Getting to the Meat of the Matter: US Meat Consumption Trends

Food & Drink

Throughout the history of the human diet, humans—and pre-humans—have relied on meat. But just how butcher-reliant is the U.S. population? We chopped and sliced through the facts and figures to see just how much traditional and exotic meats are on our plates.

Recently, meat eating has gotten a bit of a bum rap, but the fact remains that humans are omnivores and our bodies know how to make excellent use of the fats, proteins and nutrients in meat. In fact, eating meat is the easiest way to get the essentials we need into our systems. Certainly a plant-based diet can be healthful and satisfying (whispered shout out to the vegetarians in the house), but a diet that contains meat can be pretty good, too, especially if that hankering for meat, glorious, meat can’t be stopped. And studies have shown that meat consumption is still a big thing in the US. The most popular meats in America may have changed over the years and now include those of the more exotic variety, but the fact remains that meat still matters. How much? Lots. And we have charts to prove it.

Meat math!
According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the average American consumed in pounds:

Year Red Meat (beef/veal)          Poultry (chicken and turkey)          Pork       
2015 54.45 104.94 50
2012 57.98 97.88 45.85
1996 68.12 87.3 48.72

In 2015, the US was surpassed by only one country for global meat consumption. Good on you, Australia. The top five countries for meat consumption around the world were:

1. Australia, 198.87 lbs per capita

2. US, 198.51 lbs per capita

3. Argentina, 190.89 lbs per capita

4. Israel, 189.69 lbs per capita

5. Brazil, 172.06 lbs per capita

In 2015, meat companies produced 23.69 million pounds of beef, 24.5 million pounds of pork, 5.6 million pounds of turkey and 40.5 million pounds of chicken.

The USDA reports a slightly lower total of 193 lbs for US meat consumption per capita in 2015, up from 165.9 lbs per capita in 2012. (Global average in 2015 was 75 lbs per capita.)

This rate is expected to only increase in the years to come: Feed price has gone down, so many meat companies are expanding their business.

Americans are eating less meat per year than about 10 years ago when consumption peaked, but that’s still plenty. Chicken has taken the lead in the race to the plate, replacing the former favorite, beef, whose consumption has dropped. The pecking order has changed, it would seem.

Overall, global demand for meat is on the rise. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), meat production is likely to double by 2050, most of which will occur in developing countries.

The proof is in the pudding. Or the poultry.

So what do all the numbers mean? For starters, they mean that there are a lot of chickens, cows and pigs in the world (approximately 19 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows and 1 billion pigs). That’s a lot of meat. And all of that animal agriculture has a major impact on the environment.

As overall meat consumption rises, the type of meat eaten will affect that impact. Eating a wider range of meat is better for the environment. Looking outside of cows, poultry and sheep will not only help with environmental concerns, it will open the palate to new meaty adventures. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

He got game
Beef, turkey, chicken and pork may be all-stars, but there’s a new meat game in town—the exotic game. Though not well tracked, exotic/game meat consumption is on the rise. In 2012, sales of less traditional meats like buffalo, duck, venison and various offals resulted in more than $350 million in combined sales—cha-ching. And sales are expected to continue rising. Whether for environmental or health reasons, or just curiosity, people are eating exotic meats up. For real. Exotic meats may be poised to give traditional meats a run for their money. And many of them are also pretty healthy, being low in fat and high in protein.

Type of meat     Venison     Wild boar    Elk Buffalo    Alligator     Pheasant    Duck    Ostrich    Beef         Pork      Chicken     
Calories 162 136 137 143 190 207 102 132 201 201 190
Protein 31g 24 g 22.8g 28.44g 28 g 27 g 16 g 24g 29 g 27.5 g 28.9 g
Fat 3g 4 g 9 g 2.4 g 4g 9 g 4g 3g 8 g 9 g 7.41 g
Cholesterol 96 mg 65 mg 67 mg 82 mg 75 mg 75 mg 64 mg 79mg 86 mg 84 mg 89 mg

Based on cooked 3 oz serving as analyzed by USDA National Nutrient Database.

Many restaurants and markets in the US now offer more non-traditional meats as well as the usual suspects. Man Crates is right there with them. Except that ours is in the form of delicious jerky. Both the Exotic Meats Jerkygram and the Exotic Meats Crate are loaded with a delicious sampling of wild treats and will take adventurous eaters on an exciting culinary snacking experience.

There’s no “I” in “TEAM,” but there sure is “M-E-A-T”
Meat is not only an important part of agrarian history, but it’s also an important part of US culture. US meat consumption may have changed since primitive man dined on mammoth, but carnivores still abound, many of whom will be grateful when you give them one of the best jerky gifts for men ever dehydrated.