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Montevideo, December 3rd 2020 - 04:39 UTC

 

 

Pandemic forecasted to usher highest retreat for global meat consumption

Wednesday, July 8th 2020 - 07:01 UTC
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The shift is happening in every major market, including US, where it is predicted that per capita meat consumption won't return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025 The shift is happening in every major market, including US, where it is predicted that per capita meat consumption won't return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025

The pandemic is poised to usher in the biggest retreat for global meat consumption in decades. Per capita consumption this year is set to fall to the lowest in nine years and the 3% drop from last year represents the biggest decline since at least 2000, according to data from the United Nations.

Meanwhile, analysts across the globe are predicting declines not just per capita, but also for overall demand in their regions. That's a dramatic turnaround for an industry that has come to rely on steady growth.

Notably, the shift is happening in every major market, including in the US, where it is predicted that per capita meat consumption won't return to pre-pandemic levels until at least after 2025.

There's a swirl of factors contributing to the change.

The coronavirus economic fallout means consumers are cutting down on grocery bills.

Restaurant shutdowns have hurt demand, since people eat more meat when they dine out.

In China, which accounts for about a quarter of world consumption, there's growing distrust over animal products after the government suggested a link between imported protein and an outbreak in Beijing.

Disruptions to production, like the plant outbreaks that sparked an industry crisis in the US and Brazil, also created supply problems that led to less meat eating.

Climate advocates have for years been calling for lower meat consumption.

By some measures, agriculture accounts for more global greenhouse gas emissions than transport, thanks in part to livestock production.

Meat and dairy alone are responsible for as much as 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

There are hints of a structural change taking place, with millions eating more plant-based proteins because of environmental concerns.

Meanwhile, the explosion of coronavirus infections at slaughterhouses and processing plants - from the US to Brazil and Germany - have highlighted the industry's toll on its employees who handle dangerous work for low pay and few benefits.

At the same time, now that consumers have gotten more used to cooking at home, that habit could stick, especially as the lockdown-crippled food-service industry is predicted to shrink.

About 2.2 million restaurants worldwide could close, according to consulting firm Aaron Allen & Associates.

The loss of food service is a “major demand shock that will take a long time to recover from,” said Mr Altin Kalo, analyst at Steiner Consulting Group.

Before the pandemic, 50% of all meat was consumed outside of the home in the US, according to Boston Consulting Group.

This year's projected decline would also come after a drop in per capita global consumption in 2019, when the African swine fever disease killed millions of hogs in China, boosting retail pork prices and curbing demand.

The losses over two straight years will mean close to a 5% slump in per-capita consumption since 2018, according to data from FAO.

There's still a chance that total world consumption could rise this year. That's because population could be growing at a faster rate than meat production. Still, per-person reductions mark a turning point for the industry.

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