The US Department of Agriculture is predicting record meat production and consumption in 2018, but it’s a changed picture from a generation ago. It turns out, per-capita beef production and consumption in America peaked in the mid-1970s.
Since then, consumption of beef has dropped by a third, while consumption of chicken has doubled. The reasons include health concerns associated with eating beef, the proliferation of ready-to-cook chicken products, the fact that chicken is less expensive than beef, and more women in the workforce (chicken takes less time to prepare).
“Beef production requires seven times more land and emits seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than chicken does per gram of protein,” says Richard Waite, an associate with World Resources Institute’s Food Program.
So the changing American diet is also changing the planet for the better. Later this year, World Resources Institute will be releasing its final section of the report Creating a Sustainable Food Future that models how our diets have to change further to feed a growing population sustainably.