American Meat Consumption at Highest Point in 40 Years

Meat is a staple on the American dinner table. In fact, the per capita consumption of meat in the United States last year was 5% higher compared to previous years. According to the research firm Rabobank, the average American now consumes around 193 pounds of meat last year which is higher than the 184 pounds recorded in 2012. Rabobank believes this is the peak in American meat consumption over the past 40 years.

Reasons Behind the Growth

In the same study, consumers consumed more chicken than other types of meat, and that trend is sure to continue. The main reason for higher consumption is the stronger U.S. dollar. With a stronger dollar, more people have the capacity to afford meats. Moreover, strong demand empowers the industry to increase their production.

Rabobank also projected that the meat consumption in 2018 would be more than 200 pounds annually per capita. The expanding meat and poultry industry will lead to lower prices which will influence the high consumption of meat in the future.

A Closer Look at Meat Consumption

Currently, the meat of choice for most Americans is chicken. Consumption of dressed chicken is at its highest with 89 pounds annually. This is followed by 54 pounds of beef and 50 pounds of pork consumption per capita annually. Chicken meat is very appealing to American consumers because it is cheaper than pork and beef. This is the reason why many fast food restaurants like Chipotle and KFC are serving chicken dishes to their customers. Moreover, people who are looking for lower calorie meals with high protein turn to chicken.

Beef consumption in the United States has declined because of its expensive price tag. While agricultural technology allowed livestock farmers to increase their meat production, cattle raising remained expensive because cows need to eat grain as well as require more grazing land than pork and chicken. These factors influence the high price of beef. Also, many people believe that the consumption of beef is less healthy because of the many research studies on red meat.

Pork consumption, on the other hand, has remained flat for many years. Aside from being dubbed as an unhealthy type of meat, the reason for the low consumption is probably due to cultural and religious practices of a large population of Islam and Jewish people in the United States.

Meats are now becoming a favorite snack option. In fact, most American consumers are now munching on jerky and meat sticks.

The massive consumption of meats in the United States indicates that the country has come a long way over the last 40 years. Although this shows an improved meat economy in the following years, large consumption of meats may also equate to increased health risks.

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The Problem with American Diets: Ultra-Processed Foods

With all the food fads rallying for healthier food, the emphasis on “natural” foods and ingredients is now more important than ever. However, the changing food trends have done little to affect the diet of the average American. 58% of the calorie intake of Americans comes from ultra-processed foods according to a study was featured in BJM Open, a medical journal.

The Average American Diet

While the government has done its best to introduce guidelines, consumers continue to choose processed snacks, frozen foods, artificially sweetened desserts, and drinks. The Centre for Disease Control conducted a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey to record the food eating patterns of Americans. The research involved tracking the food items the candidates had eaten in the last 24 hours. It was found that out of all the calories consumed by the survey-takers, three from every five calories consumed came from ultra-processed food. Almost 30% of calories came from unprocessed and partially processed foods, ingredients like oil and salt made up 2.9% of the whole, and 10% came from canned and packaged food like cheese, meat, and vegetables. The statistics suggest that the consumption of ultra-processed foods is far greater and forms a significant chunk of the average American diet.

The Link Between Sugar & Ultra-Processed Foods

A recent dietary guideline introduced by the government suggested limiting the intake of added sugar in the American diet. Ultra-processed foods contain artificial flavors, colors, aromas, and sweeteners. 14% of the overall calories in ultra-processed foods come from sugar and added sweeteners. An increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods leads to an increase in the use of sugar too. Therefore, ultra-processed foods are primarily responsible for Americans crossing the suggested 10% limit on added sugar in the diet.


The Problem With Consumer Choices

While “healthy” and “natural” foods are in popular demand, consumers’ food choices in the market don’t reflect that need. Manufacturers continue to introduce healthy alternatives of food products to appeal to the health conscious, but consumers continue to pick salty snacks and products loaded with sweeteners. Many food brands have created new profiles and products to appeal to the new health-conscious consumer. However, if the food choices continue to lean towards ultra-processed foods, have any of the new products, and new guidelines helped Americans eat more healthy and nutritious food?

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