It may seem like everyone's a vegetarian these days, but in fact, humans are eating more meat, a study finds. That's because as China and India get richer, diets that had been heavy on rice have gotten more carnivorous. Still, we as a species "are closer to herbivore than carnivore," says the lead author of the study, which "changes the preconception of being top predator." Indeed, for the first time, Nature reports, researchers have assessed humanity's trophic level—in other words, where we stand on the food chain.
Since they make their own food, plants and algae are at level one; mammal-chowing polar bears and orcas are among the animals at the top of the food chain, with levels reaching 5.5. Humans? Just 2.21 as of 2009, the study says. That makes us comparable to pigs, not to mention anchovies: We're all omnivores. The study reviewed trophic levels in 176 countries every year from 1961 to 2009. During that period, our trophic level climbed approximately 0.06 points, a 3% increase. That's a "big" difference, says an outside expert. It's not good news for Earth: Livestock causes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, more than all transportation combined, Nature notes. (Read more meat stories.)