How Much Beef Do Americans Eat?

History of Meat Consumption in the U.S.

Prior to colonization, Indigenous Americans mostly trapped and hunted wild bison, deer, rabbits, and fish for their modest meat consumption. The consumption of meat was higher in the far north and on the Great Plains, proving that Indigenous Americans were not a homogenous group and still are. The primary source of food for many tribes was the cultivation of plants and grains.

This all changed with the arrival of Europeans. As colonists began taking land from native peoples, they used this land to create a more European diet heavy in meat. American farmers and soldiers began clearing land to make way for large beef ranches, killing Indigenous people and bison, and razing their lands.

With the gradual increase in the number of European immigrants to the young United States came a preference for meat whenever they could afford it. American farming developed over time to meet that demand.

In the 21st century, U. S. meat consumption is at an all-time high. American meatpacking and slaughterhouses frequently hire people from underrepresented groups and have a poor track record when it comes to workers’ rights. Numerous meat companies have been implicated in recent months for using prison labor as well as child labor.

Meat consumption is also damaging the planet. Pig farms in North Carolina are harming the state’s majority-Black neighborhoods by contaminating nearby rivers and reservoirs. In the western U. S. grazing and growing feed for animal agriculture on vast tracts of land. High levels of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the meat industry, the environment, methane from farm manure and cattle burps, and the land.

Because factory farmed animals live in confined spaces for a short period of time, industrial animal agriculture is also to blame for animal suffering. They are separated from their families, and some are made to go through painful procedures like branding, dehorning, and sexual pricking.

How Much Beef Does the Average American Eat?

The average U.S. consumer eats 25.9 kilograms (57.1 pounds) of beef per year.

Meat Consumption in the U.S. by Year

For the last 60 years, U.S. meat consumption has risen steadily. In 1961, the average was 93.7 kilograms (206.5 pounds) of meat per year. By 2020, that number had risen to 126.73 kilograms (279.4 pounds) per year. The most notable period bucking this trend of growth is from 2008 to 2013, a decrease that likely resulted from the 2008 recession.

However, poultry has been the main source of increased meat consumption in recent years. Red meat consumption, which peaked in the middle of the 1970s, is currently a little lower than it was in 1961.

the U.S. per capita consumption of beef and red meat is depicted in the graph below. S. from 2009 to 2019, using data from the USDA.

Globally, meat consumption has nearly doubled over the same time period. In 1961, the average person on Earth only consumed 22.93 kilograms (50.6 pounds) of meat, while in 2020, that number had risen to 42.26 kilograms (93.2 pounds).

Which U.S. State Consumes the Most Beef?

The USDA does not track beef consumption on a state-by-state basis. But according to survey data about consumer trends, the pattern changes a lot depending on the kind of beef product tracked. California, Nevada, Washington, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Illinois, Florida and New York are all hotspots for steak consumption. But when it comes to ground beef and hamburgers, consumption is higher in the upper Midwest and lower on the coasts, with Alabama, Vermont, Indiana and Kentucky all ranking high.

Which Country Consumes the Most Beef?

According to the OECD, the 10 countries that consume the most beef annually are:

  • U.S. – 12.9 million metric tons
  • China – 8.4 million metric tons
  • Brazil – 7.8 million metric tons
  • Argentina – 2.5 metric tons
  • Pakistan – 2.3 million metric tons
  • Russia – 2.1 million metric tons
  • Mexico – 1.8 million metric tons
  • Vietnam – 1.4 million metric tons
  • Turkey – 1.4 million metric tons
  • Egypt – 1.4 million metric tons

Where Does the U.S. Rank in Beef Consumption?

Overall, the U. S. is the largest consumer of beef in the world. On a per capita basis, however, the U. S. is second only to Argentina, where annual beef consumption averages 36 kilograms (79 pounds), compared to 26 kilograms (57 pounds) in the U S.

Is Beef the Most Consumed Meat in the United States?

No, beef is not the most consumed meat in the United States. In the early 1990s, sales of chicken by weight overtook beef. In 2020, the average U.S. consumer bought 57.8 pounds of chicken, 37.3 pounds of beef and 30.2 pounds of pork.

Why Do Americans Eat So Much Beef?

The United States consumes a lot of beef for a variety of reasons.

In order to raise cheaper and more readily available meat for the average American, the meat industry underwent a massive period of industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developing feedlots, feed crop farms, and meat-packing plants.

Meat-eating is also closely associated with income — richer people and countries tend to eat more meat. The United States has a high GDP per capita, meaning that the average American is richer than the average person globally. This extra money is often spent on expensive foods like meat, especially beef.

Beef is also socially ingrained in American culture, associated with wealth, masculinity, power and independence. For many Americans, especially American men, eating expensive cuts of steak is a way to signal prestige and social class, or to celebrate a momentous occasion.

Is Beef Consumption Increasing or Decreasing?

Over the last few decades, there has been a trend towards reduced beef consumption and availability in the United States. Yet since the 2010s, beef consumption has increased a little, and changes to beef were far outstripped by massive growth in chicken consumption.

Beef Consumption After the Pandemic

Beef consumption appears currently to be slightly decreasing. In 2022, per capita red meat supply to U.S. retail was 0.2 pounds less than in 2021. This is likely due to the increased retail prices of meat and stoppages in production as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns starting in 2020. This is just one aspect of a global decrease in meat consumption since COVID-19, partly reflecting existing trends, like European pork consumption, and partly fuelled by new issues like Chinese concern about meat safety.

How Much Beef Is Wasted in the U.S.?

Every year, the beef industry throws away about 2.5 percent of beef, or 194.7 million kilograms, due to discoloration. This is equivalent to about 780,000 animal lives. But this statistic only encompasses industrial waste that is cataloged by the beef industry, not waste from supermarkets, households or restaurants. The Environmental Working Group estimates that worldwide, 20 percent of meat produced is wasted every year.

What Would Happen if Everyone Ate Less Beef?

Leading climate researchers and advocates, from the United Nations to Oxford University, from Greta Thunberg to Al Gore, are in consensus: we need to reduce our beef consumption.

Beef is undoubtedly one of the most destructive foods that humans consume. For every pound of hamburger meat you consume, 60 pounds of greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that animal agriculture is responsible for between 11 and 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to methane burps, cattle ranching uses a lot of land. Beef, despite only providing 2 percent of the world’s calories, takes up 60 percent of the world’s agricultural land. The beef industry is the largest contributor to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and a leading driver of land use change worldwide. If some or all of this land were to be rewilded, the world could potentially offset 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Reducing beef consumption would also help curb animal suffering. Cows are playful and social animals, yet 300 million of them are butchered each year.

What You Can Do

According to the overwhelming body of research, people in the northern hemisphere, including the U S. , in order for the world to limit global warming, needs to eat less beef. One way to do that is to switch to a diet high in plants, as described on our Take Action page.

Hemi Kim wrote this story in a previous iteration.

Why Americans Eat So Much Meat – Cheddar Explains

FAQ

How much beef does the average American family eat?

What Amount of Beef Does the Average American Eat? S. consumer eats 25. 9 kilograms (57. 1 pounds) of beef per year.

How much beef do Americans eat per week?

In actuality, we consume approximately five servings (17 ounces) of red and processed meat on a weekly basis.

Do Americans eat more beef or chicken on average?

In 2021, 68. In the United States, 1 pounds of boneless, edible chicken per person was available for human consumption, as opposed to 56 2 pounds of beef.

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