4.2 Trends in food consumption – past and future
4.2.1 Historical trends in total food consumption
Historical trends in total food consumption
Over the ~35 year historical period of Alexandratos and Bruinsma’s analysis, average world energy intakes increased from 2370 kcal/person/day to 2770 kcal/person/day, accompanied by large shifts in dietary composition (increased consumption of livestock products and vegetable oils and a reduced dependence on roots and tubers as staples). As with many dietary trends, China is a significant contributor to the increased energy intake in developing countries owing to its rapid economic development and increasing urbanisation in recent decades.
4.2.2 Historical trends in animal product consumption
Historical trends in animal product consumption
Global meat consumption has grown at 2.6% a year since 1981, but the aggregate picture masks strong regional variations.
Consumption of meat has been growing at 4.9% annually in developing countries since 1981, with the per capita average increasing from 14 to 28 kg per year. But the annual growth rate is only 3.3% if China and Brazil are excluded from the developing country totals. Currently Brazil and China account for 56% of developing country meat consumption but constitute only 28% of the developing country population).
Consumption of animal products in Sub Saharan Africa has stagnated and in some countries has actually fallen. Consumption in developed countries has risen very little, since per capita intakes are already high.
4.2.3 Causes of variation in food consumption trends
Trends to date show an overall strong correlation between per capita incomes and meat consumption – but with outliers
Tilman and Clark (2014).
A (if not the) major contributor to growing per capita meat consumption in most of the world is increasing per capita incomes, which have been shown to correlate closely and positively with meat consumption.
However, sometimes cultural and other factors mediate this trend. For example, it can be seen from this graph that China has higher than expected meat intakes at given per capita incomes, while India – with its longstanding religious tradition of vegetarianism – has lower than expected meat intakes.
4.2.4 Future trends in food consumption
Future trends in food consumption
Based on current trajectories – with rising incomes in developing countries, increases in food consumption per capita and absolute population growth – total food consumption is projected to rise significantly.
Absolute demand for food (and especially animal products) is expected to increase especially steeply in developing countries. However in some regions, notably Sub-Saharan Africa, this increase in total demand can be attributed more to population growth than to major increases in per capita intakes.
4.2.5 Future trends in animal product consumption
Future trends in animal product consumption
Globally, per capita consumption of animal products (meat and dairy) is projected to rise moderately, while total meat consumption is expected to nearly double. To meet this demand, an additional 200 million tonnes of meat would need to be produced annually by 2050, compared with production in 2005/07.
In developed countries, aggregate meat consumption is not expected to rise much further, if at all (since population growth is likely to be negligible and even negative in some countries, while per capita intakes also level off). In some countries, such as the United States meat consumption has even started to decrease. This may be due to increasing health concerns and awareness, and to the weakened economy since the recession in 2008 . Other developed countries showing decreased per capita meat consumption since 2008 include Canada and the UK.
Demand in China and Brazil is also expected to level off eventually as saturation point is reached.
The majority of the increase is therefore projected to occur in developing countries, where significant income rises and population growth are expected. Population growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to nearly double, from 730 million in 2006 to 1.68 billion in 2050. This growth in population numbers accounts for most of the overall growth in expected total animal product consumption – per capita intakes are not anticipated to rise substantially because poverty is likely to persist (per capita intakes of fish are in fact likely to decline). Rapid growth in demand is also expected in South Asia (although meat demand in India starts from a very low per capita base) and in the middle East/North Africa.
Meat and dairy products are highly resource- and GHG-intensive foods (see Chapter 3 for a review of this topic).