Whilst visiting a friend in Germany recently he told me that the prevalence of pork in the German diet was because the winters often killed cattle and beef was not readily available.

I began to think about the issue on a much deeper (but uniformed level) and wondered what the primary reasons were for particular meat consumption in regions.


  • Beef in the UK/USA
  • Pork in Germanic Countries
  • Herring in Scandinavia
  • Goat in Arabic countries
  • Lamb in South East Asia
  • Tofu or Soy based products in Far Asia
  • Mixed chicken and seafood in Romance-speaking countries

Is there a deep historical reasoning for the prevalence of one product over another?

  • 1
    Japan has a lot of seafood. It's most likely prevalence: Japan is surrounded by water, there's lots of seafood, so they eat lots of seafood. In comparison, land is sparse and raising livestock takes up a fair amount of that land. Coastal areas in China also have a lot of seafood (local specialties in Xiamen, for example,) but you can see as you head more inland, the cuisine tends to favour more land-based meats (like Sichuan: beef, duck, pork, more pork, chicken, and a whole lot of chilli.) The other reason would be religious (like beef in India, or pork in Malaysia ...)
    – Ming
    Jan 27, 2015 at 0:25
  • 1
    I'm not entirely sure that this is an on-topic cooking question for our site... there's a culinary component, but this strikes me as more about anthropology and the history of domestic animal husbandry.
    – logophobe
    Jan 27, 2015 at 0:44
  • 2
    Beef wasn't the go-to meat in the US, historically. My understanding is that it was the railroads that made beef viable to a larger portion of the population. (as it could be raised far from the cities, then transported for slaughter). Before that time, you had to rely on cattle drives in the midwest, but east coast would've had more sheep, goat, chickens, rabbits, etc. Especially closer to the cities and in more mountainous regions. Pork was also raised near cities, as pigs would eat the garbage produced there.
    – Joe
    Jan 27, 2015 at 2:08
  • Meta regarding this type of question - meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1701/… Jan 27, 2015 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


Id'say availability, like others have commented on.

If you have access to sea, seafood is an easy choice.

You cannot keep cattle high up in the mountains, that's why goats and sheep are more popular in e.g., Greece, where there are no plains for cattle to graze on.

Chickens and doves are easy to keep and were cheaper than pigs or cows.

Pigs are omnivores. On the one hand, they are happy in forest regions eating acorns (which cows wouldn't like). Pigs also eat kitchen trash like potato peel and leftovers. On the other hand pigs compete with humans for food (potatos, fruit).

Other animals were primarily work animals (dogs to guard, cats to catch mice, horses to pull carts and ploughs) and were hence not eaten (there are exemptions to this rule like Sauerbraten which was made from horse meat of horses that were too old to be used as work animals).

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