How Much Beef Do Americans Eat? A Closer Look at U.S. Beef Consumption

Beef has long been an iconic part of American cuisine and culture. From juicy burgers to slow-cooked brisket, beef dishes hold a special place in many American’s hearts and on their plates. But just how much beef does the average American actually consume each year? Let’s take a closer look at the data on U.S. beef consumption.

The Average American Eats 57 Pounds of Beef Per Year

According to recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American eats about 57 pounds of beef per person per year as of 2019. This works out to a little over 1 pound of beef consumed per week.

To put this in perspective, here are some other ways to visualize the average annual beef consumption:

  • Around 4 quarter-pound hamburger patties per week
  • 19 standard 8-ounce steak servings per year
  • 228 quarter-pound beef burger patties per year

Over the last several decades, U.S. beef consumption has fluctuated but remained relatively high. Beef consumption peaked at 92 pounds per person in 1976. It reached a low of 55 pounds in 2014 but has slightly rebounded in recent years.

Historical Trends in U.S. Beef Consumption

Looking further back historically, there have been some notable shifts in beef eating patterns in the United States:

  • 1900s: At the turn of the 20th century, annual beef consumption was about 50 pounds per person.
  • 1950s: Post World War 2 era sees beef consumption rise to about 80 pounds per person.
  • 1970s: Beef consumption peaks in 1976 at 92 pounds per person.
  • 2000s: Beef consumption declines, reaching a low of 55 pounds per person in 2014.

So while beef remains popular today, consumption has dropped significantly from its 1970s peak. This can be attributed to factors like growing health concerns over red meat, competition from other proteins like chicken and pork, and changes in consumer tastes and preferences.

How Does U.S. Beef Consumption Compare Globally?

The U.S. consumes more beef per capita than most other countries. Here’s how U.S. beef consumption stacks up globally:

  • U.S.: 57 pounds per person
  • Global average: 24 pounds per person
  • Australia: 54 pounds per person
  • Brazil: 37 pounds per person
  • Canada: 37 pounds per person
  • China: 13 pounds per person

So Americans eat a lot of beef compared to global averages. Beef consumption in the U.S. is comparable to beef-centric countries like Australia and significantly higher than consumption in China and India.

How Americans Prefer to Eat Their Beef

While steaks, roasts, and other beef cuts are popular, a significant amount of the beef Americans eat comes in the form of ground beef or processed beef products:

  • Burgers: Hamburgers and cheeseburgers account for nearly 50% of beef consumption.
  • Processed meats: Hot dogs, sausage, and deli meats make up about 20%.
  • Steaks and roasts: Higher cuts like steaks and roasts comprise close to 30%.

So for every steak eaten, Americans are eating almost two hamburgers or processed beef items. The convenience, versatility and affordability of ground beef likely contributes to its popularity in the U.S. diet.

Who Eats the Most Beef in America?

While beef consumption has declined overall, a minority of Americans still eat very high amounts of beef.

  • 12% of Americans consume around 50% of all beef eaten in the U.S.
  • The highest beef consumption is among middle-aged males between 40-60 years old.
  • Men eat significantly more beef than women – 70% more on average.

So America’s beef consumption is being driven by a small demographic of primarily middle-aged male beef lovers who eat amounts that far exceed dietary recommendations.

Some hypotheses for why this demographic eats so much beef:

  • Cultural perceptions of red meat as masculine
  • Lack of awareness of health risks of high red meat intake
  • Higher caloric needs among middle-aged men

While this core beef-eating demographic is small, their high consumption levels account for nearly half of all beef eaten in America.

Health Concerns Around High Beef Consumption

Eating more than 2-3 servings of red meat per week is associated with increased health risks:

  • Heart disease: Saturated fat and cholesterol in beef raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood, increasing heart disease risk.
  • Cancer: Compounds formed during high-temperature cooking of beef are carcinogenic.
  • Diabetes: Heme iron in beef may promote insulin resistance.
  • Premature death: Studies link high red meat consumption to shorter lifespan.

So while beef can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, high intakes are tied to chronic disease risk. Most Americans who eat beef would benefit from reducing their intake for better health.

Environmental Impact of Beef Production

In addition to health effects, the environmental impact of beef production is massive:

  • Land usage: Beef production uses 3x more land than poultry or pork. Nearly 80% of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used for grazing or growing feed crops for cattle.
  • Water usage: Approximately 1800 gallons of water is needed to produce just 1 pound of beef.
  • Greenhouse gases: Beef generates 3x more greenhouse gases per pound compared to poultry or pork. The beef industry is responsible for nearly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

So reducing beef consumption would confer both health and environmental benefits. Even small reductions in beef intake among heavy beef eaters could make a significant positive impact.

The Bottom Line

While beef enjoys an iconic status in American cuisine, current consumption levels come at a cost for both human health and the environment. Moderating beef intake to no more than 2-3 modest servings per week can help mitigate these risks.

Efforts to shift eating patterns away from burgers and toward more diverse, plant-centric options can move American diets in a healthier, more sustainable direction. But a minority of middle-aged male beef lovers continue to drive high U.S. beef consumption, pointing to a need for targeted strategies to reach this high impact demographic.

So while there’s no need to give up beef entirely, Americans would do well to consider eating less but higher quality beef. Small reductions among the highest beef consumers could lead to big benefits for public and environmental health.

Do Americans Eat Too Much Meat?


How much beef does average American eat?

Beef and Veal Based on data from 2020, the average person in the United States consumes 82 pounds of beef every year. This places U.S. consumption well above the global average of 19.8 pounds per year.

Do 12% of Americans eat half the nation’s beef?

New research indicates that not all beef eaters are created equal. A small percentage of the country’s population — just 12 percent — accounts for half of the country’s beef consumption on any given day, according to a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Nutrients.

What country eats the most beef?

The US is the biggest consumer of beef in the world, but, according to new research, it’s actually a small percentage of people who are doing most of the eating. A recent study shows that on any given day, just 12% of people in the US account for half of all beef consumed in the US.

How much beef does the average American eat USDA?

Over the past 100 years, Americans have been eating an average of 56 pounds of beef yearly. About 33 million cattle are inspected yearly by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Leave a Comment