By Tiffany Hsu
11:40 AM CDT, October 24, 2012
Meat-eaters worldwide consumed less protein last year, due in part to disease outbreaks and drought that have shrunk livestock herds.
The average human ate 93.3 pounds of meat last year, down from 93.7 pounds in 2010 after a decades-long upswing, according to environmental research group Worldwatch Institute.
Still, since 1995, average consumption is up 15%.
Though the long-range growth in meat-eating is slower in industrialized countries -- 2% compared with 25% in developing countries -- whose residents eat 173.9 pounds of meat a year on average. That’s more than 100 pounds more than the 71.2 pounds consumed per person in other countries.
But Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas feasts may have to be more reserved in future years.
Global meat production is slowing, as scorching droughts have burned through the Midwest and other major livestock centers such as China, Russia and Africa. Last year, 297 million tons of meat went on the market, a paltry 0.8% increase compared with the 2.6% increase in 2010.
Outbreaks of so-called zoonotic diseases also tamped down meat availability. According to the study, 2011 saw outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Paraguay, African swine fever in Russia, classical swine fever in Mexico and bird flu in Asia.
Meanwhile, prices soared as supply tightened. The USDA estimates that by the end of 2013, beef will command up to a 5% premium on 2010 prices, while pork will cost 3.5% more and poultry will see a 4% jump.
Meat production has swelled 20% in the last decade and is projected to reach 302 million tons a year by the end of 2012, according to the report.
Pork was the most popular meat last year, making up 37% of both production and consumption. But the 109 million tons sold was 0.8% less than in 2010.
And ham and bacon may soon be overtaken by chicken and turkey. Poultry production rose 3% last year to 101 million tons.
Production was flat for beef (67 million tons) and sheep meat (13 million tons).
North America, long the leader in beef production, has been overtaken by farmers in South America and Asia. In the last decade, meat production has climbed 26% in Asia, 28% in Africa and 32% in South America.
And factory farms now account for much of that activity. Nearly three quarters of poultry is produced from massive facilities, as is 55% of pork.