American Meat Consumption Higher Than Ever Despite Environmentalist Warnings

By Heather van Blokland
Published: Monday, December 10, 2018 - 9:05am
Updated: Monday, December 10, 2018 - 11:22am

Americans are on pace to eat more meat per person in 2018 than ever before. That’s despite a push to reduce meat production to curb climate change. 

The average consumer will eat 222 pounds of red meat and poultry by the end of this year, according to the USDA, surpassing a record set in 2004. But, Americans need to consume less meat if the world is to be able to feed 10 billion people, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global initiative assessing climate change risks.

More than 50 percent more food will be needed by 2050, according to WRI. But greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall by two-thirds at the same time.

“We want to be able to sustain ourselves as far as growing food and eating nutritious food, but we don’t want to be affecting future generations from being able to do the same thing for themselves and their families,"said Michael Hodgins, program director of Sustainable Food Systems at Rio Salado College in Tempe. "I’d like to see us as a U.S. culture move a little bit away from that expectation of a huge piece of meat and then, you know, some sides around it.

Hodgins said there’s been a back to the farm mentality with some people, but more is needed.

"I think millennials as a generation are wanting to know more about their food. I still think we do a poor job of educating our youth. I think a lot of people think a chicken nugget comes from a mama chicken nugget. Simple things like zucchini and things like that, they have no idea what it is. They’ve never tasted it, never seen it in their house," he said.

Hodgins added more focus needs to be on growing food in season, about what resources are needed to produce food and its effects on the environment. He said many people know the effect livestock have on the environment as far as methane gasses and deforestation, that industrial agriculture carries a heavy footprint, but behaviors are not easily changed. 

"And I’m definitely not a vegetarian and I don’t probably intend to be, but I think that kind of education, and maybe eating meat a little less (is needed), and nobody wants to hear that. That’s a get off my lawn type of thing. 'Get off my lawn, I'm gonna eat double meat now, you can't tell me what to do' because food is very personal you know. Nobody wants to be told what to eat," Hodgins said. 

Meat and dairy production use 83 percent of farmland, and produce 60 percent of farm-related emissions.

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