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There’s no denying it. Meat is delicious. Come on, you know it’s true. Juicy, savory, flavorful meat should be at the center of every meal. At least I think it should.
If you consider yourself a meat-o-saurus (and yes, that’s a technical term I just made up), then there are some interesting facts you may or may not already know. Consider this a right of passage. Read this, and we’ll let you keep your meat card.
Meat comes from all of the normal places like cows, birds, and fish, but it also comes from frogs, oysters, and in some countries, horses, dogs, and cats. While it may seem unconventional, meat comes from avian, amphibian, mammalian, reptilian, and aquatic species (Merriam, 2017).
Even offal organs like livers, kidneys, and hearts are considered meat. It’s a love/hate sort of thing.
Most meat is made of 75% water, 20% protein, and 5% fat. It contains traces of carbohydrates, too (FAO, 2007).
Mammalian meat is obtained from goats, sheep, cows, horses, buffalo, dogs, cats, and other mammals. It comprises 33% of the global meat market (Spritzler, n.d.).
Poultry is meat obtained from chicken, duck, turkey, goose, and other wild birds. It makes up 38% of the world meat market (Spritzler, n.d.).
Who, where, and how much meat do we produce worldwide?
The amount of meat produced worldwide today is four times more than it was 50 years ago (Ritchie & Roser, 2017).
The number of animals going to the processing plant every year is roughly 80 billion (Ritchie & Roser, 2017).
On average, 43 kilograms of meat are consumed per person, per year (Ritchie & Roser, 2017). In the US and Australia, that number is closer to 100kg per person while in India, it’s as low as 5kg per person. What can we say? Meat is delicious. #sorrynotsorry
Pig is by far the most popular source of meat worldwide. China produced 54 million metric tons of pig meat in 2018. The EU and the US are second and third in line (Shahbandeh, 2019)
Not surprisingly, the United States is the leading producer of beef and buffalo meat. In 2014, the US produced 11 tons (Ritchie & Roser, 2017).
⅓ of the world’s grains go to feed livestock and enhance meat production (Ritchie &Roser, 2017).
Brazil, India, and Australia are the leading producers and exporters of veal.
Australia’s feedlots produce about 80% of the meat sold in world supermarkets (Evans, n.d.).
Trigger warning: If you’re not one to think about the actual death of these animals so you can enjoy them, you might not want to read these next four points.
50 billion chickens are slaughtered each year for human consumption (Thornton, 2019).
1.5 billion pigs are slaughtered worldwide for bacon, sausages, pork, and ham (Thornton, 2019).
500 million sheep are slaughtered every year for human consumption (Thornton, 2019).
1.5 billion cows are killed every year for human consumption (Thornton, 2019).
Carving and Preservation
From the most common cuts to how it’s preserved, here’s the lowdown on how they make sure your meat is ready to enjoy.
Fresh meat should be stored from 28 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (Introduction to Cutting and processing meats – Meat cutting and processing for food service, 2015).
Pig meat can be stored for up to 6 months in the freezer. Lamb and beef will last for 12 months (Introduction to Cutting and processing meats – Meat cutting and processing for food service, 2015)
The most common meat preservation methods are chilling, freezing, smoking, dehydration, curing, and canning (Pal, 2018).
While some restaurants tout ‘always fresh, never frozen’ meat, freezing your meat doesn’t actually make it worse.
Freezing temperatures kill bacteria, so freezing meat can ensure that your meat is safe to eat later.
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’.
Trucks are the primary method of transporting meat in the United States. (American Meat Science Association, 2017)
Trucks transport feeder cattle 89 miles to be fed. (American Meat Science Association, 2017)
The average distance they travel to the slaughterhouse is 92 miles. (American Meat Science Association, 2017)
It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Australia eats the most meat, at 110kg per person per year. (Evans, n.d)
In 2018, the world consumed 360 million tons of meat. That’s almost 2 blue whales. (Meat consumption, 2019)
Economists expect that the demand for meat will increase by 73% by the year 2050. (FAO, 2013)
You may not realize your meat comes from all kinds of different places. Here’s to you, vegans worldwide!
Natural meat is gathered from animals that have been fed forage products, grain, or other organic food. (All-Natural Meat, 2016)
Natural meat does not incorporate additional antibodies or growth hormones. (All-Natural Meat, 2016)
The number of cattle grown naturally is between 375,000 and 425,000 worldwide. (Chichester, n.d.)
About 95% of people consume natural meat once a week. (Chichester, n.d.)
Natural meat is a great source of vital nutrients like zinc, iron, protein, and vitamin B. (Chichester, n.d.)
Natural meat comprises about 3% of the total meat sold in US stores. (Chichester, n.d.)
In 2019, the global natural meat market was estimated to be over $945 billion. (FAO, 2019)
Lab-grown meat comes from biomedical techniques like tissue engineering and stem cell biology. (Schaefer, 2018)
Lab-grown meat allows scientists to control what they create in terms of fat content and calories. (Schaefer, 2018)
In 2013, the cost of making one pound of lab-grown meat was about $300,000. Thanks to technological advancements in the field, as of 2018, that cost has been reduced to $2,400. (Schaefer, 2018)
Lab-grown meat is considered natural, despite the fact that it’s not grown inside an animal. (Facts about Cultured Meat, n.d.)
As of 2019, the lab-grown meat market was valued at $206 million and is expected to reach $571 million by 2024. (Schaefer, 2018)
Plant-based meat is derived from genetically modified coconut oil, soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, and items like soy protein isolate, zinc gluconate, and cultured dextrose. (Kateman, 2020)
43% of women and 39% of men have eaten plant-based meat. Think jackfruit. (Bourassa, 2019)
Sales of plant-based meat in the US increased by 11% from 2018-2019, reaching a market value of $4.5 billion. (Bourassa, 2019)
The demand for plant-based meat is estimated to be $7.5 billion by 2025. (Bourassa, 2019)
About 17% of Americans are familiar with plant-based meats. 33% say they are somewhat familiar while 30% say they are not familiar at all. (Piper, 2020)
Plant-based meat could solve animal welfare problems and environmental issues related to factory farming. (Piper, 2020)
Grilling, boiling, and cooking. Oh my!
Homo erectus began cooking meat before eating it about 500,000 years ago. (Cooking, n.d.)
The ideal way to cook meat is storing frozen meat in the refrigerator for 24 hours, marinating for up to 12, and removing it from the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to cooking. (Cooking, n.d.)
You should always remove excess fat.
Small cuts roughly ¾ inch thick have better heat penetration and cook better. (Cooking, n.d.)
Protein in the meat begins toughening at temperatures exceeding 195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Macdonald, 2014)
Boiling meat was initially eaten by the elite in London. (Macdonald, 2014)
Boiling involves a rapid constant boil to heat the meat for about 20 minutes per pound. (Boiled beef, 2013)
Boiled meat is popular in traditional Jewish cuisine. (Shanker, 2015)
Grilling meat originated in the Caribbean. (Melina, 2010)
Grilling was popularly regarded as barbacoa (barbecue) by early Spanish explorers. (Melina, 2010)
In grilling, the heat is normally supplied from below to cook steaks, ribs, roasts, pork chops, hot dogs, sausages, or bologna. (Larsen, 2019)
Is there any other way to cook meat?
Approximately 70% of Americans own a grill. (Spitznagel, 2018)
In 2018, the worldwide grilling market was estimated at $4.79 billion. (Global Industry Report, 2019)
Most Americans use their grill for an average of 3 years before replacing or upgrading. (Hollander, 2017)
71% of grilling sessions in the US occur on the 4th of July, with Memorial Day and Labor Day being second and third. (National Barbecue day, 2018)
Gas grills are best for convenience, but lack unique taste. (Naru, n.d.)
Charcoal grills require more supplies, but produce more savory meat flavor. (Naru, n.d.
Male grillers outnumber their female counterparts 2:1. (Roberts, 2016)
62% of women will experiment more with their grilling compared to only 50% of men. (Roberts, 2016)
Women grill spicier meat than men do. (Roberts, 2016)
Take away sweets, but don’t take away my meat!
The recommended Keto diet activity is anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. (Aggarwal, 2019)
The Keto diets recommends 980 calories per day, 36% of which should come from protein. So far, the meat is safe. (Mawer, 2018)
The carnivore diet can cause excessive intake of sodium and put your body at risk for kidney disease, high blood pressure, and other health issues. (Runyan, 2020)
A day in the life of a carnivore diet includes ham, cheese, and eggs for breakfast; a rib-eye steak for lunch; and a bacon hamburger for dinner. Sounds meaty. (Zaleski, 2019)
The carnivore diet is preferred for people who are highly active and need a lot of energy between meals. (Zaleski, 2019)
A low-carb diet involves reducing your carbohydrate calorie intake to about 30% of your total caloric intake. (Schroeder, 2019)
Of the 8 million adults in the US who do not eat poultry, meat, or fish, ½ of them are vegan. (Kerr, 2019)
Vegans are less susceptible to prostate cancer because they don’t eat red meat, which is known to back up in your intestines. (Kerr, 2019)
Plant-based diets can help reduce your risk of heart-related health conditions. (Kerr, 2019)
An Oxford University study shows that people on plant-based diets have a 32% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. (Kerr, 2019)
You’re about to read about something really gross. But it’s like a train wreck. So hard to look away.
A tribe in Papua, New Guinea ate human flesh as recently as the 1950s. This practice was abolished when they were diagnosed with Kuru disease. However, a study as recently as 2012 revealed that some were still engaging in this practice. (Baidya, 2018)
Albert Fish and Issei Sagawa are two of the most famous cannibals in the world. The former was a serial killer, but the latter only did it once before being declared clinically insane. (O’Reilly, 2017)
Neanderthals were suspected to supplement their meals with human flesh, but only during times of starvation. (Al-Khatib, 2015)
Eating meat isn’t always good for you. A balanced diet and everything in moderation is still the best long term healthy choice.
Consuming increasing amounts of processed red meat is associated with type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and increased mortality risk. (Richi et al. 2015)
The consumption of more than 700grams of red meat per person per week increases the risk of bowel cancer. (Richi et al. 2015)
Consumption of 2 servings of poultry or processed red meat per week increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. (Zhong et al. 2020)
High intake of poultry and beef increases the risk of developing diabetes. (Cohut, 2017)
Meat is one of the only foods that contains all of the essential amino acids. (Williams, 2007)
Iron absorption from meat is about 30% compared to an absorption rate of 10% from plant-based foods. (Williams, 2007)
Meat contributes to 13% of obesity cases. Worldwide, this is the same contribution rate as sugar. (University of Adelaide, 2016)
People who eat red meat are 33% more likely to have central obesity. (Wang &Beydoun, 2009)
Raw meat contains bacteria that is present as the animal grows. (Food Safety Focus, 2017)
The risk of bacterial contamination in meat and poultry increases during the slaughtering process because of the presence of intestinal components. (Sheridan, 2007)
The most common bacteria found in red meat is E-Coli. (Sheridan, 2007)
Bacteria can grow rapidly in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (USDA, 2013)
Meat has a very special place in a lot of traditional and religious practices.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, rapid urbanization and industrialization saw a worldwide dietary transition to meat-eating. (Smil, 2019)
For decades, meat has been an integral part of the human diet. (Smil, 2019)
Activities like hunting and fishing have led to the tradition of meat sharing and eating. (Shannon, 2019)
Most cultural holidays revolve around eating meat as a part of the meal including Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Food and celebrations, 2011)
In some religions, meat is considered a sacrifice. (Srivastava, 2007)
All animals are considered sacred in the Hindu religion. (Srivastava, 2007)
Most Indian states have banned the slaughtering of cows. Beef can only be found in non-Hindu restaurants and stores. (Srivastava, 2007)
In Buddhism, meat-eating is condemned by Buddha if you have any act in the killing. For instance, if you see the animal being killed, if you know the animal is being slaughtered specifically for you, and if you agree to the slaughtering of the animal. (Srivastava, 2007)
Islam praises the pleasures of all meat except pork. (Srivastava, 2007)
Believe it or not, eating meat can influence climate change. Fortunately, it can also have certain environmental benefits. Eat all the meat!
Livestock farming creates an annual increase of 41% in emission of gases while human emissions account for a 14.5% increase. (Waite et al. 2019)
The need for meat is estimated to grow by 88% from 2010 to 2050, putting a lot of stress on our climate. (Waite et al. 2019)
Livestock farming could lead to deforestation, risking a 1.5-degree temperature increase annually. (Carrington, 2018)
Meat has the highest energy footprint on earth. It takes 75 times more energy to create meat than it does to produce corn, which is the most consumed food material on earth. (Savulescu, 2017)
It requires 25 kilograms of grain and 15,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef, leading to the depletion of natural resources. (Savulescu, 2017).
Sustainable meat production can have regenerative effects. (Gibbens, 2019)
Grasslands and foliage co-evolve with animals, providing an ideal ecosystem with nutrient recycling and improved soil structure. (Gibbens, 2019)
This ideal ecosystem reduces erosion and boosts water filtration. (Gibbens, 2019)
Consumption of plant-based meat with the occasional consumption of natural meat could be the answer. (Gibbens, 2019)