- Chicken may have overtaken beef in the past few decades as consumers took stock of health and economic concerns, but the beef industry is bouncing back.
- USDA data predicts that Americans will eat 54.3 pounds of red meat this year, a nearly half-pound increase over 2015. That's the first increase in red meat consumption in the U.S. since 2006.
- Expanded beef production is also contributing to the rise in demand. Cattle herds are at a five-year high after being the lowest in decades in early 2014 following years of drought. Bigger herds are driving beef prices back down — a 7% decrease year over year as of last month.
Major beef producers like Cargill have recognized this increase in demand. Cargill recently announced an expansion of its ground beef business through an acquisition of the FPL Food, LLC ground beef processing plant in Columbia, SC. Earlier this year, the company opened a distribution center at its Dodge City, KS, beef processing facility and last year sold off its pork business to JBS to focus on the beef and poultry segments.
Last year, beef producers were left feeling uneasy as they anticipated the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, which were released in January. Early reports from the guidelines committee suggested that the recommendations may include a reduction in meat consumption (which they didn't).
Then in October, the WHO released a report claiming that processed meats cause cancer and red meat, probably so. However, with USDA data showing beef consumption on the rise, these reports haven't seemed to have had a significant impact on consumers' perceptions of meat.