Meat-eating in the US has declined four years in a row and five out of the last six years, according to the Daily Livestock Report. Per person meat, poultry and fish consumption reached its maximum in 2004 at 237.5 pounds, and is now down to 224 pounds. (They say 2004 was the peak year in popularity for high protein diets such as Atkins.)
Beef consumption apparently was nearly as low in 2010 as it was in 1958. Pork consumption was also down, but not as much as beef. One reason for the meat consumption decline is increasing grain prices, and they implicate government support for biofuels, which probably means ethanol. Corn grown for ethanol is used to feed livestock sometimes, but it typically is not used to feed people, as is commonly held, so growing it does not take food away from humans. Is is it truly biofuels that are making grain prices higher and reducing meat consumption?
Probably not as much as the global recession that affected many countries around the world. Also awareness of climate change – a global problem that is altering weather and habitats for wild animals and plants – must be changing attitudes.
If you aren’t already aware of the very large contribution livestock agriculture plays in climate change, it has been documented that emissions from farm animals generate up to 51 percent of human-related climate change gases. Many people today have heard CO2 is a major climate change gas, but actually methane contributes to climate change 20-23 times more.
Cows are one of the major sources of methane emissions. Therefore beef eating by consumers supports methane emissions, because buying beef to eat helps maintain high beef production levels. The EPA says there are 1.2 billion large ruminants in the world, and they emit a great deal of methane. Much wild habitat is also converted to use for commercial cattle ranches. For example, cattle ranching is a large source of deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil. These wild areas are some of richest in biodiversity in the world. Destroying them to make way for methane-generating cows is doubly tragic.
Image Credit: USDA