Big cattle farm for meat production

Meat Exhaustion Day

Meat is eating up the planet

24.6.2024

Global meat production and consumption are not sustainable for the planet or human health. Factory farming also called intensive or industrial farming has become a problematic requisite in our food system that sustains an overly high consumption of meat.

For our food system to be sustainable, global meat consumption needs to be reduced by over 50%! However, the primary responsibility lies in high-income countries, such as the USA, Australia and European countries. Their meat consumption needs to be reduced by more than 80%.

What is Meat Exhaustion Day?

Meat Exhaustion Day determines the day on which the maximum recommended meat consumption per year has been reached, with respect to the earth’s limit (planetary boundaries) and considering human health requirements (health boundaries). The date was calculated by comparing the average meat consumption in each country, to the Planetary Health Diet (PHD) recommendation established by the EAT-Lancet Commission. The PHD diet recommends consuming no more than 15,695 grams (about 34.6 lb.) of meat per year, the equivalent of 301 grams (about 0.67 lb.) of meat per week. To know more about the reduction needs, see our country-specific fact sheets.

What is the impact?

Factory farming is harmful to animals that are commodified, traded, mistreated, and slaughtered throughout a food production chain that subjects them to immense suffering.

  • 92.2 billion farmed land animals are globally used for food production of meat milk and eggs every year.
  • About 74% of all farm animals are estimated to be kept in factory farming conditions: this is 68 billion land animals.

Meat consumption levels are globally too high, especially in the Global North. Such overconsumption of meat is not only harmful for farm animals across the world, it also drives the ecological and human public health crisis.

  • 1/6th of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are caused directly by our animal production system.
  • 77% of the world’s agricultural land is used to produce animal feed, driving massive worldwide deforestation.
  • 40% of the world’s freshwater is used to irrigate farm animal feed.

On average, globally, 1 person consumes 33 kilograms of meat each year.  

Human health is threatened by high level of meat intake. According to IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) processed meat is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) and red meat is ‘probably carcinogenic’ (Group 2A). In addition, meat intake is responsible for increasing the burden of disease and is associated with diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases.

Public health is at stake because of the current meat production system that abuses animals and stacks them in crowded spaces that encourage the transmission of zoonotic diseases and that increase antimicrobial resistance.

Who is responsible?

On a global level, high-income countries have the biggest responsibility to reduce meat production and consumption levels. Countries of the ‘Global North’, the USA, Australia, and Western European countries, have caused high GHG emissions historically and until today. These countries have the resources to change policies and make the food-system sustainable, to influence industries, and to guide consumers to reduce meat consumption and switch to plant-based alternatives.

On a country level:

  • Governments have the capacity to design policies that curb the market and impose a reduction of meat consumption in public institutions.
  • Retailers and supermarkets are the responsibility of supplying alternatives to meat that are as affordable and accessible as meat. They also have the responsibility to divest from cheap meat suppliers and instead demand meat producers for products that are cruelty free and environmentally sustainable.

On an individual level: follow the 3Rs principle.

  • Reduce animal-based products. Start by doing it once a week or a few days a week: have days in which you consume zero animal-based products. Then, you can progressively set up higher goals including more plant-based meals.  
  • Refine food choices that promote high animal welfare standards. You can choose products with labels that guarantee better animal welfare.  
  • Replace your food choices that contain animal-based products with plant-based alternatives.

What can we do?

Demand an end to animal suffering in the food system. Be aware of factory farms near you and their local environmental and climate impacts. Personally choose alternatives to meat. Reduce meat intake, adopt and encourage diets that fit within planetary and health boundaries.

Meat Exhaustion Day Around the World

In order of which country reached it first

USA 
Needed reduction: 81.5%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in the US


Reached in 2024: 8th March
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 84,994

Factsheet

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Australia
Needed reduction: 78.6%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in Australia


Reached in 2024: 19th March
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 73,370

Factsheet

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Austria
Needed reduction: 73.2%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in Austria


Reached in 2024: 7th April
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 58,600
 
Factsheet DE | EN

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France
Needed reduction: 73.6%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in France


Reached in 2024: 11th April
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 59,500

Factsheet FR | EN

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Germany
Needed reduction: 69.9%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in Germany


Reached in 2024: 21th April
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 52,200

Factsheet DE | EN

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Switzerland
Needed reduction: 65.7%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in Switzerland


Reached in 2024: 2nd May
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 47,240

Factsheet DE | FR | EN

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South Africa
Needed reduction: 64%

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Meat Exhaustion Day in South Africa


Reached in 2024: 10th May
Average meat consumption per person per year in grams: 43,858

Factsheet

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How is Meat Exhaustion Day relevant to the welfare of animals?

High meat consumption levels means that high numbers of animals are being slaughtered to be consumed in an intensive production system known as factory farming. Farm animals are bred and live in bad conditions that subject them to suffering.

Broiler chickens inside factory farming

Learn more about the climate and animal welfare


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