Meat industry

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The term meat industry describes modern industrialized livestock agriculture for production, packing, preservation and marketing of meat (in contrast to dairy products, wool, etc.). In economics, it is a fusion of primary (agriculture) and secondary (industry) activity and hard to characterize strictly in terms of either one alone. The greater part of the entire meat industry is termed meat packing industry- the segment that handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock.


A great portion of the ever-growing [1] meat branch in the food industry involves intensive animal farming in which livestock are kept almost entirely indoors [2] or in restricted outdoor settings like pens.

Many aspects of the raising of animals for meat have become industrialized, even many practices more associated with smaller family farms, e.g. gourmet foods such as foie gras. [3] [4]

The production of livestock is a heavily vertically integrated industry where the majority of supply chain stages are integrated and owned by one company.

Efficiency considerations

The livestock industry not only uses more land than any other human activity; it's also one of the largest contributors to water pollution and a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. In this respect, a relevant factor is the produced species' feed conversion efficiency. Additionally taking into account other factors like use of energy, pesticides, land, and nonrenewable resources, beef, lamb, goat, and bison as resources of red meat show the worst efficiency; poultry and eggs come out best. [5]

Meat sources

Estimated world livestock numbers (million head) [6]
type1999!20002012% change 1990-2012
Cattle and Buffaloes14451465168416.5
Sheep and Goats17951811216520.6

Global production of meat products

The top ten of the international meat industry Meat industrie.jpg
The top ten of the international meat industry


Among the largest meat producers worldwide are:

World beef production

World 66.25 million tonnes (2017) [7] [8] [ unreliable source? ]
Countrymillion tonnes (2017)% Of World
United States11.91
South Africa1.01


Critical aspects of the effects of industrial meat production include

Many observers[ who? ] suggest that the expense of dealing with the above are grossly undercounted in present economic metrics and that true/full cost accounting would drastically raise the price [12] of industrial meat. [13] [14] [15] [16]

Effects on livestock workers

American slaughterhouse workers are three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker. [17] NPR reports that pig and cattle slaughterhouse workers are nearly seven times more likely to suffer repetitive strain injuries than average. [18] The Guardian reports that on average there are two amputations a week involving slaughterhouse workers in the United States. [19] On average, one employee of Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in America, is injured and amputates a finger or limb per month. [20] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that over a period of six years, in the UK 78 slaughter workers lost fingers, parts of fingers or limbs, more than 800 workers had serious injuries, and at least 4,500 had to take more than three days off after accidents. [21] In a 2018 study in the Italian Journal of Food Safety, slaughterhouse workers are instructed to wear ear protectors to protect their hearing from the constant screams of animals being killed. [22] A 2004 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that "excess risks were observed for mortality from all causes, all cancers, and lung cancer" in workers employed in the New Zealand meat processing industry. [23]

The act of slaughtering animals, or of raising or transporting animals for slaughter, may engender psychological stress or trauma in the people involved. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] A 2016 study in Organization indicates, "Regression analyses of data from 10,605 Danish workers across 44 occupations suggest that slaughterhouse workers consistently experience lower physical and psychological well-being along with increased incidences of negative coping behavior." [37] In her thesis submitted to and approved by University of Colorado, Anna Dorovskikh states that slaughterhouse workers are "at risk of Perpetration-Inducted Traumatic Stress, which is a form of posttraumatic stress disorder and results from situations where the concerning subject suffering from PTSD was a causal participant in creating the traumatic situation." [38] A 2009 study by criminologist Amy Fitzgerald indicates, "slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with other industries." [39] As authors from the PTSD Journal explain, "These employees are hired to kill animals, such as pigs and cows that are largely gentle creatures. Carrying out this action requires workers to disconnect from what they are doing and from the creature standing before them. This emotional dissonance can lead to consequences such as domestic violence, social withdrawal, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and PTSD." [40]

Slaughterhouses in the United States commonly illegally employ and exploit underage workers and illegal immigrants. [41] [42] In 2010, Human Rights Watch described slaughterhouse line work in the United States as a human rights crime. [43] In a report by Oxfam America, slaughterhouse workers were observed not being allowed breaks, were often required to wear diapers, and were paid below minimum wage. [44]

Possible alternatives

Cultured meat (aka "clean meat") potentially offers some advantages in terms of efficiency of resource use and animal welfare. It is, however, still at an early stage of development and its advantages are still contested.

Increasing health care costs for an aging baby boom population suffering from obesity and other food-related diseases, concerns about obesity in children have spurred new ideas about healthy nutrition with less emphasis on meat. [45] [46] [47] [48] [49]

Native wild species like deer and bison in North America would be cheaper [50] and potentially have less impact on the environment. [51] [52] The combination of more wild game meat options and higher costs for natural capital affected by the meat industry could be a building block towards a more sustainable livestock agriculture.

Alternative meat industry

A growing trend towards vegetarian or vegan diets and the Slow Food movement are indicators of a changing consumer conscience in western countries. Producers on the other hand have reacted to consumer concerns by slowly shifting towards ecological or organic farming. The Alternative meat industry is projected to be worth 140 billion in the next 10 years. [53]

See also

Related Research Articles

Meat Animal flesh eaten as food

Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestication of animals such as chickens, sheep, rabbits, pigs and cattle. This eventually led to their use in meat production on an industrial scale with the aid of slaughterhouses.

Beef meat from cattle

Beef is the culinary name for meat from cattle, particularly skeletal muscle. Humans have been eating beef since prehistoric times. Beef is a source of high-quality protein and nutrients.

Slaughterhouse facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products

A slaughterhouse, also called abattoir, is a facility where animals are slaughtered, most often to provide food for humans. Slaughterhouses supply meat, which then becomes the responsibility of a packaging facility.

Cultured meat Animal flesh product that has never been part of a living animal

Cultured meat is meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells, instead of from slaughtered animals. It is a form of cellular agriculture.

In agriculture, grazing is a method of animal husbandry whereby domestic livestock are used to convert grass and other forage into meat, milk, wool and other products, often on land unsuitable for arable farming.

Meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of meat from animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock. Poultry is not included.

The meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of meat from animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock. Poultry is not included. This greater part of the entire meat industry is primarily focused on producing meat for human consumption, but it also yields a variety of by-products including hides, feathers, dried blood, and, through the process of rendering, fat such as tallow and protein meals such as meat & bone meal.

Ethics of eating meat Food ethics topic

The question of whether it is right to eat animal flesh is among the most prominent topics in food ethics. People choose not to eat meat for various reasons such as concern for animal welfare, the environmental impact of meat production, and health considerations. Some argue that slaughtering animals solely because people enjoy the taste of meat is morally wrong or unjustifiable. Vegans often abstain from other animal products for similar reasons.

Environmental vegetarianism practice of vegetarianism when motivated by the desire to not contribute to the negative environmental impact of meat production

Environmental vegetarianism is the practice of vegetarianism when motivated by the desire to create a sustainable diet that avoids the negative environmental impact of meat production. Livestock as a whole is estimated to be responsible for around 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, significant reduction in meat consumption has been advocated by, among others, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their 2019 special report and as part of the 2017 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity.

Animal welfare and rights in Israel is about the treatment of and laws concerning nonhuman animals in Israel. Israel's major animal welfare law is Animal Protection Law, passed in 1994 and amended several times since. Several other laws also related to the treatment of animals: Rabies Ordinance, 1934; Fishing Ordinance, 1937; Public Health Ordinance, 1940; Wildlife Protection Law, 1955; Plants Protection Law, 1956; Criminal Procedure Law, 1982; Animal Disease Ordinance, 1985; National Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Memorial Sites Law, 1991; the Law of Veterinarians, 1991; Dog Regulation Law, 2002; Rabies Regulations (Vaccinations), 2005; and Prohibition on declawing cats unless for reasons vital to the cat's health or owner's health, 2011.

Animal product material derived from the bodies of animals

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Animal slaughter killing of nonhuman animals

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Intensive animal farming Type of animal husbandry using high inputs and stocking densities to increase production

Intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production, also known by its opponents as factory farming, is a type of intensive agriculture, specifically an approach to animal husbandry designed to maximize production, while minimizing costs. To achieve this, agribusinesses keep livestock such as cattle, poultry, and fish at high stocking densities, at large scale, and using modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade. The main products of this industry are meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. There are issues regarding whether intensive animal farming is sustainable or ethical.

<i>Livestocks Long Shadow</i> United Nations report

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A low-carbon diet refers to making lifestyle choices related to food consumption to reduce resulting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe). Choosing a low carbon diet is one facet of developing sustainable diets which increase the long-term sustainability of humanity.

The environmental impact of meat production varies because of the wide variety of agricultural practices employed around the world. All agricultural practices have been found to have a variety of effects on the environment. Some of the environmental effects that have been associated with meat production are pollution through fossil fuel usage, animal methane, effluent waste, and water and land consumption. Meat is obtained through a variety of methods, including organic farming, free range farming, intensive livestock production, subsistence agriculture, hunting, and fishing.

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Poultry farming in the United States part of the United Statess agricultural economy

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<i>Meat Atlas</i>

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates the labor rights of workers in the American meat packing industry. According to scholars of the American meat packing industry, despite federal regulation through OSHA and industry oversight, workers in meat production plants have little agency and inadequate protections. Workers in the industry perform difficult jobs in dangerous conditions, and are at significant risk for physical and psychological harm. In addition to high rates of injury, workers are at risk of losing their jobs when they are injured or for attempting to organize and bargain collectively. Several of studies of the industry have found immigrant workers - "an increasing percentage of the workforce in the industry" - especially at risk of not having their labor rights sufficiently protected.

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Further reading