Record American Meat Consumption

Americans’ love of meat is expected to hit a new high, according to a projection from the USDA. The government agency expects Americans to consume an average of 222 pounds of red meat and poultry during 2018.

Average consumption has risen 12% since 1990, a sign of increasing prosperity, desire to eat more protein, and American overindulgence.

During the same period, U.S. meat production jumped by 66% and should surpass 100 billion pounds for the first time ever. This excess production is being sold to foreign buyers, making Midwestern farmers and ranchers increasingly dependent on shoppers in Japan, Mexico, or South Korea, three of the major markets for U.S. pork, chicken, and beef.

As of midday Friday, February cattle futures traded for $1.20 per pound, while February lean hogs were worth $0.71, levels that could continue to encourage consumption. Longer term, however, American consumption could plateau if shoppers eat more meat alternatives or cut out meat entirely.

Steak consumption is often linked to a rising stock market, so many ranchers keep an eye on Dow Jones futures as they watch cattle prices.