A continental diet

Conversations | 28th May 2024 | By Matt Dalgleish

Market Morsel

Data on protein consumption patterns across the globe from the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN-FAO) presents the distribution of protein consumption by type across six continents for 2023, specifically focusing on plant protein, meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. The data highlights the following:

Dominantly consumes plant protein (77.2%), which is the highest proportion of plant protein consumption among all continents. Consumption of meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs is significantly lower, with meat at 12.1%, seafood at 4.2%, dairy at 5.4%, and eggs at 1.1%. Indeed, African consumption of meat, dairy and eggs are the lowest proportions compared to all other continents.


Like Africa, also has a high intake of plant protein (65.1%). Meat consumption stands at 15.7%, which is higher than Africa but lower compared to continents like South America, Oceania, and North America. Seafood consumption is the strongest among the other continents (7.4%) and eggs (4.0%) are also relatively strong sitting at third top consumption proportions, while dairy intake is the second lowest among the continents at 7.8%.

South America

Displays a more balanced distribution with meat being the largest source at 39.0%. Plant protein intake is considerable at 41.3%, making South America have a fairly even split between plant-based and animal-based protein sources. Dairy (12.6%), seafood (2.9%), and eggs (4.2%) contribute less to the protein diet. Indeed, South American consumption of seafood is the lowest proportion across all continents.


Shows a notable preference for dairy products (20.7%), the highest among all continents. Plant protein intake is also substantial at 40.4%, followed by meat at 29.5%. Seafood (5.5%) and eggs (3.9%) are consumed in smaller proportional amounts.


Similar to Europe, has a relatively high dairy consumption at 13.5%, although not as high as Europe and North America. Meat (38.8%) and plant proteins (39.5%) are the predominant sources and, like South America, are fairly balanced. The intake of seafood (6.1%) and eggs (2.1%) are relatively moderate.

North America

Like South America and Oceania, shows a balanced profile with high consumption of both meat (38.4%) and plant proteins (37.2%). Dairy products account for 16.0% of the protein intake, which is the second highest behind Europe. Consumes the highest proportion of eggs (4.5%) compared to other continents.

In summary, dietary patterns vary significantly across continents with some like Africa and Asia focusing heavily on plant proteins, while others like Europe and North America have a more diverse intake spanning dairy, meat, and plant proteins. This variation is due to a combination of dietary traditions, economic availability of different food types, and cultural preferences.


  • Food
  • Food Security
  • meat
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Dairy