News | Subscribe News

Australia bucks trend towards a more carnivorous world

Smoked Meat Products

A vendor displays smoked-meat products in Bucharest. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images


Powered by article titled “Australia bucks trend towards a more carnivorous world” was written by Nick Evershed, for on Wednesday 4th December 2013 06.56 UTC

Humans are becoming more carnivorous worldwide, though Australia and some other western countries are eating less meat.

A new study has applied the ecological concept of trophic levels to humans, by analysing 49 years of food consumption data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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:

World Human Trophic Levels

World human trophic levels. Photograph: Bonhommeau et al 2013/PNAS

Country by country, you can see how trophic levels have changed with this animated map:

Click here for the map on mobile.

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:

Human Trophic Levels in Australia

Human trophic levels in Australia. Photograph: Bonhommeau et al 2013/PNAS


Pages: 1 2

Comments are closed.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.