Have We Reached Peak Beef?

Promo image. American Meat Institute

Apparently people are eating less of it.

We worry a lot on TreeHugger about how much red meat we eat, given its serious carbon footprint. As David Fickling of Bloomberg notes,

Grazing and providing animal feed for cattle already accounts for about 60% of the world’s agricultural land despite the fact that beef provides just 2% of calories. Domesticated cows and buffalo produce about 5 billion tons of carbon-equivalent emissions each year, the same as roughly one-seventh of all fossil-fuel emissions. Western countries need to reduce beef consumption by about 90% to avert disastrous climate change, according to a report last year.
its a pleasure to eat meat

American Meat Institute/Promo image

We covered that report, and Katherine Martinko wrote that 'Cutting out meat and dairy is the best thing you can do for the planet'. But we have worried that people actually eat more meat as their living standards improved and incomes rise. Apparently this is no longer happening, and people everywhere are eating less of it.

Even in beef-loving America, appetites are changing. Thanks to decades of health warnings about red meat, chicken consumption overtook beef all the way back in the 1990s. Pork has been threatening to move ahead of beef for several years, too. While the population of the U.S. has grown about 40% since the 1980s, beef consumption is up just 15%.
cooking burger

American Meat Institute/Promo image

Even in China, beef production has topped out, although that might change if the pigs keep dying as they are right now.

This is all good news; as Melissa Breyer wrote recently, "US meat eaters need to cut back beef consumption by 40 percent to help keep the planet habitable."

Sebastian Gorka got it right when he said about us TreeHugger types: “They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers.” But nobody is forcing people to eat less beef; it's changing tastes, growing environmental concerns, and lots and lots of chicken.

carving meat

American Meat Institute/Promo image

I really wrote this post because I have been collecting these crazy meat promotion ads from just after the Second World War, when the American Meat Institute was trying to get Americans back to eating lots of meat after years of shortages. The way things are going, they may have to start running them again.