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Meat-consumption statistics: reliability and discrepancy

Author(s): Elinor Hallström | Pål Börjesson

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

Volume: 9;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 37;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: meat production | food consumption | statistical analysis | environmental effects | public health

Interest in meat consumption and its impact on the environment and health has grown markedly over the last few decades and this upsurge has led to greater demand for reliable data. This article aims to describe methods for producing meat-consumption statistics and discuss their limitations and strengths; to identify uncertainties in statistics and to estimate their individual impact; to outline how relevant data are produced and presented at the national (Swedish), regional (Eurostat), and international (FAOSTAT) levels; to analyze the consequences of identified discrepancies and uncertainties for estimating the environmental and health effects of meat consumption; and to suggest recommendations for improved production, presentation, and use of meat-consumption statistics. We demonstrate many inconsistencies in how meat-consumption data are produced and presented. Of special importance are assumptions on bone weight, food losses and waste, weight losses during cooking, and nonmeat ingredients. Depending on the methods employed to handle these ambiguous factors, per capita meat-consumption levels may differ by a factor of two or more. This finding illustrates that knowledge concerning limitations, uncertainties, and discrepancies in data is essential for a correct understanding, interpretation, and use of meat-consumption statistics in, for instance, dietary recommendations related to health and environmental issues.
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