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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 35% and 22% respectively.


Estimated world livestock numbers (million head)

  1990 2000 2012 % change

Cattle and Buffaloes  

1445 1467 1684 16.5


849 856 966 13.8


11788 16077 24075 104.2

Sheep and Goats

1795 1811 2165 20.6


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