Poultry is set to overtake pork as the single-biggest meat sector worldwide by 2030 as emerging markets look for greater amounts of cheap protein to feed booming populations.

Rabobank, the leading agricultural lender, is forecasting that global demand for poultry meat will hit 152m tonnes by 2030, 60% up on 2010 levels.

Over the same period, pork will rise 43% to 142m tonnes, with beef and sheepmeat growing a respective 25% and 35% to 85 million tonnes and 18 million tonnes.

The global rise of poultry meant producers in EU countries would need to focus on scale and ­efficiency if they were to stand a chance against global competition, said Rabobank analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder. "Producers will need to move from thinking about their industry on a national level to thinking regionally and ultimately on a pan-European basis," he said. "For the UK, the region to think about is North West Europe Ireland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Northern France."

Poultry producers in developed markets such as the UK needed to brace themselves for vastly increased global competition, pressure to keep prices as low as possible and growing scrutiny over sustainability and animal welfare over the coming decades, Mulder added.

With rising demand for fuel and food set against a backdrop of limited natural resources, no industry would escape questions over its environmental footprint in future and fast-growing sectors would be a particular target, he said.

"We're seeing a change, from scrutiny coming from governments and NGOs to retailers increasingly taking that role and pushing for higher standards."

Most growth over the next 20 years would come from emerging markets such as India as they shifted from food as bare necessity to "social occasion". For European markets, however, "food as stimulation" and its associated demands for higher welfare and CSR standards was key, Mulder said.