While we may be surrounded by growing numbers of insufferable vegans, meat consumption by humans has increased on a global scale, thanks to countries like China and India. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study that tracked global food consumption in 176 countries and looked at how eating patterns changed from 1961 to 2009. The study also calculated, for the first time, the human trophic level (HTL), which essentially shows us our place on the food chain.

Humans may think they're kings of the food chain, but actually they're somewhere in the middle. As Scientific America explains, at trophic level 1 we see things like plants, which make their own energy. Moving up, animals that eat herbivores occupy trophic level 3 and finally, animals with few or no predators that eat other mammals occupy the top spot at level 5. Lead scientist Sylvain Bonhommeau places humans at trophic level 2.21, somewhere in the same range as pigs. "We are closer to herbivore than carnivore," Bonhommeau explains. "It changes the preconception of being top predator."

Researchers concluded that while meat consumption was dwindling in certain parts of the world, other growing economies like the ones mentioned above were contributing to an overall increase in the amount of meat consumed globally by humans. Areas where poverty-stricken peoples subsisted mostly on rice have seen their HTL rise; elsewhere, where humans started diversifying their meat-centric diets, the HTL has decreased. Despite the different movements, the overall HTL has increased 3% in the past 50 years.

By understanding HTL, scientists can also determine human impact on the environment, specifically when it comes to meat production, the impact of which is extremely detrimental. Factory farming of livestock produces 18% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, a substantial chunk that outweighs all forms of transportation combined. I hope you're happy, paleo freaks; you're killing Mother Nature.