Meat’s Plate Share Grows

U.S. Meat Production ( Data Source: USDA; Illustration: Lindsey Benne )

After several years of steady declines, U.S. consumers are adding more protein to their plates. In 2018, U.S. red meat and poultry consumption reached a record high. That trend is expected to continue. This is coupled with growing incomes in developing countries — a huge growth area for U.S. meat products and feed grains.

“As markets become more global, economies improve and the middle class increases, consumption of protein will grow,” says Don Close, senior animal protein analyst with Rabo AgriFinance.

Robust demand has encouraged U.S. livestock producers to increase production. “We’ve been on an amazing expansion when you look at beef, pork and chicken,” says Scott Brown, University of Missouri economist. “The strong domestic demand in the last several years has helped maintain livestock prices that would have otherwise fallen given this kind of expansion.”

Hungry Global Customers

U.S. exports of meat and poultry have grown at an average of 4% per year during the past decade, according to USDA. Through 2024, USDA expects annual global consumption to grow by 2% for poultry, 1% for pork and 1% for beef.

“I think we will see a transition for the U.S. to become a larger exporter of animal proteins and a smaller producer of raw commodities,” Close says. “The efficiency of shipping containers full of meat is far greater compared to the inefficiency of hauling raw commodities around the globe and then converting them into protein products.” 

More Meat Per U.S. Plate