09.11.2018 |

World meat production to reach record high in 2018, FAO

Meat production is on the rise (Photo: CC0)

The world is projected to produce a record 335 million tons of meat in 2018, according to the latest Food Outlook published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is an increase of 1.5% compared to 330 million tons of meat (in carcass weight equivalent) in 2017 and the fastest growth since 2014. The FAO experts expect a strong recovery of the meat sector in China, after three years of contraction, and increases in the United States and the EU. “Meat production forecasts were raised for the EU and Australia, where dry and warm weather propelled feed costs, fostering an increase in animal slaughter,” says the report. Over the past 50 years, global meat production has almost quadrupled from 84 million tons in 1965. World meat exports in 2018 are forecast to hit a new record of 33.6 million tons, up 2.6% from 2017. FAO said export growth this year is foreseen to originate in the United States, Australia, Argentina, Thailand and the EU, while imports are projected to rise in China, Japan, Mexico and the Republic of Korea. Global meat consumption is also on the rise. On average, every person on Earth currently consumes 43.7 kilograms of meat per year, up from 25 kilograms in 1965.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) criticized in a statement released on Thursday that worldwide demand for meat continues to rise even though meat production is known to be a major contributor to climate change and environmental destruction. “Hectares of rainforest in South America are cleared for cattle, to make our favorite classic burgers and steaks. One average quarter pounder beef burger drains around 1,695 liters of water, depending on where it is made, from precious resources,” the statement says. Animal feed made from soy – one of the largest export commodities from South America – is leading to widespread deforestation and displacement of farmers and indigenous peoples around the globe. James Lomax, Sustainable Food Systems and Agriculture Programme Management Officer at UN Environment, points out that small organic husbandry operations have a very different environmental footprint compared with industrial type livestock production. “But at the core of the environmental issue is the way meat is produced, and crucially, consumed. We must explore ways to strike an ecological balance. Reducing intensively farmed meat consumption is good for people and the planet. That means eating a sustainably reared or alternative burger or steak now and then, rather than an intensively-farmed mass-produced version three times a week,” he added. But there are also vegan and plant-based meat alternatives for those who can’t live without burgers. Research by the University of Michigan shows that Americans eat around three burgers a week. If just one of these was swapped for a plant-based alternative burger for one year, it would be like taking the greenhouse gases from 12 million cars off the road for a year. (ab)

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