Where’s the Beef?

In the Spring 2012 issue’sThink Again,” Fred Pearce described how consumption in developing countries is on the decline, suggesting that we’ve reached “peak stuff.” The case for getting over the peak is even stronger with the latest data on meat consumption in the U.S. The Earth Policy Institute analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers and found that meat eating reached a high point of 184 pounds per person in 2004 and fell to 171 pounds per person in 2011. Total U.S. meat consumption has also peaked, hitting a high of 55.4 billion pounds in 2007 and dropping each year since to 53.2 billion pounds in 2011. Even though rising prices, a weak economy, and changing attitudes about eating meat are likely contributing to this trend, the environment nevertheless catches a break—especially with the most profound drop being in resource-intensive beef.

peak meat graph Where’s the Beef?

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