Good news for the planet. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), after a first decline last year, world per capita meat consumption is expected to fall again this year by 3%, marking the largest decline since 2000 and the second consecutive decline since 1961.
Relayed by the financial news agency Bloomberg, these figures, she explains, could mark a decisive turning point and can be explained in particular by the coronavirus crisis that has disrupted production lines and global demand.
If the trend were to continue, it would mark a radical and unprecedented change for a food industry hitherto based on constant and almost uninterrupted growth.
FOOD SPENDING IS FALLING
Notably, and not least, this inflection is evident in all major markets, including the United States, where per capita meat consumption is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2025 or even 2026.
As the country officially entered recession on Thursday (July 30th), American consumers, many of whom have lost their jobs and do not have unemployment insurance, have had to drastically save money by starting with a reduction in food spending, with meat purchases in mind.
In addition, the multiple closures of restaurants have affected demand, as the population no longer has the opportunity to go to these establishments to taste grills, skewers, and other burgers.
On the Chinese side, which accounts for about a quarter of global meat consumption, the decline is due to increased mistrust of animal products after the government suggested a link between imported proteins and a re-emerging coronavirus outbreak in Beijing.
Similarly, and this has been true in most markets, factories, pandemic obliges, have had to profoundly reorient their production lines which have mechanically created supply problems and, ultimately, there to a decrease in meat consumption.
On the side of climate advocates and other environmental and vegan organizations, this decline is of course welcomed as good news. These organizations have been advocating for years for lower consumption of meat and have arguments to make.
A CHANGE OF MODEL TO BE CONFIRMED
It has now been established that agriculture generates more global greenhouse gas emissions than transport and that these gas emissions from the agricultural sector are largely due to animal production-related industries, particularly livestock production.
Meat and dairy products alone account for 18% of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Whether on the side of environmental organizations or industrialists, the big question now is whether – and until when – this change in consumption will be confirmed over time.
Because if consumers get used to eating less meat with the pandemic, will they change their diet permanently when the situation returns to normal? Or, on the contrary, will they diversify their diet and eat less meat, opening a new era in Western and more broadly global consumer societies?
While millions of people may turn more to plant protein products due to environmental concerns, public opinion is watching with interest what is happening in slaughterhouses.
In particular, they are concerned by the explosion of coronavirus infections in these establishments (France, the United States, Brazil, Germany) which have shone a spotlight on the plight of employees in the sector in dangerous and very generally underpaid jobs.