Where's the beef? It is becoming less and less of a dominant presence in the meals of Americans.

The USDA recently estimated that per-capita beef consumption in this country in 2011 was 57.4 lbs. That's a 13% drop from a decade ago and a 25% decrease from 1980. In 2010, the consumption level was 59.7 lbs., which the Daily Livestock Report says had been the lowest since 1958.

In fact, USDA's Food Availability statistics reports that per-capita beef consumption in 1975 was 88.2 lbs., almost 60% higher than the current numbers.

"U.S. consumers are still very cautious buyers in the marketplace,'' says Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver. "Incomes are still very stagnant, so we're seeing very cautious buying patterns and that has spilled over to the beef market, especially on purchases in restaurants and beef consumed away from home."

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