Fire up the grill and invite me over, friend. Today, we feast in celebration.
The latest USDA meat production projections are out, and they predict that, after years of domination by chicken, beef will become the fastest growing meat category over the course of the next decade. Beef isn’t just going to be more available, though. It’s also going to be cheaper than it’s been in years.
Beef and pork consumption have been on a steady decline in the United States for the last decade, while the amount of chicken America eats has been steadily rising over the same period. This isn’t due to people losing—and then finding—their taste for steak, however. It’s because beef has been getting progressively more expensive.
In 2015, with ranchers hit hard by both high feed prices and drought, America’s beef production hit an all-time low, right as global demand was spiking. This pushed beef prices to skyrocket by over 50 percent in the course of a decade, while chicken (which was already considerably cheaper than beef) held mostly steady. The end result was that, Americans ate considerably less beef over the last decade and quite a bit more chicken. Now, the USDA is not only forecasting that the decline will end but that beef will become the fastest growing meat category for the next ten years.
The USDA anticipates a price decline thanks to changing conditions on the ranch. High feed prices are dropping, and the drought, although it’s still ongoing, has eased up slightly. This means that ranchers’ cost of raising cows is falling. With cheaper herds, ranchers can raise more cows and send more beef out to the market. This will increase the amount of beef we eat, and it should lower the cost of beef by about 10 percent, the USDA predicts.
Chicken and pork fans shouldn’t be too worried, though. While beef had the sharpest projected gain, every single category of meat saw a predicted rise in supply throughout the next decade. By 2025, the average American will be eating 219 pounds of meat a year, compared with this decade’s 211 pounds—with no end to the upward trend in sight.