Demographics, societal aging, and meat consumption in China

Demographics, societal aging, and meat consumption in China

Drawn on the data collected by surveying 1,340 urban households from 6 cities in China, this paper estimates the impacts of demographic structure and population ageing on household meat consumption, by jointly considering meat consumed at-home and away-from-home. Based on the trajectories of population, a simple simulation on meat demand trend in China is conducted subsequently.

The results suggest:

  • meat consumed away-from-home averagely accounts for near 30% of household total meat consumption in terms of quantity, so that its omission likely leads to a significant underestimate of total meat consumption and misunderstanding the driving forces
  • population ageing significantly and negatively affects per capita meat consumption, suggesting that the expected meat demand in China without considering population ageing will be overestimated

The findings from this study have important implications for better understanding the relative issues on China’s meat consumption under the situation of population ageing. China has experienced rapid economic growth over the last three decades. This growth has led to a substantial improvement in people’s living standards and reduction in poverty, but it has also led to massive increases in the production of agricultural products. Additionally, the population structure in China is rapidly changing with an increasing proportion of the population being elderly, and this ageing trend is expected to continue into the future.

These economic and societal changes have potentially important implications concerning future food security in China. As the ageing of China’s population is inevitable, measuring and accounting for its effects on food consumption, particularly meat consumption, is essential in terms of agricultural planning and agricultural import policy. Although the quantity of grain consumed per person is decreasing as incomes have increased, per capita meat consumption is increasing. Because meat production is generally a grain intensive activity, it is possible for grain consumption to increase as the number of animals for meat production increases even while people eat less grain directly.

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