Developing Countries See Sharp Rise in Meat Consumption

The demand for meat products is rising sharply in developing nations as their economies improve.
The demand for meat products is rising sharply in developing nations as their economies improve.
Joe DeCapua

As the world population rises, the demand for meat, eggs and airy products is soaring in developing countries. The Worldwatch Institute warns that without safeguards the demand could strain the environment and pose public health risks.

Worldwatch says both production and consumption of animal products are increasingly concentrated in developing countries. In fact, it says, the demand in those countries has increased at what it calls a staggering rate in recent decades.

“Over the last 30 years, the number of farm animals – and that includes both four-footed livestock like cattle and pigs and goats and sheep, as well as poultry – has increased about 23 percent since 1980. So now we have about 20 billion farm animals worldwide and again that includes chickens and pigs and cattle, sheep and goats,” said Danielle Nierenberg, director of the institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and co-author of the report on farm animal populations.

She said there are two main reasons for the increase.

“Urbanization and rising incomes particularly in developing and emerging countries. China, Brazil, India – they’ve all seen their middle class or consumer class rise over the last 30 years. And what tends to happen when people have a little bit more money to spend is they spend it on higher quality food. They tend to buy more milk or cheese or meat,” she said.

Large-scale production

Farm animal production, she said, provides a “safety net” for millions of vulnerable people. However, she says that production often takes place on factory farms, or CAFOs, concentrated animal feed operations.

“The demand is being met by industrial animal operations or factory farming. This is a style of farming that really originated in Europe and the United States in the 1950s and 60s, where thousands or even tens of thousands of the animals are confined in huge barns or sheds,” she said.

She said this type of mass animal production can need a lot of resources or inputs to operate.

“They require a lot of fossil fuel energy for heating and cooling. They require tremendous amounts of soy and corn for animal feed. They depend on antibiotics to keep these animals healthy because again they’re in really confined, crowded, often dirty conditions and so animals tend to get sick when they’re altogether without fresh air like that,” Nierenberg said.

The Worldwatch Institute report says factory farms produce huge amounts of waste, which can contaminate ground water. And it says farm animal production accounts for about 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane and nitrous oxide.

Health concerns

There’s also concern that such farming practices will lead to the extinction of indigenous cattle breeds, as production centers on just a few breeds like the Holstein and Jersey. But the indigenous breeds may be more tolerant of heat and drought and less susceptible to climate change.

Nierenberg said the increase in meat consumption in developing countries is understandable.

“In the developing world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, meat can be a tremendous boost to people’s diets. It can provide important nutrients that they weren’t getting before, especially for malnourished populations; and it can really help people, especially children, develop better. But what we’re seeing not just in the industrial world but also in developing countries is over-consumption of meat. Because it’s cheaper than it’s ever been more and more people can consume it,” she said.

People in developed nations continue to eat the most animal products. But the report says the “appetite for animal products is stagnating or declining in many industrial countries.” It attributes that to a growing awareness that diets high in animal fat and meat may contribute to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. For example a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded that red meat consumption is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The study said other healthy protein sources are associated with a lower mortality risk.

Some critics of the study say the growing health problems in developed nations have less to do with meat and more to do with a large consumption of sugar.

The co-author of the Worldwatch Institute report has called for a rethinking of meat consumption. That is, eating it just a few times week instead of several times a day; and making meat a part of the meal, not always the main course.

“Agriculture is not just about increasing meals. It’s about creating a system that nourishes both people and the planet. That helps communities earn enough incomes so that they can both grow food and buy food. It’s a system of agriculture that doesn’t depend on industrial inputs or harming animals. It’s a system of agriculture that’s really more holistic,” she said.

Investments in agriculture have increased since the food crisis of 2007/2008. The world population is expected to rise from the current seven billion to nine billion by 2050.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs