A person holds steak with metal tongs over a barbecue A new study says that richer countries need to stop eating so much meat. - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

Meat Consumption Must Drop By 75% In Rich Countries, Says New Study

In order to tackle the climate crisis, Western countries must rethink the way they eat, new research says

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2 Minutes Read

Rich countries need to cut down on meat consumption for the sake of the planet, says a new study from the University of Bonn in Germany.

Researchers recommended a drop of at least 75 percent. They observed that Western countries, like the US and those in Europe, are putting an unnecessary strain on the planet through a high demand for meat.

In the EU, the average citizen consumes around 80 kilograms of meat per year. (For context, that’s about the same weight as an entire mountain lion.) But Dr. Matin Qaim, the study’s lead author, says this needs to drop to 20 kilograms or less.

This is because animal agriculture puts an enormous strain on the planet. 

The meat industry is a leading driver of deforestation, contributes 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and wastes significant amounts of resources. Just one steak, for example, requires more than 1,840 gallons of water, which is almost enough to fill 40 bathtubs.

The University of Bonn researchers were keen to stress that poorer countries are not the ones driving the meat industry’s environmental impact. Richer countries, though, need to take more responsibility.

“If all humans consumed as much meat as Europeans or North Americans, we would certainly miss the international climate targets and many ecosystems would collapse,” said Qaim. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cc7d66dIREi/

Is a meat tax the answer?

Studies do show that people are starting to reduce their meat intake. For example, a survey published last year suggested that nearly half of Europeans are actively eating less meat.

But more needs to be done to encourage a bigger change in eating habits.

Over the last few years, a number of experts have raised the idea of a meat tax to drive down meat consumption. And some research does suggest that the majority of consumers would be in favor; a 2021 study reported that 70 percent of Europeans would be open to the idea.

Qaim believes a tax would be “reasonable” and “fair.” 

He noted: “Meat has a high environmental cost that is not reflected in current prices,” before stressing that we all need to be “more sensitive to the global impact of our decisions.”

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The Author

Charlotte Pointing

Charlotte writes about sustainable beauty, fashion, and food. She spent more than 4 years editing in leading vegan media, and has a degree in history and a postgraduate in cultural heritage.

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rodentx2
rodentx2
3 months ago

Meat consumption drops when the human overpopulation drops. And when the human overpopulation drops, Earth and all Earthlings benefit.

t.conway1
t.conway1
3 months ago
Reply to  rodentx2

But unfortunately it’s growing, not dropping, So humans in developed nations MUST radically reduce meat, dairy & fish consumption to salvage any kind of future….. I’m hoping that clean “cultured meat” and Lisa Dyson’s “air protein” as well as good ol’ tofu, legumes, and veggie burgers (and other plant-based meat substitutes) will come to the rescue in the form of many more consumers relying on them to feed themselves and their families. These wholesome, nutritious, disease-curing foods ought to be subsidized while meat and dairy are taxed to oblivion for the enormous, egregious environmental costs that are ruining life on this precious planet (not to mention what they do to human health in the form of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other inflammatory diseases)….

Philustrate
Philustrate
3 months ago
Reply to  rodentx2

So what’s your solution – mass sterilisation? And who gets to choose who ha# to be sterilised and who doesn’t. No, this is abhorrent and unnecessary. Read the article which makes it clear that excessive meat consumption is down to the rich, not the poor. It is patterns of consumption, not just numbers of people that are driving environmental collapse of all kinds. Eat less meat, buy less stuff, travel less an£ there is plenty to go around.

Ray Arsenault
Ray Arsenault
3 months ago
Reply to  rodentx2

World birth-rate has dropped by more than half since 1950 and continues to decline. The opposite is true. Birth rates need to increase. https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/WLD/world/birth-rate

Brooklyn
Brooklyn
1 month ago
Reply to  rodentx2

great

Holger Lundstrom
Holger Lundstrom
3 months ago

1. A study can never dictate policy. Science is about presenting facts in a particular context and in a neutral way. It is an unhealthy habit that modern “journalists” interpret studies however they like and try to force people to do something because “science” says so. Not even the scientists do that, and certainly the journalists aren’t qualified.

2. A meat tax is an outrageous idea. The government is vastly unable to spend even the money they have in a sensible way. Even their green efforts are pointless in the long run, and only directed at getting the popular vote in the short run.

3. Due to failed policy we are facing a food crisis that affects the whole planet. Since feed is becoming scarce, you will get your meat reduction. Only it will have consequences you didn’t imagine.

Damien
Damien
3 months ago

How about a share option.

Rachel Bergstrom
Rachel Bergstrom
3 months ago

The recent extra tax levy on alcohol in Scotland didn’t make much of an impact to stop people buying alcohol, so consequently extra tax for meat wouldn’t work either.. And why should the government gain the benefit of more tax being placed on the public. Farm the animals in an environmentally safe fashion and reflect the cost in the price.
Raise the profile of legumes with simple easy recipes rather than extravagant time consuming ‘vegan’ dishes.
We could always try and go back to rationing. 😉

Andy Bebbington
Andy Bebbington
3 months ago

Great study and great article. Change will come with the next generation driven by environmental issues and health benefits. It would come sooner but multinational companies with billions at stake will try and subvert the truth for financial gain. But in time as with tobacco, alcohol and sugar the message will eventually come through and change will occur. All the best Andy

Franziska
Franziska
3 months ago

I am all for a meat tax. And then they should use the money to help farmers change their business to more sustainable and animal-free alternatives. I think the German Minister for agriculture (Dem Özdemir from the Green Party “Die Grünen”) is suggesting something like that.

Last edited 3 months ago by Franziska
Franziska
Franziska
3 months ago

Sorry, it’s Cem Özdemir (Autocorrect was faster than me – again)

Brooklyn
Brooklyn
1 month ago

sad

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