What meat do Australians eat the most?
Meat and Dairy Production
Feeding the world in a sustainable way is one of our most pressing challenges in the coming decades. Meat plays a pivotal role in this.
Meat is an important source of nutrition for many people around the world. Global demand for meat is growing: over the past 50 years, meat production has more than tripled. The world now produces more than 340 million tonnes each year.
But the production of meat has large environmental impacts – increasing greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural land and freshwater use. One of the world’s most pressing challenges is to produce and consume meat, dairy and other protein products in a way that reduces its environmental impacts.
- The world now produces more than three times the quantity of meat as it did fifty years ago. In 2018, production was around 340 million tonnes.
- Pigmeat is the most popular meat globally, but the production of poultry is increasing most rapidly.
- 80 billion animals are slaughtered each year for meat.
- The average person in the world consumed around 43 kilograms of meat in 2014. This ranges from over 100kg in the US and Australia to only 5kg in India.
- Meat consumption increases as the world is getting richer.
- The world now produces around 800 million tonnes of milk each year – more than double the amount fifty years ago.
- Richer countries tend to consume more milk per person.
- The amount of meat produced for a given animal varies significantly across the world based on production systems.
- Livestock production has large environmental impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, land and water use. Beef and lamb have much larger environmental impact than pigmeat and poultry.
Interactive charts on Meat and Dairy Production
- Environmental footprints of dairy and plant-based milks
- Antibiotic use in livestock
- Antibiotic use in livestock in Europe
- Antibiotic use in livestock vs. GDP per capita
- Antibiotic use in livestock vs. meat supply per capita
- Aquaculture production
- Beef production
- Capture fishery production
- Cattle meat per animal
- Chicken meat production
- Chicken meat yield per animal
- Daily meat consumption per person
- Dietary land use vs. beef consumption
- Does livestock antibiotic use exceed suggested target?
- Egg production
- Eggs per bird
- Energy efficiency of meat and dairy production
- Feed required to produce one kilogram of meat or dairy product
- Fish and seafood consumption per capita
- Fish and seafood consumption vs. GDP per capita
- Fish and seafood production
- Fish catch by fishing sector
- Fish discards
- Fish landings and discards
- Global fishery catch by sector
- Global meat consumption
- Global meat demand if everyone ate like the average citizen of.
- Global meat production
- Livestock counts
- Meat consumption vs. GDP per capita
- Meat production
- Meat production by livestock type
- Meat supply per person
- Milk per animal
- Milk production
- Number of cattle
- Number of pigs
- Number of poultry birds
- Per capita egg consumption
- Per capita meat consumption by type Stacked area chart
- Per capita meat consumption by type Stacked bar chart
- Per capita meat consumption in the EU28 OECD, 1990-2018
- Per capita meat consumption in the United States USDA
- Per capita milk consumption
- Pig meat per animal
- Pigmeat production
- Poultry meat per animal
- Poultry production
- Protein efficiency of meat and dairy production
- Protein supply from animal foods vs. GDP per capita
- Seafood and fish production
- Seafood production: wild fish catch vs aquaculture Stacked area chart
- Seafood production: wild fish catch vs aquaculture Line chart
- Share of cereals allocated to animal feed
- Share of egg production that is free-range
- Status of the world’s fish stocks
- UK egg production by system
- Yearly number of animals slaughtered for meat
Meat production by animal
In the chart we see how meat production has changed by livestock type since 1961.
At a global level we see that the dominant livestock types are poultry, cattle (which includes beef and buffalo meat), pig, and sheep & goat to a lesser extent. However, the distribution of meat types varies significantly across the world; in some countries, other meat types such as wild game, horse, and duck can account for a significant share of total production.
Although production of all major meat types have been increasing in absolute terms, in relative terms the share of global meat types have changed significantly over the last 50 years. In 1961, poultry meat accounted for only 12 percent of global meat production; by 2013 its share has approximately tripled to around 35 percent. In comparison, beef and buffalo meat as a share of total meat production has nearly halved, now accounting for around 22 percent. Pigmeat’s share has remained more constant at approximately 35-40 percent.
Beef and buffalo (cattle) meat production
In the chart we see the global production of cattle (beef and buffalo) meat. Globally, cattle meat production has more than doubled since 1961 – increasing from 28 million tonnes per year to 68 million tonnes in 2014.
The United States is the world’s largest beef and buffalo meat producer, producing 11-12 million tonnes in 2014. Other major producers are Brazil and China, followed by Argentina, Australia and India.
Global production of poultry meat has increased rapidly over the last 50 years, growing more than 12-fold between 1961-2014. Global trends in poultry production are shown in the chart.
Like cattle production, the United States is the world’s largest producer, producing more than 20 million tonnes in 2014. China and Brazil are also large poultry producers at 18 and 13 million tonnes, respectively. Collectively, Europe is also a major poultry producer with an ouput in 2014 of approximately 19 million tonnes – just below output of the United States.
Since 1961, global pigmeat production has grown 4-5 fold to 112 million tonnes in 2014.
China dominates global output, producing just short of half of total pigmeat in 2014. Increases in Chinese pigmeat production have been rapid, growing around 35-fold from 1.5 million tonnes in 1961 to 54 million tonnes in 2014. The other major producers include the United States, Germany and Spain and Brazil.
Per capita meat consumption
In this section
Which countries eat the most meat?
Global population has undergone rapid growth, especially in the second half of the 20th century; we may therefore also expect the rapid growth in total meat production as explored in the sections above. But how has meat consumption changed on a per capita basis?
In the chart we see a global map of per capita meat (excluding seafood and fish) consumption, measured in kilograms per person per year. These trends can also be viewed as a time-series in the “chart” tab. As a global average, per capita meat consumption has increased approximately 20 kilograms since 1961; the average person consumed around 43 kilograms of meat in 2014. This increase in per capita meat trends means total meat production has been growing at a much faster than the rate of population growth.
The direction and rate of change across countries has highly variable. Growth in per capita meat consumption has been most marked in countries who have underwent a strong economic transition – per capita consumption in China has grown approximately 15-fold since 1961; rates in Brazil have nearly quadrupled. The major exception to this pattern has been India: dominant lactovegetarian preferences mean per capita meat consumption in 2013 was almost exactly the same as in 1961 at less than 4 kilograms per person. 1
Meat consumption is highest across high-income countries (with the largest meat-eaters in Australia, consuming around 116 kilograms per person in 2013). The average European and North American consumes nearly 80 kilograms and more than 110 kilograms, respectively. However, changes in consumption in high-income countries have been much slower – with most stagnating or even decreasing over the last 50 years.
Consumption trends across Africa are varied; some countries consume as low as 10 kilograms per person, around half of the continental average. Higher-income nations such as South Africa consume between 60-70 kilograms per person.
Meat consumption tends to rise as we get richer
One of the strongest determinants of how much meat people eat is how rich they are. This is at least true when we make cross-country comparisons.
In the scatterplot we see the relationship between per capita meat supply (on the y-axis) and average GDP per capita (on the x-axis). What we see is a strong positive relationship: the richer a country is, the more meat the average person typically eats.
If you press ‘play’ on the interactive chart you can see the trajectory of each country over time. Overall, countries tend to shift upwards and to the right: getting richer and eating more meat.
What types of meat do people eat?
What preferences do we have in terms of the types of meat we eat? As a global average, per capita consumption of pigmeat is the highest of meat commodities; in 2013 the average person consumed around 16 kilograms of pigmeat; followed by 15 kilograms of poultry; 9 kilograms of beef/buffalo meat; 2 kilograms of mutton & goat; and only a fraction of other meat types.
Consumption trends vary significantly across the world. In China, pigmeat accounts for around two-thirds of per capita meat consumption. In Argentina, beef and buffalo meat dominates, accounting for more than half of consumption. New Zealanders have a much stronger preference for mutton & goat meat relative to the global average.
In the charts here we see the per capita consumption of different meat types by country.
Number of animals slaughtered
The visualization details the total number of livestock animals slaughtered for meat in the given year.
This is shown across various types of livestock. Here these figures represent the total number slaughtered for meat production (which does not include those use primarily for dairy or egg production which are not eventually used for meat).
In 2018, an estimated 69 billion chickens; 1.5 billion pigs; 656 million turkeys; 574 million sheep; 479 million goats; and 302 million cattle were killed for meat production.
The figures represent ‘livestock counts’ — these represent the total number of live animals at a given time in any year. This is not to be confused with figures above which represent the total number of livestock animals slaughtered or used for meat in any given year.
This article’s lead section may be too short to adequately summarize the key points. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article. ( March 2021 )
Kangaroo meat at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne
Kangaroo meat is produced in Australia from wild kangaroos and is exported to over 60 overseas markets. 
Kangaroo meat is sourced from the 4 main species of kangaroos that are harvested in the wild. It is the current [ when? ] largest commercial land based Wildlife trade on the Planet. Kangaroo harvesting only occurs in approved harvest zones and quotas are set (usually around 15%-20%) to ensure the sustainability of kangaroo populations. In some places (IE; victoria (state) , the Harvest Quotas have tripled. If numbers approach minimum thresholds harvest zones are closed until populations recover. Kangaroos are harvested by licensed shooters in accordance with a strict code of practice to ensure high standards of both humaneness and food hygiene. Meat that is exported is inspected by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).
The kangaroo has been historically a staple source of protein for some indigenous Australians. Kangaroo meat is very high in protein and very low in fat (about 2%). Kangaroo meat has a very high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) when compared with other foods. CLA has been attributed with a wide range of health benefits. Kangaroo meat is also processed into pet food. Due to its low fat content, kangaroo meat cannot be cooked in the same way as other red meats, and is typically either slow cooked or quickly stir-fried.
Kangaroo meat is known to Harbor a number of parasites and pathogens, Toxoplasmosis and Salmonellosis are two infections with public health significance related to the handling, processing and consumption of kangaroo meat.
Russia has banned imports of Kangaroo meat due to concerning levels of Escherichia coli that have been detected.
Since Kangaroos are shot in the wild, there are a number of hygienic concerns. Harvesters are not required to wear gloves or protective clothing whilst slaughtering or field dressing the animal, It occurs at night in rural locations. kangaroo carcasses are hung from the back of an open truck whilst being transported to field chillers or processors. Dust and flies may cover the carcasses. Cross contamination with other animals such as feral pig and feral deer can also occur as these animals are stored in close proximity.
Production [ edit ]
Kangaroo meat is sourced from the 4 main species of kangaroos that are harvested in the wild. Although most species of macropod are protected from non-Aboriginal hunting in Australia by law, a number of the large-sized species which exist in high numbers can be hunted by commercial hunters.  This policy has been criticised by some animal rights activists.  On the other hand, the kangaroo harvest is supported by some professional ecologists in Australia. Groups such as the Ecological Society of Australia, the Australasian Wildlife Management Society and the Australian Mammal Society have stated their support for kangaroo harvesting. Such groups argue that basing agricultural production systems on native animals rather than introduced livestock like sheep offers considerable ecological advantages to the fragile Australian rangelands and could save greenhouse gas emissions.  
Though it is impossible to determine the exact number, government conservation agencies in each state calculate population estimates each year. Nearly 40 years of refinement has led to the development of aerial survey techniques which enable overall populations estimates to be constructed.  Populations of the large kangaroo species in the commercial harvest zones across Australia vary from approximately 25 to 50 million kangaroos at any given point in time. 
Kangaroos are protected by legislation in Australia, both state and federal. Kangaroo harvesting only occurs in approved harvest zones and quotas are set to ensure the sustainability of kangaroo populations. If numbers approach minimum thresholds harvest zones are closed until populations recover. Kangaroos are harvested by licensed shooters in accordance with a strict code of practice to ensure high standards of both humaneness and food hygiene. Meat that is exported is inspected by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).  
Harvest quotas are set by state or territory governments but all commercial harvest plans must be approved by the Australian Government. Only approved species can be harvested and these include: red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus), eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), and common wallaroo (Macropus robustus). Sustainable use quotas are typically between 10 and 20% of estimated kangaroo populations. Total populations are estimated by aerial surveys and a decade of previous data and quota numbers are calculated by government and science organisations to ensure sustainability. Even though quotas are established by each state, very rarely does actual culling reach 35% of the total quotas allowed. For instance, «[i]n the 2015 harvest period, 25.9% of the commercial harvest quota (for Queensland) was utilised».  When quotas are not utilised landholders in most states and territories resort to culling overabundant kangaroo populations. As kangaroos are protected, permits are still required but culled carcasses are generally either mass buried in large underground graves or left in paddocks to decompose and not utilised.
How much red meat should I eat?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 455g of lean, cooked red meat per week as part of three to four healthy, balanced meals.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines are produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council. They use the best available scientific evidence to provide information to Australians on the types and amounts of foods that will help them follow a nutritionally adequate and healthy diet.
The guidelines define red meat as unprocessed meat from beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork, goat, kangaroo, venison and other game meats. This includes mince and other cuts such as steak, chops, cutlets, roasts, slow cooked cuts, diced and strips, and fresh sausages that are lean with reduced sodium.
Our Red Meat Buying Guide can help you buy enough red meat per serving for a variety of healthy, balanced meals three to four times a week.
Red meat buying guide
What to buy
Number of meals and serving size
What to use it for
500g (raw weight) of mince or fresh meat cuts
Four meals with serving sizes of around 87g (cooked weight)
Great for pasta, stir fries, soups, salads and sandwiches
1kg (raw weight) of red meat
Five meals with serving sizes of around 140g (cooked weight)
Perfect for slow-cooked meals like casseroles, stews, curries and roasts
200g (raw weight) steaks
One meal and 140g (cooked weight) serving size
Ideal for the classic ‘meat and veg’ meal
Is processed red meat ok to eat?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide separate recommendations for fresh regular sausages, bacon, ham and other deli meats that are higher in fat and sodium as part of the ‘discretionary food group’, along with burgers and meat pies.
Unlike unprocessed red meat, these foods aren’t considered essential in a healthy, balanced diet and their consumption is recommended occasionally.
How much red meat do Australians eat?
Consumption trends show that on average, Australians eat 57g of cooked red meat per day which is in line with the amounts recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Did you know?
- Australian research shows production and waste reduction strategies are more effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of Australian red meat than reducing consumption below amounts recommended in a healthy diet. (Source)
- The availability of lean red meat has increased Australia-wide over the last 20 years. (Source)
- Meat and vegetables is the most popular home-prepared dinner in Australia, enjoyed by 23% of people. (Source)
Red meat and the planet
Australian lamb is already climate neutral and climate neutral beef can be achieved through adoption of production and waste reduction strategies.
Red meat in a sustainable diet
To eat a sustainable diet, Australian research shows that all foods, including red meat, must be eaten in recommended amounts, and be sustainably produced.