Consumption of meat, dairy, fish and seafood
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Meat and dairy products have been found to have high environmental impacts, which are primarily related to their production. A study conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) into the impacts of consumption (Weidema et al., 2008) found that, on average, meat and dairy products contribute 24 % of the environmental impacts from total final consumption in the EU-27. Therefore a reduction in consumption of meat and dairy products and a shift to other sources of protein have the potential to reduce environmental impacts related to consumption. Further evidence is provided by FAO (2006) and Westhoek et al. (2011).
Some meat types have higher impact intensity than others; in general, a switch from beef to chicken or pork will lead to reduced environmental impacts, although animal welfare issues also need to be considered. A similar meat and dairy consumption indicator can be found in Westhoek et al. (2011).
Fish and seafood are also included in this indicator for two reasons: first, fish and seafood is a dietary alternative to meat and dairy products; second, the consumption of fish and seafood can also be linked to environmental impacts (e.g. overfishing).
- ETC/SCP (2010) Towards a Set of Indicators on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) for EEA reporting. European Topic Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production
- EuroHealthNet, 2013, ‘Massive new study shows EU should act on red meat to save lives and costs'
- FAO, 2006, Livestock’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome
- FAOSTAT, 2016, Food supply - lifestock and fish primary equivalent, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics Division
- Tukker, A., S. Bausch-Goldbohm, M. Verheijden, A. de Koning, R. Kleijn, O. Wolf, I. Pérez Domínguez, 2009, Environmental Impacts of Diet Changes in the EU, European Commission Joint Research Centre
- Weidema, B.P., M. Wesnæs, J. Hermansen, T. Kristensen and N. Halberg, 2008, Environmental Improvement Potentials of Meat and Dairy Products. Report for the European Commission Joint Research Centre
- Westhoek, H., T. Rood, M. van den Berg, J. Janse, D. Nijdam, M. Reudink, E. Stehfest, 2011, The Protein Puzzle: The consumption and production of meat, dairy and fish in the European Union, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
- WHO, 2007, Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition: report of a joint FAO/WHO/UNU expert consultation, World Health Organisation, technical report series, no. 935
This indicator shows consumption of selected meat, dairy, fish and seafood products by weight in the EU-28. Consumption is shown in both kg/capita/year (Figure 1) and as an index of the per capita amount consumed (Figure 2).
Figure 1 shows the change in consumption of meat, dairy, fish and seafood between 1995 and the most recent data point. Meat is disaggregated into bovine meat, pig meat, poultry, mutton and goat meat, and other meat. Dairy is divided into whole milk, cream, cheese and butter. Fish and seafood consumption is disaggregated into demersal fish, pelagic fish, freshwater fish, and other fish and seafood. A separate tab shows the consumption by protein content.
Figure 2 shows the development of per capita consumption of bovine meat, pig and poultry meat, total meat, and aggregated fish and seafood, together with a single value for milk that represents all dairy products excluding butter. Figure 2 presents the development of the consumption of these products as an index to the reference year (1995).
Food consumption is drawn from the FAO statistics database. This provides a figure for 'food', which represents the amount of each product that reaches the consumer. The amount of food actually eaten will be lower than the quantity shown in the food balance sheet due to wastage of edible food in households during storage, preparation and cooking, unused food leftovers and food fed to domestic animals and pets.
This indicator is expressed in kg per capita per year (kg/cappita/year) and as per capita consumption in tonnes indexed to the base year, 1995.
Policy context and targets
Encouraging more sustainable diets and tackling food waste has begun to appear on political agendas in recent years at both EU and national levels. The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe includes an 'Addressing Food' theme in which it is noted that the average European citizen wastes 180 kg of food per year, much of which is food which is still suitable for consumption. The Roadmap notes that ‘a combined effort by farmers, the food industry, retailers and consumers through […] sustainable food choices (in line with WHO recommendations on the amount of animal proteins, including meat and dairy products consumed per person) and reduced food waste can contribute to improving resource efficiency and food security at a global level.’
The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe includes a milestone that ‘by 2020 incentives to healthier and more sustainable food production and consumption will be widespread and will have driven a 20 % reduction in the food chain’s resource inputs. Disposal of edible food waste should have been halved in the EU.’
The EU’s Seventh Environmental Action Programme (7th EAP) has the follwing aim: ‘To set a framework for action to improve resource efficiency aspects beyond greenhouse gas emissions and energy, targets for reducing the overall lifecycle environmental impact of consumption will be set, in particular in the food, housing and mobility sectors’ and states that ‘structural changes in production, technology and innovation, as well as consumption patterns and lifestyles have reduced the overall environmental impact of production and consumption’ for these three sectors.
The international policy framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production was agreed at the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (Rio+20) with the adoption of the ten year framework of programmes on SCP. The declaration ‘The future we want’ recognises the need to change unsustainable patterns of consumption and production and promote sustainable ones. With respect to food, due to the global nature of the document, the declaration focuses on food security and undernourishment rather than on sustainable diets, overeating or food waste. However, these issues are closely linked, given the global competition for resources to produce food. 'Sustainable consumption and production' and 'End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture' are two of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015.
No quantitative targets have been identified but the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe COM(2011) 571 contains a relevant milestone.
Related policy documents
7th Environment Action Programme
DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. COM(2011) 571
The Future We Want –Declaration of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio (2012)
The Future We Want is the declaration on sustainable development and a green economy adopted at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio on June 19, 2012. The Declaration includes broad sustainability objectives within themes of Poverty Eradication, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, Energy, Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Cities, Health and Population and Promoting Full and Productive Employment. It calls for the negotiation and adoption of internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals by end 2014. It also calls for a UN resolution strengthening and consolidating UNEP both financially and institutionally so that it can better disseminate environmental information and provide capacity building for countries.
Key policy question
Are we shifting towards a more environmentally favourable diet?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Figure 1: The FAO data on Commodity Balance Sheets are used to calculate the supply of selected food products in kg/capita/year for two years: 1995 and the most recent data point in the FAO data set. The Livestock and Fish Primary Equivalent dataset has been used. The item 'food' in the FAO dataset comprises the amounts of the commodity in question and of any commodities derived therefrom not further pursued in the food balance sheet that are available for human consumption during the reference period. The quantities of food available for human consumption, as estimated in the food balance sheet, reflect only the quantities reaching the consumer. The amount of food actually consumed may be lower than the quantity shown in the food balance sheet depending on the degree of losses of edible food and nutrients in the household, e.g. during storage, in preparation and cooking (which affect vitamins and minerals to a greater extent than they do calories, protein and fat), as plate-waste, or quantities fed to domestic animals and pets, or thrown away. This data set is used as the most useful available proxy for 'consumption'. This is carried out for the EU-28. The raw data are delivered in g/cap/d, which is then converted to kg/capita/year.
Figure 2: Raw data from the FAO’s Commodity Balance Sheets are indexed to 1995 for selected food groups. The Livestock and Fish Primary Equivalent dataset has been used. The item 'food' in the dataset comprises the amounts of the commodity in question and of any commodities derived therefrom not further pursued in the food balance sheet that are available for human consumption during the reference period. The quantities of food available for human consumption, as estimated in the food balance sheet, reflect only the quantities reaching the consumer. The amount of food actually consumed may be lower than the quantity shown in the food balance sheet depending on the degree of losses of edible food and nutrients in the household, e.g. during storage, in preparation and cooking (which affect vitamins and minerals to a greater extent than they do calories, protein and fat), as plate-waste, or quantities fed to domestic animals and pets, or thrown away. This supply for food uses is assumed to proxy 'consumption'. The per capita EU-28 consumption is indexed to 1995 by dividing 100 by the value for the based year (1995) and multiplying by the value for year X. The figures for fish and seafood are summed to form a single final category for fish and seafood rather than individual figures.
Methodology for gap filling
No gap filling was required.
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
Data sources in latest figures
The selection of dairy products used to represent the dairy food group in Figure 1 (whole milk, cheese, butter and cream) does not cover all dairy consumption, only the delivery of these final products to households. Data are not available on the consumption of all dairy products individually. It is for this reason that the more all-encompassing category 'milk (excluding butter)' is used in Figure 2. This includes all derivatives of milk (excluding butter), as well as milk sold directly to households.
Data sets uncertainty
The accuracy of the FAO data set for consumption of different meat, dairy, fish and seafood products depends on the reliability of the underlying basic statistics on the utilisation of foods and the nutritional value of foods. Supply and utilisation quantities are most open to uncertainty because of a lack of accurate data on food stocks and food used for purposes other than human consumption, in particular. For a more detailed discussion on the quality of the data in the FAO food balance sheets, please see p.6 of the FAO Food Balance Sheets Handbook (ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/x9892e/x9892e00.pdf)
The FAO statistical database is used in preference to the Eurostat database. This is because the Eurostat data currently have significant temporal and geographical data gaps, as well as some suspicious data points. This situation is not anticipated to improve in the foreseeable future.
The 'food' item from the FAO commodity balance sheets is used as a proxy for actual consumed food that describes a diet. The amount of food actually eaten will be lower than the quantity shown in the food balance sheet due to wastage of edible food in households during storage, preparation and cooking, unused food leftovers and food fed to domestic animals and pets.
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAlmut Reichel
Frequency of updates
ClassificationDPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/13.2-development-in-consumption-of or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 23 Mar 2017, 10:08 AM