Is Veganism Hurting the Meat Industry? [Data]


I keep reading articles about animal agriculture executives worrying about people shifting away from meat.

But I rarely see any data behind it, so I was hoping to dig some up.

I wanted to find out 2 things:

  • Is veganism affecting the meat industry?
  • If so, how much?

I’ll share what I found with you here.

OECD Meat Consumption

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) consists of 36 countries, and makes meat consumption data available publicly.

You can access the data here if you’d like to double check anything in this post; it’s where I got all my data from.

There’s no easy way to see total meat consumption over time with their tool, so I downloaded the data and reformatted it.

Here’s what OECD meat consumption looks like for roughly the last 20 years (click to enlarge):

oecd meat consumption by year

I’m not sure why it was so low in 1999, but it doesn’t really matter.

Meat consumption across OECD countries largely plateaued, but has started to rise in the last few years.

Meat Consumption in the United States By Year

Since veganism seems to be more popular in the wealthier Western countries, I thought I’d take a look at the U.S. to see if there was any difference in the trend.

USA meat consumption by year

Unfortunately, it’s not much different.

While pork and beef consumption is down, poultry consumption is up.

Overall, meat consumption in the U.S. is fairly steady at about 100 kg per capita.

Takeaways for Vegans

I went into this obviously hoping that meat consumption was trending down.

The data was honestly pretty depressing.

If you’re feeling similar, keep these things in mind:

  • The world isn’t going to go vegan overnight. It will take many years to accomplish unfortunately.
  • Change often happens slowly at first, and then speeds up exponentially. We’re just starting to roll the ball down the hill, but hopefully it will pick up speed. (It does seem like more people are going vegan.)
  • Vegans are paving the way for alternatives to meat (i.e. plant-based meats and lab grown meat) that could disrupt the meat industry,

Whenever it seems overwhelmingly hopeless, think about the animals that you’ve spared by going vegan. 

You’ve already made a difference in the lives of individuals. So just because you can’t fix the world’s problems by yourself, you are making a difference that could help lead to global change in the future.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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