The OECD and FAO anticipate increases in meat production and demand in emerging countries. To combat malnutrition, the FAO and other global organizations encourage the consumption of meat and dairy products. However, to mitigate climate change, these same international organizations criticize livestock farming as a source of greenhouse gas emissions!
India, with its 1.4 billion inhabitants and hundreds of millions of farmers, is a model of food sovereignty globally. The Indian diet is largely vegetarian. Nevertheless, the consumption of meat and dairy products is expected to increase, as in all other emerging countries. By 2032, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), there would be a 15% increase in poultry meat consumption and a 10% increase in beef consumption worldwide.
In ten years, poultry meat would account for 41% of animal protein intake in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, among others, as highlighted by the OECD.
Every year, per capita consumption of meat and animal proteins increases in emerging countries. The driving forces are demographic growth and the rising purchasing power of the middle class.
Rising incomes also lead consumers to change their dietary habits by buying more poultry, beef, and pork (in non-Muslim countries) at the expense of less attractive sheep meat.
On a global scale, average meat consumption per capita will have increased by 700 grams per year by 2032, reaching 28.8 kg, according to the OECD. In percentage terms, the increase will be higher in developing countries, with meat consumption expected to grow by 9.6% in ten years compared to 2% in rich countries.
By 2032, meat consumption will average 22.9 kilograms carcass equivalent (Kg c.e.) per capita in emerging countries, according to the OECD. However, this average masks significant disparities.
Focusing on beef alone, less than 4-5 kilograms per capita are consumed each year in the poorest countries (Egypt, Pakistan). It will be higher at 16-17 kg among OECD countries (up to 30 kg in the United States).
The consumption of meat and dairy products is promoted by the FAO and other international organizations as a means to combat malnutrition. The challenge is to balance the dietary needs of malnourished populations.
However, these same international organizations criticize livestock activities and the growth of international trade in animal products, which emit greenhouse gases.
But not all countries have the means to be self-sufficient to meet the needs of their population! The war in Ukraine has highlighted their vulnerability painfully.
African Continent with Virtuous Practices at Risk
In Africa, African livestock will have to produce more meat to feed 2 billion people by 2050.
To date, no African country is part of the exclusive club of major meat or animal exporters, except South Africa, the 6th largest sheep meat producer in the world (170,000 tonnes) according to the OECD, the Organization for Economic Development.
Meat produced in Africa is primarily intended for local consumption. However, the continent imports cheap beef, mainly from India, as it does not produce enough to meet its needs. Chicken purchases are steadily increasing.
North Africa stands out from its sub-Saharan neighbors with massive imports of live cattle, mostly shipped from Northern Europe or, for Egypt, from Sudan. Above-ground ruminant farming represents a small part of total beef production.
The climate change affecting the planet: Africa is more a victim than a cause. It threatens the continent’s food sovereignty as the population continues to grow. Also, Africa cannot afford not to mobilize to produce more meat.
Moreover, the continent knows that it can no longer rely, as in the past, on meat-exporting countries to be supplied.
Indeed, these same exporting countries may be tempted (or forced) to produce less meat to achieve their ambitious climate goals (reducing greenhouse gas emissions, carbon neutrality) at their level.
Without giving up on producing more meat to meet perfectly understandable growing needs, it would be wise to prioritize ruminant farming over monogastric farming in Africa.
In Africa, pastoralism, transhumance, and mixed farming are inherently ‘low-carbon’ livestock practices that preserve biodiversity.
CIRAD has even demonstrated that pastoralism is neutral in terms of greenhouse gases.
In terms of ruminant farming, productivity gains are enormous. Governments will need to invest in genetics and advice to increase production capacities and produce more animals and forage.
In addition to producing meat and milk, ruminant farming provides the organic matter needed to enrich soils and increase their water retention capacity. Beef cattle are also a significant workforce in the fields.
By trading their animals, farmers also participate in the market economy. Their animals are sold to feed urban populations.
However, pastoralism and transhumance in Africa are affected by urban expansion, enclosure, and rivalries between different agricultural activities (food crops, plantations, etc.).
In recent years, these livestock farming practices have been partially disrupted in sub-Saharan Africa by political instability induced by repeated coups, border closures preventing herds from moving, and guerrillas making rural areas unsafe.
Unbalanced Global Projections
All emerging countries will produce more meat over the next ten years. However, the growth of meat production in emerging countries is unbalanced.
Of the 38 million carcass equivalent tons (Mt c.e.) of meat produced by 2033, less than a quarter will come from cattle farming (7 Mt c.e.) and sheep farming (2 Mt c.e.), according to the OECD. But sheep farming lacks attractiveness. The phenomenon is global. Yet it is the most extensive and ecological farming method that exists.
According to the OECD and FAO, the increase in meat production will primarily be an increase in monogastric meat production over the next ten years. Emerging countries alone will produce 15 Mt c.e. more poultry meat and 13.8 Mt c.e. more pork by 2032 than in 2023.
In other words, industrial livestock farming, a source of greenhouse gas emissions, will progress more than extensive farming.
But can we only prevent the majority of the population from eating better?
(1) OECD AND FAO AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK 2023-2032 © OECD/FAO 2023″