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Does global meat consumption follow an environmental Kuznets curve?

Author(s): Jennifer Rivers Cole | Suzanne McCoskey

Journal: Sustainability : Science, Practice and Policy
ISSN 1548-7733

Volume: 9;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 26;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: income | socioeconomic aspects | environmental impact | meat production | food consumption

In this article, we use data on meat consumption, per capita income, and other socioeconomic variables for 150 countries to determine whether data support the hypothesis that per capita meat consumption follows a Kuznets-style inverted U-curve. In other words, as nations increase their real per capita incomes, while individuals at first consume more meat, ultimately, over time and with increased income, do they moderate their consumption? Our results signal that although there is evidence of a Kuznets relationship, the income at which our data suggests a deceleration of meat is large enough that for many countries this deceleration will not be reached in the foreseeable future. In a cross-section sample of low-income countries, we find no evidence of a Kuznets relationship. In a cross-section sample of high-income countries, we do find a potential Kuznets relationship and a deceleration of meat consumption at a per capita income of US$49,848. In the full panel-data sample combining high- and low-income countries, including data on land area and urbanization, our results suggest an inflection point in meat consumption at an income of US$36,375, still quite high for any realistic impact. Thus, our results highlight that effectively decelerating the global demand for meat may require aggressive and potentially controversial policy interventions, which, while leaving individuals with less choice, would address the otherwise devastating environmental impacts of increasing meat consumption.
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