How has meat consumption changed?

In the United States, meat consumption continues to increase. In 2000, total meat consumption (red meat, poultry, and fish) reached 195 pounds (boneless, trimmed-weight equivalent) per person, 57 pounds above average annual consumption in the 1950s. Each American consumed an average of 7 pounds more red meat than in the 1950s, 46 pounds more poultry, and 4 pounds more fish and shellfish. Rising consumer incomes, especially with the increase in two-income households, and meat prices in the 1990s that were often at 50-year lows, when adjusted for inflation, explain much of the increase in meat consumption. In addition, the meat industry has provided scores of new brand-name, value-added products processed for consumers’ convenience, as well as a host of products for food service operators.

Nutritional concern about fat and cholesterol has encouraged the production of leaner animals (beginning in the late 1950s), the closer trimming of outside fat on retail cuts of meat (beginning in 1986), the marketing of a host of lower fat ground and processed meat products, and consumer substitution of poultry for red meats since the late 1970s–significantly lowering the meat, poultry, and fish group’s contribution to total fat and saturated fat in the food supply. Despite near record-high per capita consumption of total meat in 2000, the proportion of fat in the U.S. food supply from meat, poultry, and fish declined from 33 percent in the 1950s to 24 percent in 2000. Similarly, the proportion of saturated fat contributed by meat, poultry, and fish fell from 33 percent in the 1950s to 26 percent in 2000.