This Is The World's Most Widely Consumed Meat

We can't survive without protein. We can only exist for a little more than two months without it before dying (70 days is the limit, according to Diagnosis Diet). The macronutrients provided by the amino acids that make up proteins nourish every single cell in our bodies, adds Eating Well.

Vegans and vegetarians will invariably point out that meat isn't the only source of this much needed dietary protein, and we don't have to eat it, which is true. Food items as diverse as lentils, beans, and nuts also contain proteins, notes the British Nutrition Foundation. But chicken, beef, pork, and lamb provide the greatest amount of protein per 100 grams; And across many cultures and countries, meat remains the primary dietary source of protein.

So which meat is the favorite around the world? According to The Science Agriculture, it's chicken, with 118 tons consumed in 2019 alone. The U.S. also produced more than any other country that year, beating out China by more than 5 million tons with the U.S. producing 20.1 million tons and China making 14.5 million tons. Hey, when you've got as many ways to cook chicken as we do — from poached and braised to fried and grilled — it's easy to pile up the pounds on a regular basis.

Chicken consumption is on the rise

Perhaps the most shocking fact about meat consumption is that between 1990 and 2020, it has doubled worldwide, according to Statista. Some of this increase can naturally be attributed to the rise in the global population, which jumped from 4.45 billion in 1980 to 7.79 billion in 2020, per Infoplease. But since meat consumption doubled and the population didn't, it's reasonable to assume that people are eating more chicken. 

During that same 30-year span, Statista observes that poultry consumption more than tripled, climbing from about 38 to 143 tons internationally. The latest figures from 2021 confirm chicken's popularity and ongoing dominance as a dietary staple. As The Cold Wire notes, chicken remains the most consumed meat in the world, ahead of pork, beef, lamb, goat, turkey, duck, buffalo, goose, and rabbit (in that order). 

The good news on this front, per Our World in Data, is that chicken also has a lighter carbon footprint than beef, lamb, and goat. So if you are going to get your protein from animal sources, chicken is a responsible choice, both in terms of the environment, and in terms of personal health. In a ranking by Greatist, for example, chicken finished second to fatty fish on the list of healthiest meat cuts, providing nutrients such as vitamins B6 and B12, selenium, and niacin.