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     The remarkable dynamics of global meat  production over the past 50 years

                   - A time-spatial analysis -

                                              Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst1


Global meat production has shown a remarkable dynamics over the past 50 years. The production volume increased from about 75. mill. t in 1962 to over 302 mill. t in 2012. This growth was neither homogeneous over time nor regarding space, i. e. in the single continents. The sharp increase in the production volume after 1990 resulted in a spatial shift of the centres of production and the ranking of the leading countries in cattle meat, pig meat and poultry meat production, to name the three most important meat types.

The main goals of this paper are:

  • to analyse the development of global meat production for the main meat types between 1962 and 2012,
  • to document the spatial shifts of the production centres for the three most important meat types and the changes in the ranking of the leading countries in the analysed time period,
  • to present a projection of the expected development of global meat production by meat types and for the single continents between 2012 and 2022.


The main results of the first part of this analysis can be summarised as follows:

  • Between 1962 and 2012 global meat production increased by 227.7 mill. t or by 305.1 % and reached a volume of 302.4 mill. t in 2012.
  • The highest absolute and relative growth rates showed poultry meat with 96.4 mill. t resp. 1,047.5 %, followed by pig meat. The production volume of cattle meat grew considerably lower.
  • The growth rates between 1962 and 1992 were lower than those between 1992 and 2012, resulting as well from population growth as from an increasing buying power of a growing middle class in many threshold and developing countries.
  • In these two decades, the volume of poultry meat increased by 60 mill. t, that of pig meat by 37 mill. t and that of cattle meat by only 10.5 mill. t.
  • A continuation of this trend will result in a replacement of pig meat as the most important meat type by poultry meat in the early years of the next decade.


The main the results of part 2 of this analysis can be summarised as follows:

  • The fast increase of global meat production, especially since the early 1990s resulted in considerable spatial shifts of the centres of global meat production.
  • The new centre of global meat production is located in Eastern, Southern and South-Eastern Asia with China in an absolutely dominating position.
  • In cattle meat production Europe lost almost two thirds of its contribution to the global production volume between 1962 and 2012. The recent spatial pattern of this meat type is polycentric with similar shares of Central and South America, North America and Asia.
  • In pig meat production Europe also lost its leading position and more than half of its former contribution to global production. In contrast, Asia became the unchallenged new centre of global pig meat production because of the remarkable growth of China´s pig industry. Europe ranks in second place before North America.
  • In poultry meat production, North America and Europe lost considerable shares to Asia which ranked in first place in 2012, contributing more than one third to the global production volume.
  • The three leading countries in global meat production, China, USA and Brazil, shared almost 49 % of global meat production in 2012.


Please read the full text in the printable version (see above).



FAO database:
OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022:

A shorter version of this issue was published in: “Fleischwirtschaft international“:
Windhorst, H.-W.: The position of Asia will be strengthened. The remarkable dynamics of global meat production over the past 50 years –a time-spatial analysis. In: Fleischwirtschaft international 29 (2014), Nr. 4, S. 17-24.


1Professor emeritus and scientific director of the Science and Information Centre for Sustainable Poultry Production (WING), University of Vechta, Germany.

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