insights -- Feburary 2018 - 4

Consumption
Meat and poultry consumption trends in the U.S.
have changed significantly since the late 1970s. Beef
dominated per-capita consumption for many years,
reaching a peak of 89.0 pounds per person in 1976.
Pork consumption that year was 40.7 pounds per
person and chicken consumption was 28.5 pounds per
person. That year saw per-capita expenditures for red
meat and poultry as follows: $139.81 for beef, $60.02
for pork and $24.46 for chicken.
The 25 years after that saw a slow decline in per
capita beef consumption and a gradual increase in
pork and chicken consumption. Americans began
to consume more chicken than beef in 1992 when
beef consumption was 65.9 pounds per person and
chicken consumption was 66.5 pounds per person.
Beef though, maintained its top place in terms of
per-capita expenditures, $189.28, versus $93.42 for
chicken and $105.14 for pork.
Americans consumed an average 90.9 pounds
of chicken in 2017, versus an average 57.0 pounds
of beef. Recent consumption data from USDA's
Economic Research Service (on December 18,
2017 in its monthly Livestock, Dairy and Poultry
Outlook) forecast that 2018 per capita consumption
will be: beef 59.1 pounds; pork 52.1 pounds; broilers
91.9 pounds; and turkeys 16.6 pounds.

3. HEALTHFULNESS OF
MEAT
Red meat consumption, primarily as it relates to beef,
has been under intense scrutiny since the 1980s. Beef
at that time was presented to consumers, especially at
the retail level, with what the beef industry eventually
agreed was an excessive amount of fat. Some consumer
advocates and many in the medical profession linked
beef to heart disease and urged consumers to reduce
their intake.

4

However, per-capita consumption data during this
time suggests that Americans continued to eat beef based
on the amount that was available rather than any other
factors. The amount produced and its price to consumers
rather than perceptions about the healthfulness of beef
were the key drivers.

It is also relevant to note that author Nina Teicholz's
book, "The Big Fat Surprise," published in 2014,
reiterated six decades of previously established, sciencebased research focused on how the low-fat movement
amounted to what the author calls "a vast uncontrolled
experiment on the entire population, with disastrous
consequences for our health." Teicholz's book has been
instrumental in countering negative perceptions about
unsaturated fats, red meat and dairy products.

4. ALTERNATIVE
PROTEINS
Alternative proteins have been in the marketplace
for many years. They include an extensive selection of
tofu/soybean-based products. Some of these mimic
meat products such as hamburger patties and sausage
links. These products are found in all mainstream
grocery stores and on many restaurant menus as a nonmeat option for consumers. For example, Trader Joe's
currently sells a product called "Meatless Ground Beef,"
which is made from soybeans and other ingredients.

5. LAB-GROWN MEAT
Science, technology and prominent investors are
coming together as never before to produce labproduced meats on a large scale. The first move to attract
world-wide attention was in 2013 when a team of Dutch
scientists showed off their lab-grown hamburger, which
cost $330,000 to produce, and provided a taste test. Much
more recently, San Francisco-based Memphis Meats
fried the first-ever lab meatball, which cost $18,000
per pound. Those who have tasted these items say they
barely differ from the real thing.
The Dutch team and Memphis Meats claim that
within a few years, lab-produced meats will start
appearing in supermarkets and restaurants. Others
are working on developing cultured meat, such as
Hampton Creek Foods (also based in San Francisco).
It says it will be selling cultured poultry as soon as the
end of 2018. Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat makes
chicken strips largely from a protein in peas, and beef
burgers that "bleed" juice from beet roots. Meanwhile,
the plant-based Impossible Burger originated in
Silicon Valley is available in a growing number of
restaurants across the U.S.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of insights -- Feburary 2018

insights -- Feburary 2018 - 1
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