U.S. consumers will eat more pork this year. Actually, pork’s gain is expected to outpace that of its competitors, according to a USDA Economic Research Service outlook report.

Per capita pork consumption in 1998 will rise an estimated 7 percent, according to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report. Pork consumption is expected to grow from 47.9 pounds in 1997 to 51.4 pounds in 1998.

Sure, there will be more hogs, which means more pork. But that’s not the sole driving factor. More U.S. consumers are eating more pork. Pork has found its way into new markets – fast food, ethnic cooking trends, home-meal replacement and more. As a matter of fact, the early word is that retailers plan to keep pork prices high at the meat case despite abundant supplies.

Pork’s 7 percent consumption growth ranks higher than other competing proteins. For instance, the report pegs ever-popular chicken to move from 73.1 to 77.5 pounds for a 6 percent increase. It will still rank as the most consumed meat. Beef will drop from 67.2 pounds to 65.6 pounds, a 2 percent decline. Turkey consumption continues to grow from 18.1 to 18.8 pounds, up 4 percent.

The report also sees pork exports growing from an estimated 1.1 billion pounds in 1997 to 1.21 billion pounds in 1998.