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Sources of Meat

The most common sources of meat are domesticated animal species such as cattle, pigs and poultry and to a lesser extent buffaloes, sheep and goats. In some regions other animal species such as camels, yaks, horses, ostriches and game animals are also eaten as meat. To a limited extent, meat is also derived from exotic animals such as crocodiles, snakes and lizards.


For thousands of years, poultry supplied meat and eggs, cattle, sheep and goats provided meat and milk, and pigs provided a source of meat. These species are the main sources of animal protein for humans. The meat derived from cattle is known as beef, meat derived from pigs as pork and from chickens as poultry. Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world accounting for over 36% of the world meat intake. It is followed by poultry and beef with about 33% and 24% respectively.


Estimated world livestock numbers (million head)

  1990 2000 2010 % change


1447 1479 1623 12


856 899 966 13


11792 16078 21489 82


1799 1811 2000 11


The utilization and subsequent consumption of different animal species vary as cultural preferences and religious beliefs are observed.