Dairy cows in factory farm

Meat Is Eating up the Planet

Americans are the biggest consumers of meat globally and the first nation to reach “Meat Exhaustion Day”


BOSTON, MA – MARCH 8, 2024 Today, the United States is the first country to reach “Meat Exhaustion Day”, surpassing its maximum annual meat intake for the year as recommended by the scientific EAT-Lancet Commission

Twice as much meat is consumed worldwide than the planet or people’s health can digest according to the latest findings by FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization. Eating meat beyond the recommended amount not only has huge human health risks, the meat industry also leads to massive animals suffering, with 83.3 billion being slaughtered for meat every year.

On average, a person in the US consumes almost 3.6 pounds of meat per week. This is the equivalent amount of meat in 14 burgers per person per week1, making Americans the biggest consumers of meat in the world.

FOUR PAWS urges governments to phase out factory farming and set policy targets for a food system change that offers sustainable diets in line with planetary boundaries.  These policy targets would help alleviate the mass suffering of animals, the detrimental effects on human health, and pollution of soil, water, and air.

"To fulfill planetary and health boundaries, global meat consumption and production must be halved. Especially governments of high-income countries are called upon to set clear targets for a more sustainable diet and to phase out factory farming. Each and every one of us can make a difference by reducing, refining and replacing animal-based products,”

Josef Pfabigan, CEO and President at FOUR PAWS

Global North needs to cut meat consumption by 70%

High-income countries are the biggest drivers of global meat consumption. Globally, “Meat Exhaustion Day” will be reached on June 24, 2024, yet many countries of the Global North are exceeding their recommended maximum meat intake as early as March and April. While the trend to higher meat consumption is also beefing up in the Global South, some countries of this region, for example India or Uganda, do not reach “Meat Exhaustion Day” at all.

High cost of meat overconsumption in the United States

FOUR PAWS found that in the United States, five times the recommended amount of maximum meat intake is consumed each week. To reach climate and health boundaries, the EAT- Lancet Commission recommends a maximum weekly meat intake of 0.67 pounds / 301 grams, which would correspond to 2.5 burgers. The costs of meat overconsumption are high: According to the Center for Disease Control, 42% of the adult population in the US suffer from obesity, increasing associated diseases and mortality risks. Furthermore, 37% of all land in the United States is used for animal agriculture according to US Department of Agriculture data, with more than 9.73 billion animals being slaughtered in 2021, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data.

About Meat Exhaustion Day

Meat Exhaustion Day is calculated by comparing the average actual consumption of meat per person with the Planetary Health Diet, recommended by the renowned EAT Lancet Commission. This panel of international scientists give guidance for what would be a consumption pattern that provides healthy food for a growing world population, within planetary boundaries.   FOUR PAWS released a preliminary report in which a team of experts at FOUR PAWS took the Planetary Health Diet provided by the renowned EAT Lancet Commission and calculated the unique measurement tool.

1. 3.6 pounds /1.6 kilograms meat

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.fourpawsusa.org 

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