The Rise Of Meat Consumption And Related Trends
Globally, meat consumption is on the rise. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that between 1990 and 2009, aggregate global meat consumption increased by almost 60% and per capita consumption by almost 25%. Meat consumption is expected to continue increasing by 1.7% per year through 2021. However, both animal advocates and those in the meat industry are aware that this increase is largely due to a growing population and rising income levels in developing countries. In contrast, meat consumption—and particularly red meat— is predicted to stagnate or decrease in some developed countries.
This paper, published in Meat Science, aims to help the meat sector overcome these challenges by connecting trends in meat consumption with measures of consumer confidence in the quality of meat. While the paper’s findings are explicitly geared to the meat sector, it also provides animal advocates with some useful information about meat consumption trends and insights into how the farmed animal sector may be responding.
In the first part of the paper, the authors use secondary data sources to provide an overview of current and future consumption trends by location and meat type. In addition to citing the FAO data above, they note that most future growth is expected in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. A decrease in consumption is expected in some developing countries due to factors including reduced income, declining populations, increased health and dietary awareness, and concern for animal welfare and the environment. They also cite data showing that consumption of white meat, including poultry and pig meat, is exceeding that of red meat. As such, they note that red meat suppliers will need to work hard to maintain their market share.
The second part of the paper analyzes how consumers perceive of and use information about meat quality to make purchasing decisions. The authors describe that consumers are not only influenced by the taste and sources of meat products but also by the ethical impacts of meat production. This reflects an “increasing emphasis on process characteristics like organic production, animal welfare and environmental sustainability.” They also identify market “threats” including “experts promoting a low-meat diet over a high-meat diet” and “recent media attention suggesting a link between red meat consumption and certain illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.”
In conclusion, the authors warn that “the meat industry needs to leverage all of the tools at its disposal to ensure consumer satisfaction in an environmentally sustainable manner.” They offer recommendations such as using new processing technologies and providing and marketing healthier and more sustainably produced meat products.
In addition to revealing consumption trends, the paper presents a clear message for animal advocates: consumers care about the ethical and environmental impacts of meat production and will consider these impacts, perhaps increasingly so, when making purchasing decisions. Advocates must continue to inform the public about the adverse and unsustainable impacts of meat production on animals and the environment.
As of October 2016, you can find the full text of this study here (PDF).