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Sunday, November 29, 2009


So I'm perusing Graham Hancock's news web page, and there's a story about cattle and hormones and the environment, which gets me to wondering just how many cattle are killed in the US each year. I found the answer on Answer Bag:
According to the National Agricultural
Statistics Service, the following number of animals were slaughtered in the US in 2008:

cattle 34.4 million (avg/day 94,247)
calves 956,600 (avg/day 2,621)
hogs 116.5 million (avg/day 319,178)
sheep and lambs 2.56 million (avg/day 7,014)
chickens 9,075,261,000 (avg/day 24,863,729)
turkeys 3,672,000 (avg/day 10,060)
Okay, that's a bunch of animals, but we also have a whole bunch of people in this country. So how much meat is produced per person? I loaded the numbers into a spreadsheet, and dug up some more information and it boils down to 11 ounces of meat per person per day, which is a heck of a lot of meat. I mean, I like meat, but I seldom eat more than about 4 ounces a day, and there are a lot of people who eat less. There are some people who eat more. People who perform strenuous physical labor may eat more meat.

There are two problems with the data that might account for this high value of eleven ounces per day. One is I don't know how much of this meat is exported. The other problem is the weight of meat from a chicken. The one value I found was four pounds, which I suspect may be a little high. In the US, we slaughter nine billion chickens a year, so any error in the average weight of a chicken is going to be enormously magnified. At four pounds per bird, chicken accounts for nearly half of the weight of meat produced in the US every year.

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