Which country eats the least meat?

Meat consumption worldwide: everyday food and luxury good

Global meat consumption has more than doubled in the past 20 years, reaching 360 million tons in 2018. The population has grown, incomes have increased - both factors caused the increase in roughly equal parts. The prognoses for the meat industry were already good - by 2028, meat consumption could grow by another 13 percent.

But meat is still a luxury good for many people in the world, the consumption of which is heavily dependent on income. Many people's incomes have collapsed due to the global economic crisis in connection with Covid-19. The World Bank assumes that if the crisis continues, around 150 million people will slip below the poverty line and many more millions will have serious shortfalls in their incomes. This also applies to China, the country with the largest meat consumption in the world. Together with the outbreak of another virus, African swine fever, Covid-19 is the main reason for the weaker consumption of pork in 2020. The fight against Covid-19 caused the economy in China to shrink by over three percent in the first half of 2020.

In most industrialized nations, meat consumption has remained relatively constant at a high level for decades. While almost 60 kilograms per person are eaten in Germany in 2019, it is more than 100 kilograms in the USA and Australia. For several years, demand has been falling slightly in some industrialized countries as concerns about health, animal welfare and the environment have increased.

The greatest growth in meat consumption will take place in the countries of the south. According to the industrialized countries organization OECD, demand there will increase four times more by 2028 than in the industrialized countries. Starting from a much lower level, but with significantly greater population growth than in the industrialized countries, the additional consumption per person is not very high. This is particularly evident on the African continent. There, demand is growing particularly quickly overall, but meat consumption per person will hardly increase over the next ten years - from 17 to 17.5 kilograms. The world's most populous nation, China, accounts for almost a third of all meat consumption today and a third of the growth it has over the past 20 years, though per capita consumption is still less than half that of the United States. The demand for meat will probably continue to rise in China as well, but growth will be significantly lower. Because the concern about obesity is growing, and from 2030 the population will decline again.

In Africa and Asia, meat consumption will overtake production. Therefore imports will also increase, particularly rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the increase in meat imports is being driven by non-Chinese Asia. The region as a whole will account for around 56 percent of world trade by 2029.

The major global trends do not apply to all types of meat to the same extent. While the proportion of beef and sheep in total consumption is decreasing, people are eating more and more pork and poultry. Poultry alone will account for around half of global growth over the next ten years. In the US, for example, per capita consumption of beef has declined by about a third over the past 30 years, while that of poultry has more than doubled. This is due, among other things, to the price advantage and the lower fat content. Pork will account for around 28 percent of the growth in the next ten years, driven primarily by increasing consumption in Asia. In many Asian and African countries, however, people hardly ever eat pork because it is out of the question for large parts of the population for religious reasons.

The data on total demand and average consumption in individual countries only provide an incomplete picture, because even within the countries, demand is very different in terms of socio-economic structures. In the industrialized regions, meat consumption per capita tends to decrease with higher education and higher income. Women and young people also eat less meat than men. In Germany, for example, men consume on average about twice as much meat and sausage per day as women. In the US - where the diet is generally meat-heavy - it is still around fifty percent more. In poorer regions of the world, incomes are extremely different, which is also reflected in the per capita meat consumption. The upper class has values ‚Äč‚Äčthat are similar to those in the OECD countries, whereas meat is a rare luxury for the much larger lower and lower middle classes. This is one of the reasons why it remains a status symbol for many.