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The United States Meat Industry at a Glance

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Feeding 312 Million Americans

The meat and poultry industry is the largest segment of U.S. agriculture. Total meat and poultry production in 2012 reached more than 92.9 billion pounds, up 600 million pounds from 2011.

In 2012, the meat and poultry industry processed:
8.6 billion chickens
32.1 million cattle
250 million turkeys
2.2 million sheep and lambs
113.2 million hogs
In 2012, American meat companies produced:
26.0 billion pounds of beef
23.3 billion pounds of pork
6.0 billion pounds of turkey
286.3 million pounds of veal, lamb and mutton
37.6 billion pounds of chicken
Top Livestock and Poultry Slaughtering States
Cattle - Nebraska, Texas, Kansas
Hog - Iowa, North Carolina, Illinois
Chicken - Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama
Turkey - Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas

There are 6,278 federally inspected meat and poultry slaughtering and processing plants in the U.S.

Feeding Us Essential Nutrients

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommend eating 5.7 ounces of meat per day as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

  • There are at least:
  • 29 cuts of beef
  • 6 cuts of pork
  • And numerous poultry cuts that are leaner and have less calories than a 3 oz. serving of salmon

A 3-oz. serving of lean meat provides about 160-200 calories plus significant amounts of many key nutrients such as protein. These proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids needed for growth and good overall health, making meat a "complete" protein.

Meat is also a great source for iron, magnesium, zinc, niacin, selenium, riboflavin and B-vitamins that help your body turn food into energy.

New studies show meat can aid in weight loss by providing a sense of satisfaction that helps to control appetite and metabolize food more efficiently.

Feeding our Economy

In 2010, more than 487,600 workers were employed in the meat and poultry packing and processing industries. Their combined salaries total more than $19 billion.

Through its production and distribution linkages, the meat and poultry industry impacts firms in all 509 sectors of the U.S. economy, in every state and every congressional district in the country.

In all, companies involved in meat production, along with their suppliers, distributors, retailers and ancillary industries employ 6.2 million people in the U.S. with jobs that total $200 billion in wages.

Through direct taxes paid, these companies and their employees provide $81.2 billion in revenues to federal, state and local governments. The consumption of meat and poultry generates $2.4 billion in state sales taxes.

The meat and poultry industry's economic ripple effect generates $864.2 billion annually to the U.S. economy, or roughly 6% of the entire GDP.

In 2009, meat and poultry industry sales totaled $154.8 billion.

Feeding the World

The U.S. exported 1.5 billion metric tons (MT*) of beef and beef variety meat in 2012, up 21% from 2011. Export value of beef and beef variety meat exports reached a record $631 billion in 2012, up 31% from 2011.

On a volume and value basis, the top three markets for U.S. beef in 2011 were Canada, Japan, and Mexico. Records were also set in South Korea, Hong Kong, and the Russian Federation.

The U.S. exported 1.75 billion MT of pork and pork variety meat in 2011, up 6% from 2010. Annual total pork shipments were valued at $5.32 billion, up 30% from 2010

The top markets for U.S. pork in terms of volume were Japan, Mexico and China/Hong Kong, but in terms of value were Japan, Mexico and Canada.

The U.S. exported 3.4 billion MT of poultry and poultry variety meats in 2011, down 8% from 2010. The value was estimated at $4.6 billion.

Exports in 2012 accounted for 23.1 percent of U.S. pork production, 17.3 percent of poultry production and 9.5 percent of beef production.

*1 MT=2204.6 lbs

Fast Facts

Average Meat Consumption in the U.S.

American men on average eat 6.9 oz. of meat per day and women eat 4.4 oz.

Americans spend less than any other developed nation in the world on food broadly and on meat and poultry specifically.

See chart for percent of disposable income spent on food at home.

Percent of Disposable Income Spent on Food at Home

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