According to recently published data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several other official sources, 59 billion animals died to feed Americans in 2009. The average American meat eater was responsible for about 198 deaths in 2009. Over a lifetime, this amounts to 15,000 animals per meat eater.
After a three year decline, the number of animals eaten by Americans rose slightly from 2008 to 2009, as a decrease in chickens and fish killed was accompanied by an increase in shellfish killed.
Land animals: The number of land animals eaten in the U.S. continued to decrease. The average meat-eater in 2009 killed 1.3 fewer land animals than in 2008 (a 4% drop), and almost 3 fewer than in 2006 (a 10% drop). That amounts to more than 300 million fewer land animals killed to feed Americans than in 2008, and more than 600 million fewer than in 2006. This was due almost entirely to a drop in chickens raised for meat, which make up 89% of the land animal deaths. There was little change for other land animals.
Sea animals: The number of fish eaten in the U.S. also continued to decrease. The average meat-eater in 2009 killed 2 fewer fish than in 2008 (a 5% drop), and 10 fewer fish than in 2006 (a 19% drop). That’s 500 million fewer fish killed than in 2008, and 2.4 billion fewer than in 2006. However, shellfish consumption increased, with the average meat-eater consuming 5 more shellfish in 2009 than in 2008. This increase was dominated by Gulf shrimp, swimming crabs, oysters, mussels, and Pacific squid.
The number of animals slaughtered in the US comprise only a portion of the total number that die here, as many do not reach the slaughterhouse. Neither do they include animals slaughtered abroad and then shipped to the US, even as they do include those slaughtered here for sale abroad. Nevertheless, they provide a picture of the slaughter industry in this country.
Here are the details:
Chickens Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 7.82 billion (7.37 billion for meat, 452 million for eggs)
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 26.2 (24.7 for meat, 1.5 for eggs)
- Average number died per American lifetime: 2,039 (1,993 for meat, 117 for eggs)
Turkeys Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 275 million
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 0.92
- Average number died per American lifetime: 72
Pigs Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 118.6 million
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 0.40
- Average number died per American lifetime: 31
Steers and Calves Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 39.7 million
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 0.13
- Average number died per American lifetime: 10.4
Ducks Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 21.9 million
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 0.074
- Average number died per American lifetime: 5.7
Rabbits Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 2.4 million
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 0.009
- Average number died per American lifetime: 0.69
Fish Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 12 billion
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 40
- Average number died per American lifetime: 3,100
Shellfish Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 39 billion
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 130
- Average number died per American lifetime: 10,000
Total Land Animals Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 8.27 billion
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 28
- Average number died per American lifetime: 2,159
Total Sea Animals Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 51 billion
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 170
- Average number died per American lifetime: 13,000
Total Animals Killed for Food in the US
- Total number died for food: 59 billion
- Average number died per American meat-eater: 198
- Average number died per American lifetime: 15,000
Calculated by Noam Mohr, email@example.com, October, 2010
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, “Livestock Slaughter 2009 Summary”, Mt An 1-2 -1 (10), April 2010, http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/LiveSlauSu/LiveSlauSu-04-29-2010.pdf, p. 3.
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, “Production, Supply, and Distribution Database”, created 4/9/10, http://www.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/psdhome.aspx (under Reports). From USDA-FAS attache reports, official statistics, and results of office research. 2009 data is preliminary
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, http://www.nass.usda.gov/QuickStats/PullData_US.jsp
U.S. Census Bureau, “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009 (NST-EST2008=9-01)”, http://www.census.gov/popest/states/NST-ann-est.html.
National Center for Health Statistics, “Health, United States, 2009” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS Publication No. 2010-1232, Jan 2010, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf, p.9.
VRG survey that 2.8%±3.1% of Americans don’t eat animals and 1.8%±3.1% are vegan. Source: http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2003issue3/vj2003issue3poll.htm
USDA NASS, “Meat Animals Production, Disposition, and Income: 2009 Summary”, Mt An 1-1 (10), April 2010, http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/MeatAnimPr/MeatAnimPr-04-29-2010.pdf (pigs: p.8-11)
USDA APHIS Veterinary Service – National Animal Health Monitoring System, “Swine 2006 – Part I: Reference of Swine Health and Management Practices in the United States, 2006”, Oct 2007, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/ncahs/nahms/swine/swine2006/Swine20
USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service Agricultural Statistics Board, “Chickens and Eggs 2009 Summary”, Pou 2-4(10), Feb 2010, http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/ChickEgg/ChickEgg-02-25-2010.pdf, p.4-5.
USDA ERS, “Agricultural Outlook: Statistical Indicators”, “Table 11–US Egg Supply and Use”, data as of June 2010, http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/agoutlook/aotables/. Data preliminary.
USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service, “Hatchery Production 2009 Summary”, Agricultural Statistics Board, Pou 1-1-1 (10), April 2010, http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/HatcProdSu/HatcProdSu-04-16-2010.pdf, p.6,34,37.
Noam Mohr, “Sea Animal Mortality for US Consumption 2009”, 2010, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
USDA APHIA Veterinary Service, “U.S. Rabbit Industry Profile”, June 2002, pp.8,18, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cei/bi/emergingmarketcondition_files/RabbitReport1.pdf. Middle of range of 1.9-2.3 million was used herein (2.1 million).
USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service Agricultural Statistics Board, “Poultry Slaughter 2009 Annual Summary”, Pou 2-1(10), Feb 2010, http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/PoulSlauSu/PoulSlauSu-02-25-2010.pdf, p.2. (Egg-type are “mature light”)
United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, “Ducks, geese and guinea fowls, domestic, whole, froze”, http://comtrade.un.org/db/help/uReadMeFirst.aspx.
Audubon Field guide
Guide to Marine Fishes, Perlmatter, 1961
In 1997, 611,200 t of gulf menhadden were 5.95 billion individuals. D.S. Vaughan, J.W. Smith, and M.H. Prager, “Population Characteristics of Gulf Menhaden, Brevoortia patronus”, NOAA Technical Report NMFS 149, April 2000, p.4, Table 2, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.76.9992&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Local supermarket: G.W. Market place, 21st St., Norfolk, VA 23507
Hillman Oyster Company: 1-800-582-4416
Kevin Hill, California Fish and Game Commission: 619-546-7052
Breder Field Book of Marine Fishes, 1948
The Sardine Factory: 831-373-3775
Aquaculture Network Information Center, ag.ansc.purdue.edu/aquanic/
Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 224, Jan. 1995
FAO fisheries technical paper 339, A Global Assessment of Fisheries Bycatch and Discards, 1995.
Shrimp Growers of America: 760-599-9778
Assessment of North Carolina Commercial Finfisheries, 1994-1996; N.C. Dept. of Env. and Nat. Res.
Department of Commerce, “Current Fishery Statistics No. 9700,” Fisheries of the United States, 1997.
“A total of 39 whole raw cuttlefish with an average weight of 536 g (range 176–823 g) and 59 whole raw squid with an average weight of 190 g (range 63–577 g)” Source: Paulo Vaz-Piresa and Pedro Seixas, “Development of new quality index method (QIM) schemes for cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and broadtail shortfin squid (Illex coindetii)”, Food Control, Volume 17, Issue 12, December 2006, Pages 942-949, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T6S-4J4B963-1&_user=10&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2006&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=8706ac5014958dc8a4209205456d1280
M. Elizabeth Conners and Elaina Jorgensen, “Appendix D: Octopus Complex”, NPFMC Gulf of Alaska SAFE, p.452, http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/refm/docs/2006/GOAocto.pdf
“According to the Alaska Seafood Institute, snow crab meat yield is 38 percent of meat-in-shell weight.” Gail Reynolds, “Classic Crab”, News-Leader, 13 Apr 2005, http://springfield.news-leader.com/lifestyle/food/20050413-ClassicCrab.html.
“An average blue crab weighs about 1/3 pound with the edible portion quite low. An experienced crab picker can produce about 2 1/4 ounces of meat from each pound of live blue crabs. This is about a 14 percent yield. The actual yield depends on the size of the individual crab and experience of the crab picker.” Don E. Sweat, “Fish Facts for Florida Consumers: Blue Crab”, Florida Sea Grant College Program, http://nsgl.gso.uri.edu/flsgp/flsgpg00006.pdf.
“Lobster has an average meat yield of 20 to 25 percent.” “All About Lobster”, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Prince Edward Island Canada, http://www.gov.pe.ca/af/agweb/index.php3?number=1002000
“Lobsters are known to have about a 20% meat yield.” This can be averaged with 22.5% from the above source to give 21.25%. “Lobster FAQs”, The Lobster Place, http://www.lobsterplace.com/assets/images/lobsterfaq.pdf
Average rock lobster pot weight for each area of Tasmania were 757g, 757g, 757g, 1323g, 1268g, 915g, 812g, 757g, giving an average of 918g or 2.024 lbs. J.M. Lyle and A.J. Morton, “Tasmanian Recreational Rock Lobster and Abalone Fisheries – 2004/05 Fishing Season”, TAFI Report, Feb 06, p. 16, Table 4, http://www.utas.edu.au/tafi/PDF_files/0405_RLAB_FISHWISE.pdf
“The average weight for all fish combined was 1.4 pounds.” This refers to recreational marine US catch excluding baitfish, and recreational fishing targets large fish (not anchovies!) this is probably an overestimate, making discard estimates too low, but we’re being conservative. “US Marine Recreational Fisheries”, http://www.st.nmfs.gov/st1/fus/fus98/rec/rf-text98.pdf. Survey 1979-1998.
Percent of landed weight after smoking given for Cod fillet 32-35%, finnan haddock 50-60%, golden cutlet 25-30%, smokie 45-50%, kipper 65-70%, bloater 68-80%, red herring 60-62%, salmon sides 45-60%, mackerel (hot smoked whole gutted) 60%, eel (ditto) 65-75%, giving an overall average of 63.5% used herein. Source: J.J. Waterman, “Measures, Stowage Rates and Yields of Fishery Products”, Torry Advisory Note 17, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, FAO in partnership with Support unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research, SIFAR, 2001, under “Yields” table 3.
Assuming this refers to green (i.e. wet) salted rather than dry salted, the weight of salted split cod is 50% (heavy cure) to 60% (light cure) of the original weight. Source: J.J. Waterman, “Measures, Stowage Rates and Yields of Fishery Products”, Torry Advisory Note 17, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, FAO in partnership with Support unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research, SIFAR, 2001, under “Yields” table 4.
Frozen whole fish is the same weight as landed weight. Imports/exports may be gutted or steaks, so this make underestimate the number of fish. Source: J.J. Waterman, “Measures, Stowage Rates and Yields of Fishery Products”, Torry Advisory Note 17, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, FAO in partnership with Support unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research, SIFAR, 2001, under “Yields” table 5
The yield for unsalted drying of cod heads is 21.2% of raw weight; I used this as an estimate for all dried fish, and estimate supported by the similar figure for dried capelin in Fig 5 (p.30). Source: Sigurjón Arason, “The Drying of Fish and Utilization of Geothermal Energy”, GHC Bulletin, Dec 2005, p.29(27-33), http://geoheat.oit.edu/bulletin/bull24-4/art7.pdf.
U.S. Dept of Commerce, “Imports and Exports of Fishery Products Annual Summary, 2007”, Current Fisheries Statistics No. 2007-2, http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/trade/documents/TRADE2007.pdf
It’s Nature, http://www.itsnature.org/sea/fish/patagonian-toothfish/.
Food Lovers Companion, Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/topic/turbot
Food Lovers Companion, Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/topic/pike
H. Vilhjalmsson, “Capelin biology and ecology: Capelin (Mallotus villosus) in the Iceland–East Greenland–Jan Mayen ecosystem”, ICES Journal of Marine Science 59: 870–883. 2002, p. 879, Table 8. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/59/5/870.pdf,
U.S. Dept of Commerce, “Imports and Exports of Fishery Products Annual Summary, 2008”, Current Fisheries Statistics No. 2008-2, http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/trade/documents/TRADE2008.pdf
B. Skaramuca et al., “Recent advances on the diversification of marine finfishes in Croatia”, CIHEAM – Options Mediterraneennes, p.362, http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c47/00600638.pdf
Fisheries of the United States 2008, http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/fus/fus08/index.html
Michael Chadwick, “Water, science and the public: the Miramichi ecosysem”, Canadian Special Publications of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 123, National Research Council Canada, http://books.google.com/books?id=x6plfusR_0QC&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=average+weight+”per+fish”+commercial+fish+catch&source=bl&ots=POqj0Jdi0L&sig=4V372tFm1BZ-VpcLpD7BMz4UbI4&hl=en&ei=ZsBgSo3eEJKslAeZn53mCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9#v=onepage&q=average%20weight%20%22per%20fish%22%20commercial%20fish%20catch&f=false
Kiernan Kelleher, “Discards in the World’s Marine Fisheries: An Update”, Fishing Technology Service, FAO Fisheries Department, Rome 2005, http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y5936e/y5936e0d.htm#bm13.1
Henry B. Bigelow and William C. Schroeder, “Fishes of the Gulf of Maine”, Fishery Bulletin of the Fish and Wildlife Service 74, Fish and Wildlife Service, US Dept of the Interior, Volume 53, 1953, http://220.127.116.11/fogm/Default.htm
NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology, “Imports and Exports of Fishery Products Annual Summary, 2009”, Current Fisheries Statistucs No. 2009-2, http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/trade/documents/TRADE2009.pdf
Alison Mood, “Worse things happen at sea: the welfare of wild caught fish”, fishcount.org.uk, 2010, source data listed here: http://www.fishcount.org.uk/studydatascreens/frontpage.php, and for fishmeal here: http://fishcount.org.uk/studydatascreens/numbers-of-fish-caught-for-fishmeal.php.
Jeff Batis, “Important Species”, http://www7.taosnet.com/platinum/data/species/species.html.
The North End Fish Market, 7 Oct 2009, http://northendfish.com/sea-scallop-fish-facts
More than 25g. NOAA Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, “50th Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop (50th SAW): Assessment Report”, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 10-17, Aug 2010, p.397, http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/crd1017/pdfs/btext.pdf.
60-100 per lb. http://www.relishmag.com/article/29365.html
Professor’s House, “Scallops”, 2007, http://www.professorshouse.com/food-beverage/food/scallops.aspx.
Robert J Baker, “Scallops: Nutrients from the sea”, Clarendon Sun, 9 Mar 2010, http://www.theitem.com/clarendon_sun/article_e38ae567-f7f5-5991-a41c-b91a6fe43ce9.html.
JM Harrington, RA Myers, and AA Rosenberg, “Wasted Resources: Bycatch and discards in U. S. Fisheries,” http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/o/fileadmin/oceana/uploads/Big_Fish_Report/PDF_Bycatch_July28.pdf, p.14
Leavins Seafood lists 7 lbs of regular-sized oysters as approximately 280 oysters. http://www.leavinsseafood.com/products_freshshucked.html
A.J. Chester, “Sampling Statistics in the Atlantic Menhaden Fishery”, NOAA Technical Report NMFS 9, August 1984, http://spo.nwr.noaa.gov/tr9opt.pdf.
WWF, “Alaskan and Russian Pollock”, http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/alaska_pollock/.
2007 averages were 7.7 lbs in Kodiak, 8.1 lbs in Chignik, S. Alaska Peninsula 7.6 lbs. Alaska Dept of Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries, “Catch, efforts, value and average weight from the Westward Region state-waters Pacific cod fisheries, 1997-2007”, http://www.cf.adfg.state.ak.us/region4/finfish/grndfish/pdf_files/pcodcev07.pdf.
Brad Harris, sea scallop researcher at the School of Marine Science and Technology, said 15-20 per pound is a good estimate.
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture”, Part I, Rome 2009, ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/i0250e/i0250e01.pdf.
A.G.J. Tacon and M. Metian, “Global overview on the use of fishmeal and fish oil in industrially compounded aquafeeds: Trends and future prospects”, Aquaculture 258 (2008), p. 146-158, http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/fish510/PDF/fishmeal.pdf.
A.Jackson, “Fishmeal and fish oil production and its role in sustainable aquaculture”, International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization, http://www.iffo.net/intranet/content/archivos/98.pdf.
Menhaden makes up the large majority of U.S. fishmeal. C.J.Thompson, “The Market for Fish Meal and Oil in the United States: 1960-1988 and Future Prospects”, CalCOFl Rep., Vol. 31,1990, p. 127, Table 3, http://www.calcofi.org/newhome/publications/CalCOFI_Reports/v31/pdfs/Vol_31_Thomson.pdf.
FAO, Yearbooks of Fishery Statistics Summary tables, p.11, Table A-1a, ftp://ftp.fao.org/fi/stat/summary/a1ybc.pdf.
A.Mood and P.Brooke, “Estimating the Number of Fish Caught in Global Fishing Each Year”, July 2010, http://www.fishcount.org.uk/published/std/fishcountstudy.pdf.
Alison Mood, “Worse things happen at sea: the welfare of wild caught fish”, fishcount.org.uk, 2010, http://www.fishcount.org.uk/published/standard/fishcountfullrptSR.pdf.
Get an email alert when posts like this one are published.
Interested in republishing this article? Read our requirements first!