Ever since humans walked this Earth, we have been killing helpless animals to satisfy our own needs and desires. But has our meat consumption gotten out of hand?
Over the years, meat consumption has risen dramatically, with humans now consuming millions of tonnes of meat each year.
Whether you’re a big meat eater, a vegan, or someone who occasionally eats meat here and there (like me), you’ll be surprised to know the facts and figures that come with meat consumption.
Top 10 Most Insightful Stats
- Stats Show Chicken is the Most Produced Meat in the World, With a Percentage of 35%
- The Second Most Consumed Meat in the World Is Pigmeat
- The Third Most Consumed Meat Is from Cattle in the World
- World meat production reached 337 million tonnes in 2020
- Almost 46 Million Turkeys Are Consumed by Americans on Thanksgiving
- Per Capita Meat Consumption of the World Was 34.1 Kilos from 2019 to 2021
- Pigmeat output is projected to rise to 127 Mt by 2030
- According to Stats for 2022, the Meat Industry Is worth $961.17 Billion
- America Has the Highest Annual Meat Consumption of 219 Pounds per Capita
- Broilers Are the Most-eaten Meat in the US, with per Capita Consumption of 98.9 Pounds
Most Consumed Meat in the World
Meat makes up a large part of the human diet, so it surely comes as no surprise that we eat millions of tonnes of it every year. But do you know which meats we mostly consume worldwide?
Well, the results may slightly shock you. Take a look at the types of meat below.
- Chicken: 35%
- Pork: 33%
- Cattle: 20%
- Other: 12%
Latest Stats Show, With 35 Percent of the Global Production in 2020, Chicken Meat Showed the Largest Growth (FAO)
If you were to ask me, “What is the most consumed meat in the world?” I would answer chicken, mainly because over 24% of the world population follows the religion of Islam, and with their beliefs, they avoid pig meat altogether.
According to FAO, chicken meat experienced significant growth in both absolute and relative terms since 2000, with a remarkable increase of 104 percent or 61 million tonnes. This growth made chicken meat the most produced type of meat in 2020, accounting for 35 percent of global production.
So every time you eat nuggets, wings, drumsticks, or crispy chicken, you’re contributing to the most consumed meat in the world.
In 2021, Poultry Was the Most Consumed Meat in the World, with a Total Consumption of 132.3 Million Tons (OECD)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when the world went into lockdown, poultry was the most widely consumed meat, with the population eating more turkey, chicken, duck, and pheasants than ever before.
Why did poultry meat take over, you ask? The reason is likely due to an outbreak of African Swine Fever that spread across various Asian countries and wiped out populations of pigs, limiting the amount of pork available.
The Second Most Produced Meat in the World Is Pig Meat (FAO)
Pork typically took the top spot of the most consumed meats in the world because it comes in different forms, is easy to preserve, and is a good source of protein.
In 2020, pig meat accounted for 33 percent of the total meat production, a decrease from 39 percent in 2000. The emergence of African swine fever in late 2018 had a significant impact on Asian countries, and its effects continued throughout 2019 and 2020.
As a result, there was a substantial decline of 11 million tonnes in global pig meat production between 2018 and 2019, with China being the most affected. The continued impact of African swine fever constrained pig meat production in 2020 as well.
The Third Most Produced Meat Is From Cattle in the World (FAO)
Following chicken and pork meat is cattle meat, contributing to 20% of meat consumption worldwide. The proportion of cattle meat decreased from 24 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2020.
It’s strange to think that the biggest of all farm animals that produce the most meat per animal comes in third place, isn’t it?
World meat production reached 337 million tonnes in 2020 (FAO)
In 2020, global meat production reached 337 million tonnes, indicating a significant increase of 45 percent or 104 million tonnes compared to 2000.
While numerous species are raised for meat production, three main types, namely chicken, pig, and cattle, dominated the industry, collectively contributing to nearly 90 percent of global production between 2000 and 2020.
What is the Most Eaten Meat in the World?
Recent FAO studies conducted in 2022 have led to revised figures regarding the production of different types of meat, with chicken taking the lead. However, to provide a comprehensive overview, we will also present you with meat consumption statistics from the OECD-FAO, which offer valuable insights into global meat consumption patterns.
By looking at studies from the OECD for the year 2018, there are three types of meat, pork, poultry, and beef, that make up over 90% of the meat humans consume each year:
- According to OECD-FAO, pork, with a percentage of 36%, is the most-eaten meat in the world
- The second most eaten meat in the world is poultry, with a percentage of 33%
- Beef is the third most eaten meat in the world, with a percentage of 24%
- Sheep meat and goats are the fourth and fifth most-eaten meat and make up a total of 5%
Most Popular Meats
So, now we know which meat humans mostly consume, just how much of it actually reaches our plates each year?
The Popularity of Turkeys, the Sixth Most Eaten Meat, Could Be Assessed by the Fact that Approximately 46 Million Turkeys Are Consumed by Americans on Thanksgiving (US Poultry and Egg Association)
I’m from the U.K. Brits typically only eat turkeys on Christmas Day. Similarly, turkey popularity skyrockets across the pond every fourth Thursday of November when Thanksgiving rolls around.
Would you believe roughly 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving day alone? Considering the population of the United States is approximately 334 million, that’s one turkey for every seven people!
4.8 Million Ducks Are Produced in China; Hence, They Are the Most Popular Meat in China and the Seventh Most Popular Meat in the World (Helgi Library)
We all know that China has the world’s largest population, and China’s 1.4 billion people seem to love duck meat. Over the years, the amount of tons of duck meat China produces has shot up, and in 2021, it reached an all-time high of 4,823,000.
Extremely Popular in Asia, Buffalo Meat Is the Eighth Most Consumed Meat in the World (Stakeholder Foods)
95.8% of all water buffalos live in Asia, so it probably comes as no surprise that Stakeholder Foods has stated that buffalo meat is a popular choice in many Asian countries.
It’s so popular that Asia has put buffalo meat in the eighth spot for the most consumed animal meat worldwide. This is because Buffalo produces a lot of meat and is a vital source of protein. That’s mostly true in countries where nutritional imbalances are common.
The Ninth Most Consumed Meat Is the White Meat of Goose, Produced by China, Egypt, and Poland (NCBI)
Goose meat is another meat I haven’t and likely won’t ever try, but according to the NCBI in China, Egypt, and Poland, goose meat is a favorite among locals, with Polish people eating goose meat throughout November to celebrate St. Martin’s Day.
Asia Accounts for 70.5% of Global Rabbit Meat Production; Popular in Europe and China, Rabbit Meat Is the Tenth Most Consumed Meat in the World (MDPI)
In Europe and China, rabbit is widely consumed; in Malta, the national dish even contains rabbit meat.
Consumption of Meat
Below are some more facts about meat consumption, which are almost mind-blowing.
In 2023 More than 350 Million Metric Tonnes of Meat Is Produced Annually in the World (OECD)
Global meat production has increased with each and every year, and Our World in Data estimated that globally, humans consume 340 million tonnes, which is more than quadruple the amount we consumed in 1961. But the latest stats of 2023 reveal almost 350.5 million metric tonnes of meat is produced globally.
The Consumption of Meat Has Doubled in the Last 30 Years (The World Counts)
With the ever-growing population, The World Counts has stated that meat consumption from 1988 to 2018 doubled, with no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
It Is Expected by 2050, Global Meat Consumption Will Be Projected Between 460 Million and Staggering 570 Million Tons (The World Counts)
In 1961, the world produced 70.57 tons of meat; by 2020, that number had reached 337.18 million tonnes.
In a further 27 years, experts have estimated that global meat consumption could reach up to 570 million tonnes, more than 8 times the amount that the world produced in 1961. Shocking, isn’t it?
Per Capita Meat Consumption of the World Was 34.1 Kilos per Person from 2019 to 2021 (OECD, FAO)
How much meat do you think you consume each year? The average number per person sits at 34.1 kilos.
Although you may eat substantially more than that, it’s important to remember that over 690 million people live in extreme poverty and can’t afford meat, ultimately bringing the mean average down.
From 2020 to 2022, the per Capita Meat Consumption Was Highest in North America, I.E., 79.1 Kilos per Person (OECD, FAO)
Of all the six inhabited continents, North America consumed the most meat over two years (2020 to 2022), and each person consumed a whopping 79.1 kilos of meat. The cheap prices of meat, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, really led to boredom eating, didn’t it?
According to Stats for 2022, the Meat Industry Is worth $961.17 Billion (MMR, Statista)
When you think of billion-dollar industries, your mind probably goes to film production, healthcare, or tech, but would you believe that the meat industry is nearly a trillion-dollar industry? It is expected by the end of 2023, the global meat market will cross $1029.35 billion US dollars.
By 2027, It Is Predicted Meat Industry Value Will Reach $1354 Billion (MMR, Statista)
In just four years, the value of the meat industry can rocket from $961 billion to over $1.3 trillion. In 2021, the meat sector was estimated at $897 billion, meaning it rose by $64 billion in just one year!
Pigmeat output is projected to rise to 127 Mt by 2030 (OECD)
33% of all meat humans eat is pork; over the years, the number of metric kilotons we consume has steadily grown.
Pigmeat output is projected to reach 127 million tonnes by 2030, representing a 13% increase from the (African Swine Fever) ASF-affected base level of 2018-2020. This growth is facilitated by more favorable meat-to-feed ratios compared to beef production.
However, the ASF outbreak across Asia, starting in late 2018, will continue to impact many countries, with China, the Philippines, and Vietnam being the most affected. Global pigmeat output is expected to remain below previous peak levels until 2023, after which it is projected to steadily increase for the rest of the outlook period.
The Agriculture Outlook assumes that both China and Vietnam will experience an increase in pig meat production starting in 2021, reaching the levels observed in 2017 by 2023.
The Best Meat in the World
What one person would consider the best meat in the world would differ from the next because I’m sure your favorite meat will likely differ from mine. When I do eat meat, it tends only to be chicken, but even that’s a rare occurrence.
If you were to consider the health benefits that come along with certain meats, then the best meat in the world would be as follows:
- Fish and shellfish like salmon and lobster
- American Bison
Red meats like beef, pork, lamb, veal, venison, and duck are great sources of iron, zinc, and protein. However, they are higher in saturated fat, which can cause cardiovascular diseases. So, if you are a huge meat lover, try and switch red meat out for fish, turkey, or chicken.
Which Countries Eat the Most Meat?
Humans in every country consume meat, but some countries stand out from the rest and eat much more meat than others. How do you think your country ranks?
According to the OECD, America Has the Highest Annual Meat Consumption of 219 Pounds per Capita (OECD)
It’s no secret that Americans love meat; from fried chicken and meatloaf to beef burgers and hot dogs, meat is a staple in the average American’s everyday diet, making America the largest consumer.
You’ll be as shocked as I was to know that according to the OECD, every year, the average American consumes nearly 220 pounds of meat, nearly twice the amount of the average adult male!
Australia Comes Second with a per Capita Meat Consumption of 203 Pounds (OECD)
Following close behind America and its massive meat consumption is Australia, with Aussies eating just 16 pounds less each year. The reason for this is that Australia has access to quality meat at cheap prices, especially compared to other countries.
Add on the fact that Australia loves throwing things on the barbie, and inevitably, the country’s meat consumption has soared.
Almost 198 Pounds per Capita of Meat Are Consumed by Argentina (OECD)
In 2018, Argentina took third place for countries with the highest meat consumption, as each person consumed 198 pounds of meat, just 5 pounds less than Australia.
Most people living in Argentina stick to a beef-orientated diet, eating every part of the animal from its head all the way down to its tail.
In Israel, 195 Pounds per Capita of Meat Is Consumed (OECD)
Following closely in Argentina’s footsteps, Israelis consumed 195 pounds of meat yearly. However, their preference is chicken and turkey, with fish and lamb being popular choices too.
The Fifth Country with the Highest per Capita Meat Consumption Is Brazil (OECD)
Brazil in 2018 was the fifth country with the highest meat consumption, as the average Brazilian consumes 170 pounds of meat, which is significantly lower than the average American.
Similar to Argentina, beef, particularly a cut called picanha, is Brazilian’s top meat option.
Most Eaten Meat in America
So, Americans love meat, and we know that by the fact that each American eats over 200 pounds of meat each year, but which meat do you think is the most eaten countrywide?
According to Stats for 2022, Broilers Are the Most-eaten Meat in the US, with per Capita Consumption of 98.9 Pounds (Chickencouncil.org)
Chicken has become the most popular meat throughout the world; broiler (chicken bred for meat production) was the most popular meat in America, as each person ate a huge 98.9 pounds per year in 2022, and is expected to increase to 100.1 pounds by the end of 2023.
Considering the average American eats 219 pounds of meat each year, chickens nearly make up half of it.
Since 1980, US Chicken Availability per Capita Has Increased by Double (USDA)
Combine that with chickens’ low price point and health benefits, and it’s really no wonder why Americans eat more and more each year.
It Is Forecasted by 2031, the per Capita Broiler Consumption Will Reach 101.6 Pounds (USDA)
As the years continue to go by, it’s likely that Americans will be eating more and more chicken, with the figures estimated to reach over 100 pounds of chicken consumption by a single American each year.
Chicken is one of the cheapest meat options. With the US currently going through a recession, average Americans are trying to keep grocery costs low, opting for chicken over other, more expensive meats.
In 2022, Beef Was the Second Most Consumed Meat in the US (USDA)
In 2021, however, pork was the second most consumed meat in the US. Considering pork being the second most popular and consumed meat worldwide, it is justified. But the latest study of 2022 now suggests beef took the second spot after chicken, as Americans clearly loved their burgers during the pandemic.
You can also have a look at the beef production stats by US states.
The per Capita Pork Consumption in 2021 in the US Was 49.7 Pounds (USDA)
Pork, at times, was one of the most consumed meats in the US, especially during the 1940s. However, over the past 80 years, Americans have favored most beef and, more recently, chicken, putting pork in the third spot for meat consumed by the United States.
The reasons pork is the third most consumed meat in America could be because of religion, as 7.9 million Jewish people and 4.5 million Muslims call the US home, the low price of chicken, and because pork isn’t the healthiest meat option.
Beef Consumption by Country
Beef makes up 24% of the global meat consumed, but in 2020 especially, beef consumption was extortionate, with a few countries, in particular, consuming a lot more than others. Any guesses which?
Overall, 70.43 Metric kilotonnes of Beef and Veal were Consumed All over the World in 2022 (OECD, FAO)
In 20220, according to FAO, humans ate just over 130 billion pounds of beef worldwide, which was up from the previous year, but in 2022, the number increased to 70.43 metric kilotonnes, which is around 155 billion pounds.
One million pounds of beef would take 4,630 cows, so I’ll let you do the math on that one.
The US Ranked the Highest in Beef Consumption by Consuming 28.29 Billion Pounds of Beef in 2022 (USDA)
Of all the countries throughout the world, the US accounted for 21.19% of global beef consumption, putting them above the most populous country, China.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the US a few times, and one thing I noticed was that American portions are twice the size of what we have in the UK.
Combine the overly large portion sizes with the vast amount of takeaway options and fast food restaurants, and it really does make sense why the US ranks at number one.
China Accounted for 16% of the World’s Beef Consumption (USDA)
Chinese people consumed almost 21 billion pounds of beef in 2020, which is 6.6 billion less than America and more than the European Union combined.
And the reason why China consumes a lot of beef is that beef is used in traditional Chinese medicines, which most of the population swear by.
European Union Consumed 17.1 Billion Pounds of Beef (USDA)
Third on the list for beef consumption in 2020 was the European Union, with 27 countries and over 440 million people coming together to make up 13.11% of global beef consumption.
Brazil Consumed 16.7 Billion Pounds of Beef Meat (USDA)
Just behind the European Union was Brazil, with Brazilians consuming 12.88% of the year’s beef consumption, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you think it is nearly 13% of 130 billion.
Did you know that there are more cows in Brazil than people? And with all-you-can-eat steak restaurants, favorable environments, and land available to cattle, it’s no wonder the country ranks at number 4.
Surprisingly, India Ranked Fifth on the List of Highest Beef Consumption (USDA)
You’ll be shocked to know that India, the world’s second most populous country, landed in the fifth spot, with its 1.4 billion residents consuming only 4.19% of the total beef consumption figure.
However, the reason behind this low figure is quite obvious, as India is a largely Hindu country, with Hindus abstaining from eating beef. Other religious members living in India, like Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, also refrain from eating beef and other meat products.
What Is the Most Widely Eaten Meat in the World?
Throughout the world, chicken is the most widely eaten meat, as it accounts for 35% of global meat consumption.
Which Is the Most Popular Meat in Japan?
Pork is the most popular meat in Japan, followed by chicken and beef.
With an Increase in Population and Growing Demand, Is Meat Sustainable for the Future?
How Much of the Land and Water Is Required for Global Meat Consumption?
The world uses 10% of agricultural land to grow crops for animal feed, more than two-thirds of the world’s agricultural land for grazing animals, and 70% of the world’s freshwater for agricultural purposes.
How is Meat Farming Affecting the Planet?
Meat production is the biggest cause of deforestation, as making room for grazing animals means destroying forests and grasslands.
If deforestation wasn’t bad enough, many animal species are becoming endangered and, even worse, extinct, all while billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere thanks to the meat production industry.
What is the Healthier and More Sustainable Choice for Future Meat Consumption?
The most sustainable and healthier choice for future meat consumption is to eat less meat or to eat meat raised in pastures rather than factory-farmed raised meat, which is done on a much larger scale.
Unfortunately, meat consumption is one of those environmental problems that will likely never end as humans are conditioned to eat meat.
And even though supplements and a plant-based diet can provide the human body with the nutrients it needs, it will be almost impossible to cut meat from the entire population’s diet.
There are some things you as an individual can do to help reduce meat consumption, however, with the most obvious being cutting down the amount of meat you eat each week.
Do you think you can limit yourself to eating meat only once or twice a week? If so, you could ultimately be helping the planet and the animals who would have once ended up on your plate.
And although cutting meat out of your diet may not seem like a huge benefit in the grand scheme of things, aside from helping the planet and the slaughtered animals who are simply raised for food, there are actually reports that show strong connections between meat and increased risk of cancer.
So, cutting it out really is a win-win.