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How much meat can Americans eat?

If Americans’ mouths are full, is it logical to expect them to keep shoveling it in as the livestock sector keeps producing more?

The USDA penciled that each American ate 222.2 pounds of meat and poultry per person in 2017. Heading into the new year, meat and poultry remain on the dinner table.

Yes, animal protein is back at the center of the plate. We can argue whether it ever left families’ tables or just adjusted to high meat prices. As the price of feed and production woes from 2007 to 2014 fueled meat prices higher, meat and poultry consumption dipped 9%.

Nevertheless, Americans are sinking their teeth into meat. It may be prepared differently. It may be cut differently. The cut of meat may even carry a fresh new name, but the good news is protein is great again.

As market analysts Jim Robb and Chris Hurt indicate, 220 pounds per capita is becoming the norm. Livestock producers, banking on affordable feed prices and excellent production, are producing more meat. Total meat and poultry production are anticipated to exceed 100 billion pounds for the first time in 2018. So, we are asking consumers to eat just as much meat and poultry in 2018 as they did last year or, according to the USDA’s estimate, nearly 10 ounces of meat and poultry daily.

Protein is topping the priority for consumers today. The consumption of dairy items and eggs are also supposed to climb. So, it is reasonable to see at current retail prices why consumers on the average are eating healthy, delicious animal proteins in bigger quantities. On the average, it is more bang for their calorie intake and food dollar.

While farmers and ranchers deliver the protein consumers are craving, it is reasonable to ask how much is too much. If Americans’ mouths are full, is it logical to expect them to keep shoveling it in as the livestock sector keeps producing more?

All markets find equilibrium. So, on Jan. 2 what is your prediction? What is the magic amount of meat and poultry consumers can eat in a day or in a year?Is exceeding 100 billion pounds of meat and poultry total production too much? Will we see the meat bubble burst in 2018 or 2019 or 2020, or can meat consumption keep up with production?   

 As the experts say “time will tell.”

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