Beef is the most consumed meat in the world. Beef accounts for nearly one-third of all meat consumption worldwide. Pork and chicken are close behind, with each accounting for about 20% of global meat consumption. Lamb, goat, and other meats make up the remaining 17%.
So why is beef so popular? There are a few reasons. For one, beef is relatively affordable compared to other meats. It’s also versatile, meaning it can be cooked in various ways. And finally, beef is considered a high-quality protein source, providing important nutrients like iron and zinc.
The world’s biggest beef producer is China, which accounts for nearly 30% of global production. The U.S. and Brazil are the second and third-largest producers, respectively. Beef consumption has climbed sharply in China since 2000, rising by about 40%. Other countries with significant increases include Russia, India, Mexico, and Egypt.
That said, there are some drawbacks to consuming too much beef. For one, beef is high in saturated fat, contributing to heart disease and other health problems. Additionally, livestock farming is a major contributor to climate change, so eating less beef can help reduce our carbon footprint.
Pork, chicken, and other meats are readily available around the world. Even in countries with strong Hindu or Muslim populations where beef is restricted or forbidden by religious rules, pork is still consumed in large quantities.
The taste of meat isn’t necessarily universal either. The Chinese famously eat dog meat. Hindus consider the cow sacred and do not eat it, while Muslims consider pigs unclean and thus avoid pork.
Yet despite these geographic variations, global consumption of beef has grown steadily over time, more than doubling since 1970 alone. For whatever reason—taste preference, availability, ease of transport—beef has surpassed all else as humanity’s preferred choice for red meat (pun intended).
Why does beef consumption continue to grow worldwide? Tastes are constantly evolving, and the global population is growing. Although not all countries show increases in per capita beef consumption, many do.
Globally, demand for beef has outpaced other meats since the mid-1990s. Whether or not this trend continues depends on several factors. The price of beef must remain competitive with alternative options like chicken and pork while also continuing to appeal to both local preferences and new consumers who may not be accustomed to eating it.
As long as supply can remain stable (or increasing) and constant competition doesn’t push prices too high—beef will likely retain its number one spot for years to come.
The way that our dietary habits affect the planet is harder to predict. We know that livestock farming, including beef production, contributes to climate change. Animal waste and methane gas from cows can contribute substantially to greenhouse gases.
But how much meat people choose to eat remains an important part of the equation. If beef consumption doesn’t slow down any time soon—we may need to take more dramatic steps to reduce its environmental impact. Lab-grown meat may become cheaper than traditional cattle farming in this case, but it’s too early to tell if this will happen anytime soon.
Robber Alegria is an experienced home cook and likes to share his knowledge here on the Linwood Grill website and hopes that you can benefit from his experience and tips. You can read more about him here