USA Today reports that:

The average person will chomp down on 7,000 animals during their lives, according to the Vegetarian Calculator.

It breaks down to 11 cows, 27 pigs, 2,400 chickens, 80 turkeys, 30 sheep and 4,500 fish, according to the group.

Is this true?

  • I tried using the Vegetarian Calculator, and their figures have 7,070 animals saved in merely 35 years, and it doesn't breakdown which animals. Presumably this article was based off a press release or similar, rather than the calculator itself. – Oddthinking Feb 8 '16 at 1:32
  • 1
    Are these whole-animal figures? I plan on taking part in more than 80 turkey dinners over the course of my life, but I don't plan on eating the whole bird. Or is this just the animal-equivalent of the tonnage of meat that I'm consuming? – Nuclear Wang Feb 8 '16 at 14:49
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The average person will chomp down on 7,000 animals during their lives, according to the Vegetarian Calculator

The US life expectancy is 79 year.

The calculator says 15,958 animals for 79 years.

It breaks down to 11 cows, 27 pigs, 2,400 chickens, 80 turkeys, 30 sheep and 4,500 fish, according to the group.

There are rather thorough calculations done at How many animals does a vegetarian save?

This source says 6,982,810,444 chickens were "slaughtered for U.S. supply of meat" in 2013.

The USA population was 316.5 million in 2013.

Assuming people (as opposed to dogs, cats, garbage cans etc.) ate all these chickens, this works out to:
1743 chickens per lifetime.

Similarly the reported 208,511,114 turkeys in 2013 corresponds to:
52 turkeys per lifetime

The reported 97,203,867 pigs in 2013 corresponds to:
24 pigs per lifetime

The reported 34,799,542 cows/calves/cattle corresponds to:
9 "cows" per lifetime

The reported 4,816,359 sheep in 2013 corresponds to:
1.2 sheep per lifetime

USA Today is wrong by a factor of 25 for sheep, and is a little high for the other land animals. Also, USA Today leaves out ducks (24,575,000 in 2013) which correspond to 6 per lifetime.

Additionally, the "How many animals does a vegetarian save?" calculates 148.96 fish including shell fish consumed per person in 2013 in the USA. This is overwhelmingly due to shrimp (126.42), with scallops (4.72) being a distant second.

So 11768 fish per lifetime (mostly shrimp).

In total 13603 animals per lifetime.

The central argument of this answer is theoretical in nature. We do not allow answers based uniquely on common sense or pure logic. Answers which are wholly based on a theoretical model are generally downvoted and may be deleted. See FAQ: What are theoretical answers?

  • Great answer, although by most definitions one would not consider crustaceans and molluscs fish. – March Ho Feb 9 '16 at 0:06
  • Are you missing a decimal point in "11768 fish" at the end? If not I badly must-read something – user568458 Feb 10 '16 at 22:24
  • @user568458 79 years X 148.96 "fish" per year = 11767.84, which I rounded to 11768 "fish" per lifetime – DavePhD Feb 11 '16 at 2:20
  • Might the sheep numbers be skewed due to imports? Around hal the consumption is imprted from overseas per ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/sheep,-lamb-mutton/… and there seem to be added complications with live imports from Canada. – Andrew Feb 13 '16 at 12:00
  • @Andrew imports are very significant for sheep, but the source in my answer includes imports. For 2013, the 4,816,359 sheep number, comes from 2,412,200 domestic sheep + 2,509,072 imported sheep - 104,913 exported sheep. – DavePhD Feb 13 '16 at 12:34

Issue: Does the average American eat 7,000 animals during his/her lifetime?

Evidence:

  1. 2008 figures give a average number of total animals consumed per American lifetime as 21,000 (sea animals-19,000 and land animals-2261).

  2. 2009 figures give a average number of total animals consumed per American lifetime as 15,000 (sea animals-13,000 and land animals-2159).

  3. 2011 figures give a average number of total animals consumed per American lifetime as 16,000 (sea animals-14,000 and land animals-2113).

Meaning:

  1. The average American might eat more than 7000 animals based on the quoted statistics from the above sources which are clearly noted not to be entirely accurate and similar to the OP's source. The numbers tend to vary on the higher side when combined with the exports and independent rounding mentioned by the source from United Poultry Concern.

In 2012, the average American consumed 71.2 pounds of red meat (beef, veal, pork, and lamb) and 54.1 pounds of poultry (chicken and turkey), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The average amount is likely a bit higher.

  1. Also there are no real statistics on number of finfish or shellfish killed and the numbers provided are all based on best guesses and estimates based on total weights and extrapolation.

The corresponding per capita consumption figures for Oceania, North America, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America were 24.5, 24.1, 20.8, 9.5 and 8.4 kg, respectively.

  1. Meat consumption is seen to rise in the U.S and EU over the past decade and the United States is noted to have a meat consumption at more than three times the global average.

Overall meat consumption has continued to rise in the U.S., European Union, and developed world. Despite a shift toward higher poultry consumption, red meat still represents the largest proportion of meat consumed in the U.S (58%). Twenty-two percent of the meat consumed in the U.S. is processed. According to NHANES 2003–2004, total meat intake averaged 128 g/day. The type and quantities of meat reported varied by education, race, age, and gender.

The U.S. also exports beef, pork and poultry apart from its own consumption at a higher rate when compared to other countries in the world.

Exports in 2010 accounted for 18.9 percent of U.S. pork production, 19.8 percent of poultry production and 9 percent of beef production.

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