The High Cost of Cheap Meat

Factory-style livestock production is a critical driver of agricultural industrialization. Its remorseless expansion is contributing to climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and human-rights violations – all to satisfy Western societies’ unhealthy appetite for cheap meat.

BERLIN – Factory-style livestock production is a critical driver of agricultural industrialization. Its remorseless expansion is contributing to climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and human-rights violations – all to satisfy Western societies’ unhealthy appetite for cheap meat.

Europe and the United States were the largest meat consumers in the twentieth century, with the average person eating 60-90 kilograms (132-198 pounds) annually – far more than is required to meet humans’ nutritional needs. Though Western consumption rates are now stagnating and even declining in some regions, they remain far higher than in most other regions in the world.

Meanwhile, in emerging economies – especially the so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) – members of the burgeoning middle class are changing their diets to resemble those of their rich-country counterparts. In the coming decades, as incomes continue to rise, so will demand for meat and dairy products.

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