Disease and Drought Curb Meat Production and Consumption

Global meat production rose to 297 million tons in 2011, an increase of 0.8 percent over 2010 production levels.1 By the end of 2012, meat production is projected to reach 302 million tons, an increase of 1.6 percent over 2011.These are relatively low rates of growth compared with previous years: in 2010, meat production rose by 2.6 percent, and since 2001 production has risen by 20 percent.3 (See Figure 1.) According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), record drought in the American Midwest, disease outbreaks, and rising prices of livestock feed in 2011 and 2012 all contributed to the lower rises in production.4 Natural disasters in Japan and Pakistan also constrained output and disrupted trade.5

Meat Figure 1

Also bucking a decades-long trend, meat consumption decreased slightly worldwide in 2011, from 42.5 kilograms (kg) per person in 2010 to 42.3 kg.6 Since 1995, however, per capita meat consumption has increased by 15 percent overall—but consumption in developing countries increased by 25 percent during this time, while in industrial countries it increased by just 2 percent.7 The rise in consumption was not universal among developing countries; per capita meat consumption in Niger and many other low-income countries remains low.8 (See Figure 2.) And while the disparity between meat consumption in developing and industrial countries is shrinking, it remains high: the average person in a developing country ate 32.3 kg of meat in 2011, while in industrial countries people on average ate 78.9 kg.9 Meat consumption is projected to rebound to 2010 levels by the end of 2012, with per capita consumption in industrial countries lowering to 78.4 kg and that in developing countries rising to 32.8 kg.10

Pork was the most popular meat in 2011, accounting for 37 percent of both meat production and consumption, at 109 million tons.11 This was followed closely by poultry meat, with 101 tons produced.12 Yet pork production decreased by 0.8 percent from 2010, while poultry meat production rose by 3 percent, making it likely that poultry will become the most-produced meat in the next few years.13 Production of both beef and sheep meat stagnated between 2010 and 2011, at 67 million and 13 million tons, respectively.14

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization known around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Learn More