Farm Animal Populations Continue to Grow

Farm animal populations continue to increase worldwide. The number of chickens grown for human consumption increased 169 percent between 1980 and 2010, from 7.2 billion to 19.4 billion.1 During the same period, the population of goats and sheep reached 2 billion, and the cattle population grew 17 percent to reach 1.4 billion2 (See Table 1). The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research estimates that by 2050 the global poultry population will grow to nearly 35 billion, the goat and sheep population to 2.7 billion, and the cattle population to 2.6 billion animals.3

Livestock Table 1

Demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products in developing countries has increased at a staggering rate in recent decades (See Figure 1). According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture and Organization (FAO), between 1980 and 2005 per capita milk consumption in developing countries almost doubled, meat consumption more than tripled, and egg consumption increased fivefold.4

The greatest increases in consumption are occurring in East and Southeast Asia. China’s per capita milk consumption increased from 2.3 kilograms (kg) in 1980 to 23.2 kg in 2005.5 Per capita meat consumption in China quadrupled during that period, and egg consumption rose from 2.5 kg to 20.2 kg.6 And in India, Operation Flood—a National Dairy Board project aimed at boosting the country’s milk production and consumption—helped increase per capita milk consumption from 38 kg in 1980 to nearly 69 kg in 2007.7 India is now the largest milk producer in the world.8


The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization known around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Learn More