How to Urge Rich People to Eat Less Meat?

Last week, my article titled “Meat Consumption Growth in Hong Kong is Alarming” shows that Hong Kong’s meat consumption rate is in general much more than that in Taiwan. (Yiu, 2019) In fact, the per capita meat consumption rate of the whole world has almost been doubled in the past 52 years, from about 23.09kg in 1961 to 43.22kg in 2013. But Hong Kong’s per capita meat consumption rate in 2013 was about 217kg! Among the 5 types of meat studied, poultry has been increased the most, from 2.88kg to 14.99kg, a 420% increase! (Figure 1)

Image for post
Image for post
Figure 1 Per Capita Meat Consumption of the Whole World, 1961–2013. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption

Globally, fish, milk and eggs’ consumption rates are also increasing very fast, though not as fast as Hong Kong’s. Figures 2, 3 and 4 compare the per capita consumption rates of fish, milk and eggs of the world and Hong Kong. The per capita consumption rates of fish, milk and eggs of the world were about 20kg, 90kg and 9kg in 2013. While the per capita consumption rates of fish, milk and eggs in Hong Kong were about 70kg, 110kg and 14kg in 2013.

Image for post
Image for post
Figure 2 Per Capita Fish and Seafood Consumption Rate of the World and Hong Kong, 1961–2013. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption
Image for post
Image for post
Figure 3 Per Capita Milk Consumption Rates of the World and Hong Kong, 1961–2013. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption
Image for post
Image for post
Figure 4 Per Capita Eggs Consumption Rates of the World and Hong Kong, 1961–2013. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption

There are two correlation charts showing the relationships between per capita GDP and per capita meat consumption rate and per capita fish consumption rate in 2013 (Figures 5 and 6). They show that richer the country, more the per capita meat consumption rate, but the relationship is weaker in fish consumption rate. (However, the vertical axis of Figure 6 is not a linear scale, the interpretation of the correlation may be distorted.)

Image for post
Image for post
Figure 5 Correlation between Per Capita Meat Consumption Rate and Per Capita GDP, 2013. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption
Image for post
Image for post
Figure 6 Correlation between Per Capita Fish Consumption and Per Capita GDP, 2013. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption

The recent IPBES (2019) report warns about the rapid species extinction rate caused by human activities and suggests, among others, reduction in meat consumption to save biodiversity. However, if meat consumptions of rich countries are much higher than poor countries, then the focus should be how to urge rich people to consume less meat.

It is hard to use economic approaches to achieve the result because a general tax imposed on meat consumption would do more harm to poor people, but little harm to rich people. It is also difficult to convince rich people to consume less meat by environmental and biodiversity concerns, as I suppose there is no correlation between environmental and biodiversity concerns and people’s wealth and/or income.

Thus, probably the only approach is by means of health concerns. If there are scientific proofs that non-meat based diets can be healthier than meat based diets, then it may convince more rich people to reduce their consumptions of meat, including fish, milk and eggs. However, so far it is still quite controversial whether non-meat based or meat based diets would be healthier.

References

IPBES (2019) Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, https://www.ipbes.net/system/tdf/spm_global_unedited_advance.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=35245

Yiu, C.Y. (2019) Meat Consumption Growth in Hong Kong is Alarming, Medium, May 19. https://medium.com/@edwardyiu/meat-consumption-growth-in-hong-kong-is-alarming-872e46bf40ca

Written by

ecyY is the Founder of Real Estate Development and Building Research & Information Centre REDBRIC

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store