Meat consumption in the U.S. has been on the decline for nearly a decade. Several factors account for this change, but two in particular stand out. The first is consumer health concerns, based on a public perception that a high level of red meat consumption is unhealthy. The other main factor is the economy, specifically the recession that began in 2008 and which is still having a negative impact on the economy in 2013. As a result, consumers have been eliminating meat from one or more meals per week and/or reducing the size of portions served.
The health concerns also drove a switch by many consumers from red meat to poultry as a healthier source of animal protein or to switch to plant-based meat substitutes as their protein source. The economic considerations have led consumers to switch to poultry as a less expensive per pound protein source and also seen them switch to less expensive cuts or to retailers' store brands that offer a better price/value proposition than do branded products as well as to seeking out discounts and sales whenever possible.
But even as consumption per capita has decreased, overall dollar sales have increased thanks to more value-added products entering the marketing mix. These are often convenience products targeted to an overworked population as well as to younger consumers who lack cooking skills. Also helping to keep the dollar sales up are in increase in high-end fresh meat cuts that appeal to that part of the population that has survived the recession or recovered economically more quickly than the population as a whole and want to enjoy upscale products.
As a result, Packaged Facts estimates that retail sales of meat and poultry products topped $85 billion in 2012, up from nearly $73 billion in 2008. Looking ahead, sales are projected to grow to $98.3 billion by 2017. Supporting that growth will be an economic recovery that, while it has been very slow, is underway and likely to pick up steam with each passing year.