According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, meat consumption's predicted to go down 12.2 percent between 2007 and 2012, so we have something to ask our "red-blooded" compatriots: How has our once meat-loving nation become so un-American? The Daily Livestock Report recently pulled together five decades of USDA meat data to show that meat consumption is down for all types of delicious dead animal parts. "That should come as no surprise to industry observers but the cumulative reductions of the past few years are rather shocking in historical context." It is shocking to us meat-lovers at this end of the sausage-making machine. Though beef consumption per capita has been on a big overall decline since the mid-'70s (despite the National Livestock and Meat Board declaring that beef is for dinner in 1992), consumption in every meat category -- beef, broliers (chicken), pork, and turkey -- has decreased since 2007, marked off by the black vertical line.
So what gives? According to the Daily Livestock Report, which is prepared for commodity traders, a host of economic factors -- such as increased meat exports, higher feed costs due to ethanol production, and high oil prices -- have made meat too pricy for Americans to gorge themselves on like they used to. There's also been a "war on meat protein consumption for many years," we're told. But as much as we like meat, we don't think the federal government's nefariously trying to take the meat off of our dinner plates. Mark Bittman at The New York Times agrees. He counters that if anything, the government props up the meat industry by issuing subsidies for livestock feed, buying up unsold meat, and turning a blind eye to the ethics and environmental costs killing all those tasty animals.
No. It’s not the non-existent federal War on Meat that’s making a difference. And even if availability is down, it’s not as if we’re going to the supermarket and finding empty meat cases and deli counters filled with coleslaw. The flaw in the report is that it treats American consumers as passive actors who are victims of diminishing supplies, rising costs and government bias against the meat industry. Nowhere does it mention that we’re eating less meat because we want to eat less meat.
But despite our "un-American" warnings, don't worry too much of about the State of Meat in America. Bittman also notes that America still eat about one-sixth of the world's meat with about one-twelfth of its population. That's still No. 1! All this talk of meat's made us hungry, so we're gonna grab a burger now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.