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45 Meat Industry Statistics and Trends

Recent reports that suggest white meats and poultry products are just as dangerous as red meats have worked to raise the hackles of the meat industry in the United States in 2019. This industry is an economic powerhouse for the country, making up the most significant sector of agriculture for American workers. There are about 500,000 people directly employed in poultry and meat packing or processing, with their combined salaries totaling $19 billion per year.

If you add the suppliers and distributors to the meat industry professionals, then that figure climbs to over 6.2 million jobs. The industry also creates $864 billion in annual revenues, which represents about 6% of the annual GDP for the United States.

Interesting Meat Industry Statistics

#1. The United States meat industry processes about 9 billion chickens per year. There are another 33 million cattle, 239 million turkeys, and 2.3 million sheep and lambs that enter into the food chain each year thanks to farmers, processors, and packers. (North American Meat Institute)

#2. Meat companies in the United States produce about 25 billion pounds of beef every year through these activities. There is another 23 billion pounds of pork made available, 6 billion pounds of turkey, and 286 million pounds of mutton, lamb, or veal. (NBC News)

#3. The meat industry in the United States also produces over 38 billion pounds of chicken for global consumption each year. (North American Meat Institute)

#4. Although meat consumption in the United States has started to see some per capita declines, the average American still consumes over 270 pounds of industry products each year. The only other country that eats more is Luxembourg. (NBC News)

#5. Total beef consumption in the United States totaled 24.1 billion pounds in the last year. (NBC News)

#6. Americans consume over 70 pounds of red meat products each year, which has long been higher than advised because of the risks thought to be associated with this animal protein and the development of cancer. The USDA recommended amount for consumption is just 3.3 ounces per day. (NBC News)

#7. People who eat an average of ¼-pound of red meat per day raise their risk of developing colon cancer by 17% during their lifetime. (World Health Organization)

#8. There are 1.2 million metric tons of beef exported from the United States each year on average, providing about $7 billion in total revenues to the meat industry. The top foreign markets for the industry tend to be Japan, China, Canada, and Mexico. (U.S. Meat Export Federation)

#9. Over 127,000 Americans have full-time employment because of the meat processing industry in the United States, earning a total of $400 million in wages each month. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

#10. About 60% of the pork products that farmers produce each year get turned into processed products like sausage and bacon. About 25% of these items are then sent to the export market for sale. (National Pork Producers Council)

#11. There were 835 federally inspected livestock slaughter plants in the United States in 2018. An additional 3,700 plants were processing red meat products, but were not slaughtering the animals. Another 3,000 federally inspected poultry slaughter facilities and processing plants are available to the meat industry as well. (North American Meat Institute)

#12. There are 29 different cuts of beef, six different cuts of pork, and several poultry cuts that are leaner and have fewer calories than a 3-ounce serving of salmon. (North American Meat Institute)

#13. Consuming a 3-ounce serving of lean meat provides about 200 calories and all nine essential amino acids for overall health and growth. It is an excellent source for magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium, niacin, and all of the other B-series vitamins. (North American Meat Institute)

#14. The meat industry in the United States accounts for more than $1 trillion in total economic output each year. Employees working in processing or packing plants typically make about $15 per hour plus benefits. (North American Meat Institute)

#15. There are 142 million metric tons of meat produced in Asia, which is responsible for roughly one-third of the 330.5 million metric tons that the global meat industry makes available to the market each year. (Statista)

#16. 38% of the processed meats from a global perspective are chicken products, which makes it the most popular animal protein in the world. Red meat, which includes pork, offers a 33% share. (Statista)

#17. The highest revenues from meat products and sausages comes from the United States, which brings in nearly double of what the China, who is the second-largest meat market in the world, is able to produce annually. (North American Meat Institute)

#18. The average person consumes about 35 kilograms of meat products per year. 82% of the animal revenue share comes through Tyson worldwide. Although they are known for chicken products, their largest sales segment is actually beef. (Statista)

#19. China sells about $76 billion in sausage and meat products each year. Production output for the industry has increased by 15-fold in Asia since 1961. (Statista)

#20. The United States is the largest producer of buffalo meat and beef in the world today, creating about 12 million tons per year. Total cattle meat production has more than doubled since the 1960s, reaching 68 million tons in 2014. (Our World in Data)

#21. Americans spend less of their disposable income on food than any other country in the world, dedicating 6.4% to purchases. Singapore comes in second at 6.7%, while the UK is in third at 8.2%. (World Economic Forum)

#22. The averaged annual retail price for Choice beef in the United States as risen from $3.32 per pound in 2002 to $6.29 per pound in 2015. That has led to a retail equivalent value of the American beef industry of $105 billion. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

#23. The U.S. cattle commercial slaughter and inventories in 2015 were 28.7 million head, which is the lowest rate it has been in more than a decade. It was 35.4 million in 2003. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

#24. About two million head of cattle trade between Canada and the United States each year. With the exception of 2004 when only 135 head of cattle were contributed from north of the border, the relationship averages out to about a 50/50 split in terms of beef exchanges. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

#25. There are about 880 million people who are classified as being rural and in extreme poverty, earning the equivalent of $1 per day or less. 70% of these households are partially or entirely dependent on livestock for their food security and livelihood. (Worldwatch Institute)

#26. About 16% of the deaths of women, along with 11% of the deaths in men, could be prevented if there was a decrease in the amount of red meat they consumed to the lowest amounts possible. (Worldwatch Institute)

#27. Raising livestock accounts for 40% of the world’s methane and 65% of the nitrous oxide emissions that occur each year. When all greenhouse gases are considered, the meat industry is responsible for about one-fifth of the total emissions released to the atmosphere. (Worldwatch Institute)

#28. 23% of global water use goes directly to agricultural industries to help raise livestock. That is the equivalent of having 1.15 liters of drinkable water for every person on the planet each day. (Worldwatch Institute)

#29. 75% of the antibiotics that are given to animals are not absorbed by their bodies, which means they become excreted in their waste. When this manure is then spread on crops or fields to encourage higher levels of production, there is a chance that the drugs could then enter the human body. (Worldwatch Institute)

#30. To make the average quarter-pound hamburger in the United States, it requires 6.7 pounds of grains and forage, 52.8 gallons of drinking water, 74 square feet of land, and 1,036 BTUs for feed production. (Journal of Animal Science)

#31. Because scientists and farmers are using selective breeding practices with livestock, there is more beef available today than in the 1970s even though the total inventory in the United States has dropped by 15 million head. The average dressed weight of cattle in 1970 was about 600 pounds, but it was 784 pounds in 2009. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

#32. In 1909, the total meat consumption in the United States was just 9.8 billion pounds, which is a figure that remained constant until the 1930s. By 2012, it was 52.2 billion pounds. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

#33. Two acres of rainforest lands are cleared each minute to raise cattle or the crops which are necessary to feed them on average each year. There are 35,000 miles of rivers in the United States which have animal waste pollution. It takes five times more land to produce animal proteins than it does to create a similar amount in plant-based proteins. (PETA)

#34. If the healthcare, subsidies, and environmental damage costs were built into the price of a Big Mac in the United States, then consumers would be paying $13 for the sandwich. The U.S. government spends $38 billion to subsidize the meat industry (and dairy) each year, but only spends $17 million to subsidize fruits and vegetables. (PETA)

#35. Almost 70% of American farmers have not received a single direct subsidy from their government, even though there is more than $100 billion in funds available to the agricultural sector. The majority of this money goes to just five companies in the United States – and one in Brazil. (PETA)

#36. Since 2014, the cattle herd has expanded by 12%, even though some production figures are down for the meat industry. Companies still produced 47.7 billion pounds of poultry in 2017, helping meat production increase by 3.8% – the largest jump in over 20 years. (Wall Street Journal)

#37. Sanderson Farms said it sold a record 4.2 billion pounds of poultry products in 2017. That follows Hormel Foods saying that it achieved its highest-ever annual profit margin and Tyson hitting an earnings-per-share record the same year. (Wall Street Journal)

#38. The increase in meat supplies is putting extra pressure on processors in the industry, with profit margins dropping as new plants fight for available inventories. Turkey prices in 2018 reached their lowest levels in seven years. (Wall Street Journal)

#39. Over the past 50 years, global meat production rose from 84 million tons to over 330 million tons in 2017. This production for milk, eggs, and meat has led to a loss of calories grown in the fields that could feed an extra 3.5 billion people on our planet. (Global Agriculture)

#40. There are 1.47 billion cattle being managed at any given time in the world today, which is a figure that is up 44% since 1966. Another 981 million pigs and hogs, along with 22.7 billion chickens, are also under management. (Global Agriculture)

#41. The five largest meat and dairy corporations in the world today are responsible for annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 578 metric tons, which is more than ExxonMobil (577 Mt), Shell (508 Mt), or BP (448 Mt). When you combine the top 20 companies, then the 933 metric tons surpasses that total emissions of several countries – including Canada and Germany. (FAO)

#42. 60% of the world’s agricultural lands are used for beef production, but this meat product makes up about 2% of the calories that people consume in the world. (IATP)

#43. The meat packing industry in the United States manages about 4 pigs and hogs for every head of cattle processed, providing over 113 million head that can be turned into several products each year. (Cornell University)

#44. If only meat products are looked at for the average American household budget, just 1.6% of a family’s discretionary spending goes toward animal protein items. (The Market Works)

#45. There has been a 45% decrease in the instances of E.coli illnesses in the meat industry since 2000, along with reductions in other food-borne illnesses as well. (CDC)

Meat Industry Trends and Analysis

Global meat production has rapidly increased over the past five decades, Since the 1960s, production levels have quadrupled for most animal proteins. Although Asia still accounts for about 45% of the total products that are available in the industry today, Europe and North America still contribute 19% and 15% respectively to the overall industry.

We have also seen poultry meat products increase rapidly over this same period, with a 12-fold increase where the U.S. is also the world’s largest producer during most years. In 2014, the United States produced 20 million pounds of poultry meat, compared to China’s 18 million pounds and Brazil’s 13 million pounds.

Export values for some meat products reached record levels in 2017, which is why the meat industry always becomes defensive when reports about the potential dangers of eating too much make it into the mainstream media. The recommended amount is 5.7 ounces per person total, but men (4.8 ounces) and women (3.13 ounces) are actually eating less than what is necessary according to information from NHANES.

There may be changes to consumption patterns, but meat becomes a luxury item when income levels rise. Since the developing world is slowly starting to revolutionize their industries, animal proteins will continue to remain at high demand levels. The FAO expected global meat production to be at least 16% higher in 2025 than it was in 2015.

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