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Supply and demand both want meat on the menu

Published on 24 August 2018

If you’re tired of defending the ranching profession to the non-meat-eating masses, fear not. There’s a vast throng of meat eaters building in your corner.

The number of people eating livestock protein is expanding, not just globally but domestically as well. And the U.S. production of meat, especially quality beef, will need to keep up.

Speaking at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course earlier in August, CattleFax CEO Randy Blach said the numbers are unparalleled in the history of the industry.

From 2008 to 2014, the volume of beef, poultry and pork produced annually in the U.S. was stuck between 89 and 92 billion pounds. Two reasons for that were the ethanol mandate boosting grain prices and the drought years that led to liquidation.

Red meat and poultry production volume has now grown four straight years, from 91 billion pounds in 2014 to 101 billion in 2018, and CattleFax predicts the number to hit 106 billion by 2020.

Who’s eating this much red meat and poultry? Let’s start with Americans. U.S. per capita consumption in 2014 was 199 pounds of red meat and poultry per year, its lowest number since the early ’90s. Today, it’s 218 pounds of red meat and poultry a year, and it’s growing at almost the same rate as production.

“Never in the history of our industry have we produced more beef, pork or poultry than what we did this year,” said Blach. “And never in the history of our industry will we have ever consumed more red meat and poultry per person than we will next year. And we’re not very far from it this year.”

What more can you expect from these trends? One is already happening with the rise of plant-based and synthetic proteins. Why have these alternatives grown into an option? Because protein is healthy; meat is a highly desired product. Those pushing these alternatives are seeking a way to replicate that connection to food. To do that, they want to poach the name of your product – meat – and attach it to their counterfeit.

The next movement is a better trend, and that’s global consumption. Our biggest partners for beef are Mexico, Canada, Japan and Korea. We can be grateful for those markets. Their customers love your beef, and they provide more price stability for it.

But more countries need to have the same market access. Indonesia and Nigeria are the fourth- and seventh-largest populations in the world, respectively. They only eat 25 and 19 pounds of meat per capita per year.

Perhaps those nations aren’t the actual target, but emerging nations like them will be. And as their means rise, their tastes for quality protein will rise as well.

The tide has arrived to lift all boats. With a strategy that builds supply and markets, we could make it last a long time. end mark

David Cooper
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