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The term meat industry describes modern industrialized livestock agriculture for production, packing, preservation and marketing of meat (in contrast to dairy products, wool, etc.). In economics, it is a fusion of primary (agriculture) and secondary (industry) activity and hard to characterize strictly in terms of either one alone. The greater part of the entire meat industry is termed meat packing industry- the segment that handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock.

A great portion of the ever-growing[1] meat branch in the food industry involves intensive animal farming in which livestock are kept almost entirely indoors[2] or in restricted outdoor settings like pens.

Many aspects of the raising of animals for meat have become industrialized, even many practices more associated with smaller family farms, e.g. gourmet foods such as foie gras.[3][4]

The production of livestock is a heavily vertically integrated industry where the majority of supply chain stages are integrated and owned by one company.


Efficiency considerationsEdit

The livestock industry not only uses more land than any other human activity; it's also one of the largest contributors to water pollution and a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. In this respect, a relevant factor is the produced species' feed conversion efficiency. Additionally taking into account other factors like use of energy, pesticides, land, and nonrenewable resources, beef, lamb, goat, and bison as resources of red meat show the worst efficiency; poultry and eggs come out best. [5]

Meat sourcesEdit

Estimated world livestock numbers (million head)[6]
type 1990 2000 2012 % change 1990-2012
Cattle and Buffaloes 1445 1467 1684 16.5
Pigs 849 856 966 13.8
Poultry 11788 16077 24075 104.2
Sheep and Goats 1795 1811 2165 20.6

Global production of meat productsEdit

The top ten of the international meat industry


Among the largest meat producers worldwide are:

World beef productionEdit

World 58,443,000[7][unreliable source?]
Country metric tons (2015) % Of World
United States 10,861,000 18.58
Brazil 9,425,000 16.13
European Union 7,540,000 12.90
China 6,750,000 11.55
India 4,200,000[unreliable source?] 7.19
Argentina 2,740,000 4.69
Australia 2,550,000 4.36
Mexico 1,845,000 3.16
Pakistan 1,725,000 2.95
Russia 1,355,000 2.32


Critical aspects of the effects of industrial meat production include

Many observers[who?] suggest that the expense of dealing with the above are grossly undercounted in present economic metrics and that true/full cost accounting would drastically raise the price[11] of industrial meat.[12][13][14][15]

Possible alternativesEdit

Cultured meat (aka "clean meat") potentially offers some advantages in terms of efficiency of resource use and animal welfare. It is, however, still at an early stage of development and its advantages are still contested.

Increasing health care costs for an aging baby boom population suffering from obesity and other food-related diseases, concerns about obesity in children have spurred new ideas about healthy nutrition with less emphasis on meat.[16][17][18][19][20]

Native wild species like deer and bison in North America would be cheaper[21] and potentially have less impact on the environment.[22][23] The combination of more wild game meat options and higher costs for natural capital affected by the meat industry could be a building block towards a more sustainable livestock agriculture. A growing trend towards vegetarian or vegan diets and the Slow Food movement are indicators of a changing consumer conscience in western countries. Producers on the other hand have reacted to consumer concerns by slowly shifting towards ecological or organic farming.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Global Meat Production and Consumption Continue to Rise". Worldwatch Institute.
  2. ^ Paul Ebner. "Modern Livestock Facilities". Purdue University.
  3. ^ "Foie Gras: Cruelty to Ducks and Geese | Ducks and Geese Used for Food | Factory Farming: Misery for Animals | The Issues". PETA. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  4. ^ "An Animal Equality investigation". Foie Gras farms. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  5. ^ Nina Rastogi. "The Kindest Cut - Which meat harms our planet the least?". Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  6. ^ "FAO's Animal Production and Health Division: Meat & Meat Products". Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  7. ^ "World Beef Production: Ranking Of Countries". 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  8. ^ "Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals". FAO. 2015.
  9. ^ "Definition of veganism". The Vegan Society. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  10. ^ "The Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights – Animal Rights The Abolitionist Approach". Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  11. ^ "USDA ERS - Retail Meat Prices & Price Spreads". 2016-12-02. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  12. ^ "Food wastage footprint - Full cost accounting" (PDF). FAO. 2014.
  13. ^ "Unfair fare: Why prices for meat from small local farms are too high". Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  14. ^ "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food". TIME. 2009.
  15. ^ "The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production". TIME. 2013.
  16. ^ Joan Sabaté and Michelle Wien (2010). "Vegetarian diets and childhood obesity prevention". Am J Clin Nutr. American Society for Nutrition. 91 (5): 1525S–1529S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.28701f.
  17. ^ Y Wang and MA Beydoun (2009). "Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults". Int J Obes (Lond). 33 (6): 621–628. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.45. PMC 2697260. PMID 19308071.
  18. ^ "Meatless meals: The benefits of eating less meat". Mayo Clinic.
  19. ^ "Should You Eat Less Meat?". Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  20. ^ "How to reduce your cancer risk and help the environment: Eat less red meat". CNN. 2015.
  21. ^ "Hunting vs Buying Meat: The Traditional Hunter in the Modern World". 2012.
  22. ^ Kelsey Blackwell (2011). "Are bison the answer to sustainable meat?".
  23. ^ Chris Helzer (2014). "Bison Good, Cattle Bad??".

Further readingEdit