How Many Animals Are Killed For Food Everyday?

Humans kill an incomprehensible number of animals on a daily basis


4 Minutes Read

fishes harvested from the sea Huge numbers of animals are killed for food every day - Media Credit: We Animals Media

The number of animals farmed and killed for food around the world every day is vast. Industrialized farming, a growing human population, and increasing demand for animal products has pushed the number to keep rising.

According to Viva!, the total number of land animals killed for food in a year arounds the world exceeds 78 billion. The number of fishes killed is uncertain, but enormous.

The vast majority of land animals – and virtually all farmed fishes – spend their short lives in factory farm conditions. Chickens and pigs tend to be kept in overcrowded barns. In many countries, breeding sows (female pigs) and layer hens are confined to tiny cages for much of their lives, until they are deemed no longer productive and sent to slaughter.

Here, we dig into the latest animal slaughter statistics.

Species of animals killed

Caged chickens on a transport truck
Adobe Stock Chickens on their way to slaughter, like billions of others every year

More chickens are killed for food than any other land animal. According to Our World in Data, in a single day, 202 million chickens will be slaughtered – that’s 140,000 a minute on average. For ducks, the number is 12 million, while 3.8 million pigs, 1.7 million sheep, 1.4 million goats, and 900,000 cows are killed a day. For turkeys, it’s roughly 1.6 million a day. 

For some species, slaughter rates go up at certain times of year. For example, more turkeys are killed around festive holidays including Christmas in countries like the UK and US. 

When fishes are killed for food, they are not usually counted as individuals, but by weight. This makes it hard to know exactly how many are slaughtered a day. estimates that up to 2 trillion wild fishes are caught every year, while 124 billion farmed fishes are slaughtered annually. Around 12 million shellfish are also killed each day – about 4.4 billion a year.

A significant number of these animals will end up in the bin. A recent study found that meat from around 18 billion animals goes uneaten each year, with the majority of those being chickens.

Which country kills the most animals?

China, the US, and Brazil kill by far the largest number of animals for food a year. China kills the most cows per year, at 40 million, while the US kills the most chickens at more than 9 billion. 

When it comes to pigs, however, China’s slaughter rate outstrips other countries’ by some margin, killing 705 million of them a year. This feeds the country’s growing demand for pig meat; half of all the world’s pig meat is now consumed in China.

China still leads for sheep slaughter at 176 million a year. But in second and third place are Australia and New Zealand, which both have large sheep industries. More farmed fishes are slaughtered in China than anywhere else, with Indonesia and Peru following fairly close behind.

Per capita slaughter

The number of animals slaughtered in each country doesn’t reflect how many animals are slaughtered per person in those countries. While China has the highest kill numbers, it also has the second highest human population, just after India. This means that the number of animals killed in a year is lower per person than in many smaller countries.

New Zealand, with a human population of just over 5 million, kills nearly one cow per person, per year, and 4.7 sheep. This is more than any other country. For chickens, Israel leads with 60.7 killed for each person. 

Denmark slaughters by far the most pigs per person, at 2.9 pigs. By comparison, China kills just under half a pig person per year. For fishes, the Falkland Islands massively outstrips every other country, killing nearly 22,000kg worth of fishes per person every year.

How much has animal slaughter increased?

The number of animals slaughtered globally has risen significantly in the past fifty years. In 1961, 8.6 billion land animals were killed for food. This is a ten-fold increased to today’s nearly 80 billion.

Looking at individual animal species, there have been dips and sharp rises at points, and for some there is actually a downward trend in slaughter numbers. 

Fewer turkeys are being killed globally, for example, even while the numbers is slowly increasing in Brazil. The number of cows being killed seems to be levelling off globally and in the main countries where they are slaughtered. But for chickens, the number is continuing to rise.

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