Humans are becoming more carnivorous worldwide, though Australia and some other western countries are eating less meat.
Trophic levels are a concept used to define species’ roles in ecosystems. It assigns a rank to each species depending on the composition and trophic level of their diet. Plants have a trophic level of one. Herbivores, such as cows, have a trophic level of two. A species that has a diet composed of half plant and half animal would have a trophic level of 2.5. Apex predators can have trophic levels reaching up to 5.5.
Since 1960, the study shows our median human trophic level (HTL) has increased by 3% to 2.21 in 2009, meaning we are becoming more carnivorous on the whole, occupying a similar trophic level to that of pigs or anchovies. This increase over time is mainly driven by China and India, as the following graph shows:
Country by country, you can see how trophic levels have changed with this animated map:
Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of south-east Asia have low and stable HTLs, indicating a more plant-based diet. Countries such as Iceland and Mongolia have the highest HTLs, and therefore a higher meat diet. Australia, New Zealand, North America, and parts of Europe had high HTLs that have recently begun to decrease since 1990, indicating a shift from a high-meat diet towards a more plant-based diet.
Here is how Australia’s human trophic level looks over time: