C. More than a quarter of all the meat produced worldwide is now eaten in China, and the country’s 1.35 billion people are hungry for more. In 1978, China’s meat consumption of 8 million tons was one third the U.S. consumption of 24 million tons.
But by 1992, China had overtaken the United States as the world’s leading meat consumer—and it has not looked back since. Now China’s annual meat consumption of 71 million tons is more than double that in the United States. With U.S. meat consumption falling and China’s consumption still rising, the trajectories of these two countries are determining the shape of agriculture around the planet.
Pork is China’s meat of choice, accounting for nearly three fourths of its meat consumption. Half the world’s pigs—some 476 million of them—live in China. This meat is so central to the Chinese diet that in 2007 the government, hoping to cushion against price spikes, created a strategic pork reserve (albeit a relatively small one) to accompany its more typical stockpiles of grain and petroleum. With its pork consumption projected to reach 52 million tons in 2012, China is far ahead of the 8 million tons eaten in the United States, where chicken and beef are more popular.
On a per person basis, Americans ate more pork than the Chinese until 1997, when the lines crossed and China pushed ahead. Over the past five years, per capita pork consumption in the United States has fallen on average 2 percent a year, while that in China has grown by over 3 percent a year despite price increases. Now the Chinese each eat an average of 84 pounds (38 kilograms) of pork in a year, while Americans average 59 pounds.
Chinese chicken consumption is set to exceed 13 million tons in 2012, marking the first time that more chicken will be eaten in China than in the United States. Still, on average, Americans eat four times more chicken per person.
Per person meat consumption in China now is half the amount in the United States. For China to reach American per capita levels with beef would take over three fourths of current world beef output. For chicken it would require 80 percent of the world’s broiler chickens.
Source: Earth Policy Institute