Rising Incomes Driving Meat Consumption in Developing Countries
The scientists conducting the study used "trophic levels" to place people in the food chain. The trophic system puts algae which makes its own food at level 1. Rabbits that eat plants are level 2 and foxes that eat herbivores are 3. Cod, which eats other fish, is level four, and top predators, such as polar bears and orcas, are up at 5.5 - the highest on the scale.
|Trophic Levels Map Source: Nature Magazine|
|Source: Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences|
The countries with the highest trophic levels (most carnivorous people) include Mongolia, Sweden and Finland, which have levels of 2.5, and the whole of Western Europe, USA, Australia, Argentina, Sudan, Mauritania, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, which all have a level of 2.4.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also published recent report on the subject of meat consumption. It found that meat consumption in developing countries is increasing with rising incomes. USDA projects an average 2.4 percent annual increase in developing countries compared with 0.9 percent in developed countries. Per capita poultry meat consumption in developing countries is projected to rise 2.8 percent per year during 2013-22, much faster than that of pork (2.2 percent) and beef (1.9 percent).
|Per Capita Meat Consumption and Income Source: USDA|
India and China with the rising incomes of their billion-plus populations are expected to be the main drivers of the worldwide demand for meat and poultry.
Pakistan's goat meat consumption of 779,000 tons in 2011-12 ranks it among the top 3 in the world. 1.7 million tons of beef consumption in Pakistan is ranked 9th among beef consuming nations. In addition, 834,000 tons of poultry meat consumption puts it among world's top 20.
|Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12|
Although meat consumption in Pakistan is rising, it still remains very low by world standards. At just 18 Kg per person, it's less than half of the world average of 42 Kg per capita meat consumption reported by the FAO.
Being mostly vegetarian, neighboring Indians consume only 3.2 Kg of meat per capita, less than one-fifth of Pakistan's 18 Kg. Daal (legumes or pulses) are popular in South Asia as a protein source. Indians consume 11.68 Kg of daal per capita, about twice as much as Pakistan's 6.57 Kg.
Another ingredient popular in South Asian cuisine is vegetable oil. It's an important source of fat and protein for a nutritious and tasty diet. Edible oil consumption soars during the holidays as hundreds of millions of people eat sweets and fried foods during the September-December festive season. Pakistanis use about 20 Kg of oil, the per capita amount recommended by the World Health Organization, while Indians consume about 13 Kg per capita.
Celebratory occasions like Eid or Diwali push sugar consumption in South Asia. Pakistan's per capita sugar consumption is about 23 Kg while India's is about 20 Kg per person per year.
Although still below average relative to the world, per capita consumption of meat, milk and edible oil is rising with rising incomes and standards of living in both India and Pakistan. As the dietary habits change, it'll be important for policy makers and health and fitness professionals to watch the changes and help educate the people about healthy eating and its environmental impact.
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