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Alarm over soaring world meat consumption

20 January 2014

World meat consumption will climb dramatically by 2050, especially in Asia, resulting in ‘devastating’ land use and health consequences, according to environmental and animal welfare groups.

Leading German environmental groups have published a ‘2014 Meat Atlas’ predicting soaring consumption worldwide to 470 million tonnes worldwide by 2050, with severe environmental and societal repercussions. That would equate to 150 million tonnes more than at present.

Already, 70% of arable land worldwide is used to produce fodder to feed livestock such as pigs and cattle in industrialised facilities, leaving less land for poor, subsistent communities, said the Heinrich-Böll Foundation.

The atlas study highlights soya bean based fodder, saying demand for it will double worldwide to 515 million tons annually. By 2022, India and China, with expanding consumer oriented middle classes, would account for 80% of anticipated growth in meat production, the study said.

Demand would also increase in 'boom' nations such as Brazil, South Africa and Russia, outstripping Europe and the USA where meat sales have stagnated.

Foundation president Barbara Unmüssig said highly industrialised meat production in Asian nations aspiring to Western levels could bring side effects such as food contamination scandals and misuse of antibiotics and hormones in livestock.

Unmüssig said the decoupling of grazing animals from pasture through industrialised mass production was leading to ‘ruinous’ economics and fatal consequences for small subsistence farming families. According to Unmüssig, one meat meal per week was sufficient: "It would be best if we returned to the Sunday roast."

Bund agricultural expert Reinhild Benning said soaring demand for fodder production areas would have further ‘fatal’ impacts on rainforests, soils and water catchments, for example, through pesticide usage. Prices for basis foodstuffs would climb, impacting most heavily on the poor.

The study's authors also warned against the import of hormone treated meats, should negotiations lead to a free trade pact between the EU and the USA. The Bundestag parliamentary group of the Greens said the pact could erode ‘hard won’ food safety standards in Europe.

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