7 Most Popular Meats in America

7 Most Popular Meats in America

Despite the increasing number of vegetarians and vegans in recent years, meat remains a significant part of the typical American diet. In fact, livestock food products have continued to see a stable rise in demand.

This article will explore meat consumption in the United States, listing off the most popular products in America.

Meat consumption in the United States

The domestication of animals for food dates way back to 9,000 B.C., but it wasn’t until 60 years ago that large-scale meat production emerged. Output tripled in the 1960s due to a significant increase in animal husbandry and meat and dairy manufacturing.

Laws created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as those concerned with food traceability, were instrumental in enabling the faster and safer production of good-quality meat. 

With better tracking of products throughout the supply chain, foodborne illnesses could be better prevented, helping to bring healthier products to market.

With meat being nutrient-dense and high in protein, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular commodity even among health nuts.

Americans in particular have been shown in popular culture to be big consumers of meat, in the marketing of burgers to grill on the fourth of July to the classic necessity of Thanksgiving turkey. 

Statistics show the United States being the number one country in meat consumption. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) dietary guidelines, Americans consume 40% more meat than they should, and 20% more than what was consumed in 1970. 

The average American eats 224.6 pounds of meat yearly. Meat consumption in the United States shows no signs of slowing down, and the market is expected to continue to thrive.

7 most popular meats in America

Let’s talk about the most popular meats in America.

1. Chicken

Poultry has been the most consumed meat in the United States since the 1990s, with about 98.9 pounds eaten per capita. This figure is expected to grow to 107.5 pounds per capita by the year 2033.

According to market research by the USDA, although more than 50% of people in the United States have tried plant-based meat alternatives, the supply and demand for meat has continued to increase mainly due to the average American consumer liking chicken so much.

With such a demand for chicken in the United States, the poultry industry reached an overall value of $1.5 billion as of 2019, with the average chicken costing $3.32. On average, American families eat chicken a few times a week, with ready-to-eat meat (such as rotisserie chicken) being consumed about once a week. 

2. Beef

Red meat comes second in popularity, consumed mostly as steak or in the form of the all-American hamburger.

The USDA states that Americans eat about 67 pounds of beef per year, which equals a total yearly production of 27.8 billion pounds at a value of $59.6 billion.

The United States is the world’s top producer of beef and veal. To keep up with supply and demand, the U.S. produces 30 million cows annually, which is more than three times the number of dairy cows.

3. Pork

The USDA reports the United States being the third-largest producer of pork products, selling about 55.4 million metric tons, behind China as the top producer and the E.U. as the second-largest producer.

More recently, the United States became the second-largest producer of pork muscle meats. Most pork products, like bacon and sausage, are produced in the Midwest and eastern North Carolina. More specifically, Iowa produces around 23,500 pigs, Minnesota around 9,000, and North Carolina around 8,000. 

In 2022, the average American ate about 51.1 pounds of pork. 

4. Fish and shellfish

Fish and shellfish are great sources of lean protein and continue to be a popular option for meat domestically and internationally. In 2023, the total export value of seafood was $5.17 billion.

In 2022, Americans consumed just over 20 pounds of fish every year, a 1.5-pound increase from 2021. The increase is likely due to the increased availability of fresh and frozen fish. 

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood, followed by salmon, and then canned tuna.

5. Turkey

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the total consumption of turkey in the United States in 2022 was 4.88 billion pounds, which then increased to 5.14 billion pounds in 2023. The average American eats about 14.6 pounds a year.

With Thanksgiving being the most popular American holiday, there continues to be a demand for turkey, especially the week before Thanksgiving. In 2023, the average American family paid about $27 for a 16-pound turkey, compared to 2018, when they paid $13.46. 

6. Lamb

While a popular choice for many cultures worldwide, lamb is not as favored on the American dinner table. 

Today, the average American consumes under 1.3 pounds of lamb every year, down from 5 pounds in the 1960s. This decrease might be explained by a decline in the reliance on wool, which started in the 1970s. 

Lamb is still a popular option in the Middle East, the Caribbean, and many African countries. 

7. Veal

Veal comes from dairy beef animals when they’ve reached 500 pounds. 

The United States produces the most veal globally, with over 12.2 million tons of beef, including veal, as of 2023.

The average American eats 0.2 pounds of veal each year. 

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