The great global meat-up: See where India fits in

Published on Jan 20, 2023 07:02 PM IST

Local surveys around the world have reflected shifts in the amounts of meat the average person consumes. What drives such dietary changes in India, and how do our consumption levels compare? Take a look.


While more people self-report reducing meat consumption in developed countries, but overall meat consumption has risen.

One-third of adults in the UK reported having reduced their meat intake in 2014, according to a survey conducted by NatCen Social Research. Similarly, two-thirds of people in the US reported having reduced consumption of at least one type of meat, according to a 2018 survey-based paper published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

(Source: FAO data compiled by Our World in Data)
(Source: FAO data compiled by Our World in Data)

However, statistics on meat supply from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO; see chart above) show that average meat consumption in these countries is not decreasing as fast. In 2013, an average American ate 115 kg of meat a year, down from 123 kg in 2003 but still the highest in the world. In the UK, meat consumption was at 81.5 kg per person in 2013, a marginal reduction from 83 kg in 2003. And global per capita consumption has risen (from 38 kg in 2003 to 43 kg in 2013), largely as a result of growing meat consumption in countries with fast-rising incomes such as China. (See Chart 1 above)

(Source: National Family Health Survey)
(Source: National Family Health Survey)

Fewer Indians are vegetarians now, but we still eat much less meat than the world.

Indians consumed just 3.7 kg of meat per person in 2013, a figure that has remained almost stagnant over several decades. This doesn’t mean the country’s meat-eating habits aren’t changing. The share of people who never eat any kind of meat has decreased slightly between the two latest rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted in 2014 and 2019-21. (See Chart 2A above)

(Source: National Family Health Survey)
(Source: National Family Health Survey)

Meanwhile, the share of people who eat any kind of meat weekly increased significantly in this period. To be sure, meat consumption in India will not rise anywhere near as fast as in China, as incomes rise. This is because meat consumption in India actually decreases somewhat as people become richer, a trend that can be attributed to the religious and cultural reasons behind vegetarianism in the country. (See Chart 2B above)


    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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