Future of Food

What's on Our Future Menu

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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(Olga Strelnikova, Getty Images)

As population rises, incomes go up in the developing world. Food tastes change, especially meat-consumption patterns, as demand for protein rises.

Chicken, especially, will be on the menu of the future -- and in more places.

Population growth is a major driver of increased demand, and it's projected that by 2031, the world will have 11% more people, underpinning an estimated growth of 15% in global meat consumption compared to the base period of this outlook.

USDA says that per capita, Americans this year are expected to eat about 223 pounds of red meat and poultry -- including beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton -- as well as poultry, including broilers and turkey.

By 2031, that total per-capita consumption is expected to hit 227 pounds, with poultry continuing to account for most of the projected consumption at about 102 pounds per capita, an increase from about 100 pounds from 2024 through 2029.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (of the United Nations, FAO) outlook shows global meat supply will expand to meet rising demand during the projection period, reaching 377 million metric tons (mmt) by 2031 but growing slower than the last decade.

China is projected to account for most of the total increase in meat production, followed by the United States, Brazil and India. China will either need to produce more corn for feed or expand imports from Brazil and maybe the U.S.

By contrast, European Union meat production will fall during the outlook period because of increasing domestic and environmental costs, as well as reduced export opportunities because of greater competition on global markets.

Globally, protein availability from poultry, pork, beef and sheep meat is projected to grow 16%, 17%, 8% and 16%, respectively, by 2031. Poultry meat is projected to constitute 47% of the protein consumed from meat sources followed by pig, sheep and bovine, FAO says.


The long-term shift in meat consumption toward poultry continues to strengthen. In high-income countries, this trend is driven by a rising preference for white meats that are more convenient to prepare and are perceived as a better food choice.

Over the next few years, USDA projects a decline in per-capita beef consumption with it stabilizing and gradually rising to 2031.

Americans will continue to consume beef, especially in 2023, at a per-capita rate of 55.8 pounds. That will drop off a bit by 2026 and 2027 at 55.3 pounds and rise slightly to 55.5 pounds per capita by 2031.

Although commercial beef production will grow beyond 2023, USDA expects export demand to grow more than imports. That means domestic per-capita consumption will be somewhat limited.


An analysis by the Boston Consulting Group forecasts demand for alternative meat in 2030 to be about 23 mmt. A report from Ernst and Young LLP (EY) says alternative meat will comprise about 10% of the global meat market (by value) in 2030, which corresponds to 39 mmt of alternative-meat demand, assuming price parity between plant-based and conventional meat in 2030.

Plant-based ingredients expected to lead the way include canola oil, soy protein concentrate, wheat gluten, soy protein isolate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, pea protein and cocoa butter.

But, according to Nielsen, an information, data and market measurement firm, 98% of meat-alternative buyers also purchase animal-based meat.

By 2030, the plant-based meat industry may require at least 16% of the global supply of coconut oil. By 2030, the industry will require 10 times the projected global supply of pea protein and three times the projected supply of soy protein.

According to an analysis by Ernst and Young, alternative protein penetration of the global meat market by volume will climb from less than 1% in 2020 to between 5 and 10% in 2030, and potentially much higher over the following decades.

EY says the critical drivers will be cost and quality, both of which are improving rapidly.

It's estimated that the cost of alternative protein production will likely fall below the cost of conventional protein production by the mid-2020s. By 2030, the cost of alternative protein production is expected to be less than $2.50 per pound.

Six Factors Drive Food-Consumption Trends:

1. Immigration patterns: Immigration shifts what people want to eat. The European Union is projected to be the fourth-largest food importer of rice in the next decade, with imports expected to rise by 16% to a record 2.4 million metric tons. Asian aromatic rice varieties account for the bulk of the imports, partly fueled by immigration from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well as preferential access provided through agreements with Southeast Asian countries.

2. Food costs and income levels: As countries such as China, India, the Middle East and north Africa increase diet diversification, this creates demand for higher-quality food, more protein and more household labor-saving food products. Even among low-income families, modest increases in incomes can lead to diets including alternative staple foods and increased imports.

3. China, Hong Kong saw pork imports double as of 2020: As a result of African swine fever that decimated pig numbers, consumption is likely to outpace pork production as Chinese/Hong Kong farms contend with disease risk, higher feed costs and expenses for biosecurity and waste treatment.

4. Population trends: Population growth rates have a significant effect on total food consumption and trade. Middle- and low-income countries have relatively higher population growth rates and younger age demographics than high-income countries. Even with modest increases in per-capita food consumption, large population growth rates will lead to substantial increases in total demand for commodities and food products, increasing imports and global trade. Africa, for example, is projected to have a population growth rate of 2.3% per year through 2031, with the population increasing by 318.7 million people by 2031 to reach 1.7 billion people. This projected population increase for Africa is nearly equivalent to the population of the entire United States.

5. Sustainability issues: The demand for foods produced in an environmentally friendly way will continue to be a component of diets in many nations. A segment of the population will continue to make food purchases based on animal welfare, whether foods are organic, etc., all depending on where they live and their culture and belief system.

6. Health concerns: During the next decade, there will continue to be a move toward consuming more poultry and pork, as well as a shift in some other foods, because of real or perceived health benefits.


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