Meat is meat, and man must eat! We humans certainly have a growing appetite for beef. Fifty years ago global consumption was around 10m tonnes, with current annual consumption now at nearly 26m tonnes. That means that today we consume on average 6kg of beef per person every year.
“Chicken or Beef?”
Our taste in meat has also changed over the same period. Beef used to be the meat of choice in the 1960s, accounting for 40% of meat consumption, but its share has fallen to around 25%. Today – pig and poultry is the beast of choice, driven by advances in battery farming and Western diet changes. In addition, the rise of populous middle-income countries such as China, India and Russia are driving the worldwide demand for meat in outright volume, influencing the trend away from beef.
The real Beefeaters
The traditional Western countries still eat the most per capita, and surprisingly Hong Kong tops the list, eating on average 56kg per year (that’s about a burger a day). The Argentines remain keen beef-eaters (44kg), as do the Americans (24kg). Naturally the cow-revering Indians are some of the lowest consuming beef eaters globally - eating only 1.2kg of beef. Ironically India is the world biggest exporter of beef; and now earns India more export dollars than basmati rice (though truth be told it’s driven by buffalo meat – which falls outside local cultural beliefs).
Here in South Africa we consume 10.7kg annually, ranking 21st globally.
Whiles it’s generally true that wealthier nations consume more meat on average; some meat lovers buck that trend. Brazil for example – consume more meat per capita than the USA, despite a GDP per capita one fifth that of the Americans.
So...what does Marty McFly say?
So the future of meat consumption will always be entwined with consumers, and our ever-changing environment will drive production and consumption. The current negative world population growth is almost irrelevant; as transportation and global access expands, the consumer base also increases.
While there are more people with increased income levels, we also see marked increases in obesity and other associated health concerns. And we’re seeing a more ethnically diverse population that demands how markets distribute and sell meat. Meat-eaters have also fallen foul of environmental experts, as around 20 percent of the Earth's greenhouse gas emissions are linked to worldwide livestock farming. In contrast, emissions from cars, trains, boats and planes combined accounted for around 13 percent.
Let’s just hope our eastern relatives don’t start developing a love of the beef!