U.S. Beef and Pork Consumption Slips Lower

Last summer, we noted the USDA’s projections for meat consumption in 2023 and 2024 were bleak. While beef and pork consumption dipped in 2023, reality hasn’t been as bad as initially anticipated.

Beef

2022 U.S. beef consumption was 59.1 pounds per capita (Figure 1). You would have to return to the 2000s to find a higher rate. However, beef consumption was much higher back then, averaging 64.8 pounds per capita between 2000 and 2010.

Last summer, the USDA’s May 2023 WASDE estimated per capita beef consumption at 57.0 pounds in 2023 and 52.8 pounds in 2024. At those levels, 2023 would have been a 3.5% year-over-year decline, and 2024 would have been the lowest observation ever. However, reality hasn’t been as dire. The final data for 2023 was 58.1 pounds per capita, just a 1.7% decline. For 2024, the current estimates are unchanged from the 2023 levels of 58.1 pounds.


Figure 1. U.S. Beef Consumption, 2010-2024F. Data Source: USDA ERS and WASDE.

Pork and poultry

U.S. pork consumption continued lower in 2023, reaching 50.2 pounds. Domestic consumption has declined since 2019, when activity peaked at 52.1 pounds per capita. Good news could be in store as per capita consumption is estimated to be 0.5 pounds higher in 2024.


Figure 2. U.S. Pork Consumption, 2010-2024F. Data Source: USDA ERS and WASDE.

Finally, domestic poultry consumption has continued its near-linear upward trend. In 2023, per capita consumption was nearly 116 pounds. For 2024, consumption is forecasted at 117.6 pounds, 1.5% higher. A lot could change throughout the year, but poultry’s 1.5% increase is considerably faster than pork’s recovery (a 1% increase) and beef’s stabilization (0% change).


Figure 3. U.S. Poultry Consumption, 2010-2024F. Data Source: USDA ERS and WASDE.

Wrapping it up

The good news is that earlier forecasts of significant declines in U.S. beef consumption have been largely avoided. Despite more modest declines in beef and pork for 2023, consumers in 2024 are forecasted to consume the same or more meat.

As always, keep in mind that these data are only for consumption. Only considering changes in per capita consumption – ¬†and ignoring price changes¬† – doesn’t tell us anything about consumer demand. For example, per capita beef consumption was 1.7% lower in 2023, but retail beef prices were 5.2% higher last year. We’ll dive into prices and qualities in a future article, but this is favorable given the concerns about inflation and the health of the U.S. economy.