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Meaty issue: US protein consumption is bouncing back

A rare four-year growth streak is helping meat eating recover from a big drop during the recession, with poultry most in demand.

The US economy is back, and consumer confidence along with it. That much is evident from our analysis of the latest available data from the US Department of Agriculture, showing that American shoppers are once again putting meat on the grill.

In recent years, the recession had led many of them to cut down on proteins, with total consumption falling from 222 pounds per capita in 2007 to 202 by 2013. Since then, however, a four-year growth streak has brought consumption back to pre-crisis levels: in 2018, US citizens are set to eat nearly 223 pounds of meat per person.

Yet fortunes vary widely across sectors. Poultry consumption has boomed since the 1970s, more than doubling between 1975 and 2003 to hit more than 100 pounds per capita. After dipping during the recession, it has bounced back particularly quickly since, and is expected to reach 112 pounds per capita this year. Beef consumption, by contrast, had been on a decline since the 1970s, falling from 80 pounds to 54 in 2014. The recovery has given it a jolt, but it remains below its pre-crisis levels of 65 pounds per capita. Pork has remained largely stable throughout the period.

Figures also indicate that the industry is responding to the demand, with output increasing significantly since 2015. That has been especially pronounced for beef, the production of which is set to grow 17 percent in the three years to 2018.