Over-consumption of meat in the world



What is carbon footprint?

The official definition is:

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

So this includes:

  • the air we breathe out
  • the motor vehicles’ emissions
  • the cutting of trees down
  • the by-products of waste gas during the production of our goods or services
    • the meat and dairy that humans eat

We all knew that the meat and dairy we eat, the production of it, is one of the largest contributors to the production of greenhouse gases and the world’s growing carbon footprint.

It’s not news that meat and dairy are among the largest contributors to the world’s growing carbon footprint, but lamb, beef, cheese, pork, and farmed salmon, in particular, generate the most greenhouse gases—sometimes four times more than other animal products and 13 times more than plant-based proteins.

Yet, even with the rapid world population growth, the demand for meat had increased at an even faster rate.

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The total demand for meat in the world had increased by 325% from 1961 to 2011, even though the total amount of people had gone up from 3 billion in 1961 to 7 billion in 2011 (267%).

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The total meat consumption demand had increased by 653% in China (Population: 0.65 billion in 1961 to 1.35 billion in 2011), again higher than the rate of increase in population size.

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The percentage increase in the Hong Kong is by far the largest:  2364% increase in meat consumption from 3.2 million (1961) to 7.1 million (2011) people. The average meat consumption in Hong Kong is 695 grams / day, 32% of our total daily diet! It’s the highest in the world (the world average is only 9%!) This pattern of our diet had significantly increased Hong Kong’s carbon footprint.

Please see National Geographic for more details about What the World Eats, to see the world and each country’s changing patterns in Daily Diet patterns and Meat Consumption percentage.

From the Guardian article, study of British people’s diets – meat-rich diet of more than 100g per day, resulted in 7.2 kg of Carbon dioxide emissions. If in Hong Kong, where the meat consumption is almost 700g per day, this may result in almost seven times: back 50kg of Carbon dioxide emissions!

The production of 1 kg beef causes about 13.3 kg of CO2. The same quantity of CO2 is released when you burn about 6 liters of petrol!

ASSUMING if each day, every person in Hong Kong eats 695 g of beef, it will produce 9.3 kg of CO2! The same quantity of CO2 released when you burn 5 liters of petrol…

The production and consumption of beef produce more CO2 than driving cars.

As primary consumers, we all have a role. As humans, we have to think of our environmental consequences to our future generation. Though eating less of the delicious beef is easier said than done, sometimes, it’s important to think of the consequences of our actions.

Let’s start eating less beef, today!



National Geographic – What the World Eats

The Guardian – Giving up Beef with reduce Carbon Footprint more than Cars

Time for Change – Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food






Must a luxurious life mean Wastage?


What does it really mean to be ‘luxurious’? Is it creating a lot of excess, making a lot of wastage? LUXURY from the dictionary means “a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.” It is typically an inessential item that is expensive. WASTE is the unusable or unwanted material that is discarded after its primary use – during production, transformation or consumption – has been completed (adapted from the definition from the United Nations.

Since when I was young, I was taught to finish all the food on my plate (unless the excess leftovers could be taken home). It’s just basic ethics – my parents had very traditionally taught me that I ought to be grateful that I am being fed, whilst there are many children and people in poorer developing countries that may have no food to even survive.

In the past week, I’ve been living in the shoes like a luxurious food lover. I’ve brought around my friend who came to visit Hong Kong, the city most famous for good and a large variety of food. Now it’s like living the life of a glutton (by definition: a person who over-indulges and over-consumes food to the point of extravagance or waste). We ordered many things – most of the time too much in terms of portion – but ended up order more than we could eat, as we ordered additionally food so to ‘try a large variety of foods’ (another way to say it would be greedy). However, when the food arrives and some photo-taking, I’ve observed some people tend to take a bite or two, then says “had enough of it” “can’t eat anymore of the same thing” “need to save the stomach for the next meal” “what food are we going next?”

Honestly this gluttonous and insatiable attitude in the past week haunts me; since I terribly dislike the idea of wastage.


Tai Ping Koon Restaurant – Lunch

This photo above was from lunch past week at Tai Ping Koon Restaurant, a famous traditional Chinese-Western fusion restaurant in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The food looked great and tasted delicious, but it was too much for six people to finish. By the end, we left two portions of pasta and rice untouched, so the waiter came by and said “Finished? Sure?” I felt very embarrassed of us wasting so much food We really tried our best to eat as much as we could, but actually now that I think about it, eating in excess after we’ve reached the necessary level of food, is it counted as waste too? Waste that is stored in our bodies instead. I almost couldn’t tell the difference.


Today I passed by Hong Kong’s recent ‘trendy’ supermarket, 759Store. It’s a low-end supermarket which sells almost all kinds of packaged foods you can think of. They sell a large diversity of direct-import popular Korean and Japanese snacks, instant noodles, kitchen utensils, hygienic products (even expanding into proper canteen-like restaurants). From its first store in 2010, it had expanded to 247 stores all around Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories in March 2015 (see its official website).

All the products sold here are relatively cheap to anywhere else. This is their main business strategy

  • Fast horizontal expansion
  • Economies of scale (buying in bulk results in lower long-run costs per unit)
  • Lowered costs of food supply
  • More packaged foods are demand at the lower price (higher consumption!)

For example, 759Store is famous for its variety of instant noodles. Read my other post about Instant Noodles vs Palm Oil.

As cheap as these supermarkets or for all food may be, the “consumers are not paying for the true cost of food”. Jason Clay, TEDGlobal 2010. For all the food that we consumers buy, and think about all the raw materials the producers i.e. the farmers input water for irrigation, actually “the farmer didn’t receive enough money to pay a decent price for water in any of those commodities” – this term being “externality – a subsidy from nature“. (Listen to TEDTalk by Jason Clay)

Think of all the externalities, benefits or costs done to the third party, before consuming a product. For every action we take, we ought to know how to think about the consequences behind it. This works for everything in life. We can’t take the Earth for granted.

For example, self-control comes in hand when we stop ourselves eating the next cookie knowing it’s more than you need, and you think of the consequences eating the next cookie – you will get fat.

We can put this ideal for the environment too. As luxurious as you can eat now, waste food now, be selfish, but our finite resources will run out one day at this rate. So we ought to think of the consequences we do for our future selves or kids.

Too much waste is produced. We should use less We, as consumers, in this process we just buy the products. So what can we do?

  • Think before purchasing. Do I really need this? Be practical and rational.
  • Once you’ve bought it, you’re responsible for the product you’ve bought (includes its residues and remains).
  • For example, for food:
    • Don’t waste food. Order just ‘enough’ food. You can order less first to get an idea of portions.
    • Bring an environmentally friendly container to bring away leftovers.
    • Mark down expiration dates on the fridge or a memo.

Population is growing rapidly, and this prediction comes from many CENSUS reports, the current world population in 2016 (May) is 7.4 billion people (source). The projection for world population in 2050 is 9.6 billion people (source from the UN).

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Whatever was sustainable on a planet of six billion is not going to be sustainable on a planet with nine.” – Jason Clay, TEDGlobal2010.

  • In 2016, the number of Earths that we need at this moment to sustain us is 1.6 Earths (we are using 60% more than the Earth’s natural capacity).
  • What will happen when it’s 2050?!