Dairy cows in factory farm

FOUR PAWS Warns: Meat Is Eating up the Planet

Average intake of 14 burgers per week makes Americans the biggest consumers of meat globally and the first nation to reach 'Meat Exhaustion Day'


Vienna, 7 March 2024 – According to the latest findings of global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, twice as much meat is consumed worldwide than the planet or people’s health can digest. This is also causing massive suffering to animals, with 83.3 billion being slaughtered for meat every year. Already in the first quarter of 2024, on Friday, the United States is the first country to reach “Meat Exhaustion Day”, surpassing its maximum annual meat intake, as recommended by the scientific EAT-Lancet Commission. With an average weekly consumption of the equivalent of almost 14 burgers per person, US-Citizens are the biggest consumers of meat in the world. To stop the hidden costs of meat and dairy consumption as well as production - such as massive suffering of animals, detrimental effects on human health and the climate - FOUR PAWS urges governments to phase out factory farming and set policy targets for a food system change that offers sustainable diets in line with planetary boundaries.

“We are biting off more than we can chew. Global meat consumption is eating up the planet, causing animal and human suffering,” says FOUR PAWS CEO and President Josef Pfabigan. Today, animal agriculture is responsible for one sixth of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the main drivers of deforestation, habitat loss, water use and pollution. 

"To fulfill planetary and health boundaries, global meat consumption and production must be halved. Especially governments of high-income countries are called upon to set clear targets for a more sustainable diet and to phase out factory farming. Each and every one of us can make a difference by reducing, refining and replacing animal-based products,”

Josef Pfabigan, CEO and President at FOUR PAWS

Global North needs to cut meat consumption by 70%

Especially high-income countries are meat of the matter, as they are the main drivers of the global meat consumption. Globally, “Meat Exhaustion Day” will be reached on 24 June 2024, yet many countries of the Global North are exceeding their recommended maximum meat intake as early as March and April. While the trend to higher meat consumption is also beefing up in the Global South, some countries of this region, for example India or Uganda, do not reach “Meat Exhaustion Day” at all.

High cost of meat overconsumption in the United States

FOUR PAWS found that in the United States, five times the recommended amount of maximum meat intake is consumed each week. On average, every American consumes the equivalent of almost 14 hamburgers per week (equivalent to 3.6 pounds /1.6 kilograms meat). To reach climate and health boundaries, the EAT- Lancet Commission recommends a maximum weekly meat intake of 0.67 pounds / 301 grams, which would correspond to 2.5 burgers. The costs of meat overconsumption are high: According to the Center for Disease Control, 42% of the adult population in the USA suffer from obesity, increasing associated diseases and mortality risks. Furthermore, 37% of all land in the United States is used for animal agriculture according to USDA data, with more than 9.73 billion animals being slaughtered in 2021, according to FAO data.

About Meat Exhaustion Day

Meat Exhaustion Day is calculated by FOUR PAWS by comparing the average actual consumption of meat per person with the Planetary Health Diet, recommended by the renowned EAT Lancet Commission. This panel of international scientists give guidance for what would be a consumption pattern that provides healthy food for a growing world population, within planetary boundaries.

Vera Mair PR International Officer

Vera Mair 

PR International Officer 


+43 (0) 664 409 05 16

VIER PFOTEN International 
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org

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