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The United States Meat Industry at a Glance

Feeding 326 Million Americans

The meat and poultry industry is the largest segment of U.S. agriculture. U.S. meat production totaled 52 billion pounds in 2017 and U.S. poultry production totaled 48 billion pounds in 2017.

In 2017, the meat and poultry industry processed:
9 billion chickens
32.2 million cattle and calves
241.7 million turkeys
2.2 million sheep and lambs
121 million hogs

In 2017, American meat companies produced:
26.3 billion pounds of beef
25.6 billion pounds of pork
5.9 billion pounds of turkey
80.2 million pounds of veal
150.2 million pounds lamb and mutton
42.2 billion pounds of chicken

Top Livestock and Poultry Slaughtering States
Cattle - Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, California, Wisconsin, Washington, Pennsylvania
Hog - Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania
Chicken - Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama
Turkey - Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas

In Fiscal Year 2018, there were 835 federally inspected, livestock slaughter plants in the U.S. An additional 3,773 plants process red meat, but do not slaughter. There were 2,979 federally inspected poultry slaughter and processing plants in the U.S.

Feeding Us Essential Nutrients

The 2015 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 2017, employees working in meat packing and processing plants on average earned $14.98 per hour plus benefits, while employees in poultry processing plants earned $13.58 per hour, plus benefits.

According to a 2016 analysis by John Dunham & Associates, the U.S. meat and poultry industry accounts for $1.02 trillion in total economic output or 5.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)

The meat and poultry industry broadly is responsible for 5.4 million jobs and $257 billion in wages, the report found. An estimated 527,019 people have jobs in production and packing, importing operations, sales, packaging and direct distribution of meat and poultry products.

Feeding the World

CHECK: The U.S. 1.26 million metric tons (MT*) of beef and beef variety meat in 2017. Export value of beef and beef variety meat exports reached a record $7.27 billion in 2017.

On a volume and value basis, the top four markets for U.S. beef in 2017 were Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Hong Kong.

The U.S. exported 2.45 million MT of pork and pork variety meat in 2017, breaking the 2016 record by 6 percent. Annual total pork shipments were valued at $6.49 billion, up 9% from 2016.

The top markets for U.S. pork in terms of volume and value in 2017 were Mexico, Japan and South Korea.

The U.S. exported 3.7 million MT of poultry and poultry variety meats in 2017. The value was estimated at $4.5 billion.

Exports in 2017 accounted for 26.6 percent of U.S. pork production and 12.9 percent of beef production.

*1 MT=2204.6 lbs

Fast Facts

Average Meat Consumption in the U.S.

American men on average eat 4.8 ounces of meat per day and women eat 3.13 ounces of meat per day. (Source: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016).

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

Percent of Disposable Income Spent on Food at Home