A few months ago the Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) released a sixty-six page report on meat consumption around the globe called the Meat Atlas. In their words “the report presents a global perspective on the impacts of industrial meat and dairy production, and illustrates its increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment. The way we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink.”
The narrative within the report has a definite anti-ag lean to it, and coming from Europe it’s all in metric, but the facts and statistics within are rich and varied. If you’re interested in the way we grow and process animals for human consumption, then please read the entire report, but below is an executive summary of sorts with some of the most powerful and intriguing facts about the meat we eat.
Page 10: “In the USA, the number of pig raisers fell by 70 percent between 1992 and 2009, while the pig population remained the same.”
Top 5 Beef Producers – USA, Brazil, European Union, China, India
Top 5 Pork Producers - China, European Union, USA, Brazil, Russia
Top 5 Poultry Producers - USA, China, Brazil, European Union, Russia
Page 12: JBS SA is the world’s largest beef producer, and “its worldwide capacities can slaughter 85,000 head of cattle, 70,000 pigs, and 12 million birds. Every day.”
Page 13: Revenue of top 3 meat companies in the world (JBS/Tyson/Cargill): $104.5 billion combined. The rest of the top 10: $85.3 billion combined.
Page 14: Between 1967 and 2010, the number of slaughterhouses in the United States fell from almost 10,000 to less than 3,000.
Page 15: in 2011, China ate 11.5 billion animals. Based on the 2011 population of 1.346 billion people, that’s 8.5 animals per year per person.
In 2011, the US ate 9 billion animals. Based on the 2011 population of 312 million people, that’s 29 animals per year per person.
Page 25: Sixty percent of beef cattle raised in the world are of three breeds: Angus, Hereford, and Simmental.
Page 28: It takes about 1,850 gallons of water to produce one 16 oz. steak.
Page 41: Only Australians eat more chicken per capita than the US. Chickens “are the world’s most numerous bird species.”
Page 46: Per capita meat consumption in the US fell by 9% between 2007-2012.
Page 56: About 5% of the US population is vegan or vegetarian.
Page 59: Edible percentage of animals:
It’s clear that meat production has a huge impact on water consumption and land use, but we’re not going to stop eating burgers (or barbecue) because of that. From their report, the FOEE seems to prefer if more of us were vegetarians, but they do briefly address sustainable farming. “Meat can be produced by keeping animals on pasture instead of in buildings, and by producing feed locally rather than shipping it thousands of kilometers.” That’s true, but we’d all just have to be happy paying a lot more for our next barbecue sandwich.