sustainable meat or dairy. (University of Oxford, 2018, ‘New estimates of the environmental cost of food’)

40. If everyone in the UK went vegan, there would still be enough food for everyone to eat. (2019 Harvard study, ‘Eating away at climate change with negative emissions‘)

41. If every family in the UK removed the meat from just one meal a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 16 million cars off the road. (WalesOnline)

42. Plant-based diets can reduce food’s emissions by up to 73% depending where you live. (University of Oxford, 2018, ‘New estimates of the environmental cost of food’)

43. Beef has a huge water footprint. On average it takes 15,400 litres of water to make 1kg of beef . (University of Twente 2010 report, ‘The green, blue and grey water footprint of animals and animal products‘)

Meat and health implications

44. Long-term consumption of red meat, processed meat particularly, is associated with an increased risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes for men and women. (PubMed, ‘Health Risks Associated with Meat Consumption: A Review of Epidemiological Studies‘)

45. People who eat animal protein are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. (Nutrients vol. 6,2 897-910. 21 Feb. 2014,Meat Consumption as a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes‘)

46. Processed meats including ham, bacon, salami and frankfurts has been classified by the World Health Organization as a Group 1 carcinogen which means that there’s strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer. (Cancer Council Australia)

47. Consuming processed meat increases your risk of bowel and stomach cancer. (Cancer Council Australia)

48. High meat and saturated fat consumption in the United States and other high-income countries exceeds nutritional needs and contributes to high rates of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and some cancers. (PubMed, ‘Public health implications of meat production and consumption‘)

49. Red meat (beef, lamb and pork) has been classified by the World Health Organization as a Group 2A carcinogen which means it probably causes cancer. (Cancer Council Australia)

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Disclosure: The curated list is based on the writer’s research and all data and stats are current at time of publishing. This list also contains affiliate links. For more information, click here.

Feature image via Unsplash.

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