Diets are expanding and shifting.  Sugar, fat, and animal product consumption are increasing in almost all regions of the world—yet people in low- and middle-income countries still consume far less meat and dairy than those in high-income countries.

Kastner et al., 2012

Data from Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012

Extra facts

Increased Consumption

  • Food consumption is increasing on a global scale—from 2,250 calories per person per day in 1961 to 2,750 calories in 2007 to a projected 3,070 calories by 2050 (Kastner et al 2012, Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012: 50).
  • Despite increased consumption, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will continue to have the lowest daily food caloric intake per capita.
  • South Asia will quadruple its meat consumption from 2005 to 2050. Despite these changes, its per capita meat consumption will be one-fifth of consumption in high-income nations.
  • Consumption of cereals, followed by vegetable oils and livestock products, has increased fastest. But in relative terms, consumption of vegetable oils, vegetables, fruits, livestock products, tea, coffee and cocoa increased more rapidly than cereals. Consumption of roots, tubers and pulses declined (Kastner et al. 2012).
  • Low- and middle-income countries are expected to consume more meat and dairy to 2050. Except in South Asia, consumption of roots and tubers will continue decreasing (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).
  • By 2050, Latin America, Near East/North Africa and East Asia will have a per capita food consumption similar to that of high-income countries in 1990 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).

Meat and Dairy Demand

  • Global animal protein consumption has more than doubled since 1970. The growing global population and increasing per capita consumption of meat and dairy will increase global animal protein demand by 60 percent by 2030. (PBL 2009)
  • Meat consumption in low- and middle-income countries—except for China and Brazil—is projected to grow 75 percent from 2005 to 2050, reaching 30 kilograms per person per year. (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012)
  • By 2050, Latin America’s per capita meat consumption (84 kilograms/person/year) will be on par with high-income countries (91 kilograms/person/year) (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012).
  • On average, every citizen consumes 39 kilograms of meat per year. North America consumes 121 kilograms, Europe (EU-15) consumes 91 kilograms, China consumes 54 kilograms and Africa consumes 14 kilograms (PBL 2009: 164).
  • Producing calorie energy and protein from livestock takes an estimated 2.5 to 10 times more energy than from grain. Currently, one third of the world’s cereals supply is used for livestock feed, which results in lower energy efficiency (de Fraiture et al. 2007). An increase in humans’ direct cereals consumption—which would require the difficult task of convincing richer populations to change their diets—would boost the global food system’s energy efficiency. (Kahn and Hanjra 2009: 131).
  • The production of animal protein must be more than tripled if the projected global population of 9 billion people in 2050 were to consume meat and dairy at current North America and Europe levels (PBL 2009).

Source: Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012: 49-50

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Methods, caveats and issues

The historical analysis of food consumption uses Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) data (FAOSTAT); see section on food demand for more details.

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