During the first three quarters of this year, U.S. beef, pork and poultry production were all well above a year ago. However despite the larger supply of red meat and poultry available earlier this year, per capita consumption on a retail weight basis was not much higher than last year. In fact, both beef and pork per capita consumption at retail was lower than a year ago over the eight-month period mostly due to larger exports, below year ago imports, as well as an increase in frozen stocks and the U.S. population.

In 2007, estimated U.S. per capita total red meat and poultry consumption (retail weight basis) was 221.3 pounds per person, a record amount. However, contraction in the hog and poultry industries during the fourth quarter combined with lower slaughter cattle numbers suggests total per capita consumption will be down in 2008. Current forecasts for 2008 suggest per capita consumption (retail weight basis) will be about 217.9 pounds per person, the lowest amount since 2001. The year-to-year decline is mostly due to significant adjustments in the fourth quarter by the livestock and poultry industries in response to lower profitability.

Looking ahead, further declines are expected in 2009 and 2010 due to reductions in breeding herd animals in the U.S. as well as Canada. Current LMIC forecasts suggest only modest gains in exports relative to 2008 given the uncertainty of the global financial situation. So, the preliminary forecast for total U.S. red meat and poultry per capita consumption in 2009 is 211.6 pounds, a decline of about 6 pounds from 2008 and about 9.5 to 10 pounds less than the record in 2007. If exports and imports are at current forecasts in 2009 and pullbacks in pork and poultry continue, then total per capita consumption next year and into 2010 will decline to levels not seen in about a dozen years.