Per Capita Red Meat And Poultry Disappearance: Insights Into Its Steady Growth

Per capita red meat and poultry disappearance (the amount used in domestic markets, including fresh and processed meat sold through grocery stores and used in restaurants) is expected to reach record highs in 2018, eclipsing the previous high in 2007. Based on USDA forecasts, in 2018, Americans will have access to 222.4 pounds of red meat and poultry on a per capita retail weight basis. Average annual per capita disappearance of beef decreased 0.3 percent annually from 2000 to 2015 but has increased since 2016 and is expected to grow by 3.7 percent in 2018. Per capita disappearance of pork is forecasted to grow by 4.2 percent in 2018, well above its average annual growth rate of 0.1 percent since 2000. Per capita disappearance of broilers (young chickens), however, is expected to grow just 1.1 percent in 2018, slightly below its 10-year average. Rising meat demand in the U.S. has been supported by sustained economic growth since the 2009 Great Recession and stable to declining retail prices brought about by low animal feed costs.

USDA calculates per capita meat disappearance as a measure of total supply per capita (supply minus exports and ending stocks). Since the measure is based entirely on supply, it does not account for food waste, meat used for pet food, and any other nonfood uses of livestock and poultry meat products. USDA also publishes loss adjusted food availability data in the ERS Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System data product, but the data look at past years rather than providing estimates or forecasts. As a result, while disappearance is commonly used as a proxy for consumption, it likely overestimates actual consumer use of these products.

Larger hog and broiler inventories are among the factors that have contributed to greater red meat and poultry production and disappearance since 2000, coupled with the growing global demand for high-value animal protein.  In the hog sector, animal numbers have increased sharply.  In 2000, the beginning inventory of all hogs was about 59 million head.  By 2018, the all-hog inventory numbered more than 73 million head.  The 14-million-head increase represents a gain of more than 23 percent since 2000.  Much the same is true for the U.S. broiler industry: more birds, slaughtered at heavier weights, have largely driven higher U.S red meat and poultry disappearance.  In 2000, slaughter of broilers totaled more than 8.2 billion; in 2016, almost 8.8 billion broilers were slaughtered, an increase of more than 6 percent.

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