(Bloomberg) — For all the buzz about pea protein and lab-grown burgers, Americans are set to eat more meat in 2018 than ever before.
To be precise, the average consumer will eat 222.2 pounds (100.8 kilos) of red meat and poultry this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, surpassing a record set in 2004. Meanwhile, domestic production will surpass 100 billion pounds for the first time, as livestock owners expand their herds on the back of cheap feed grain.
“If you look at the items that consumers say they want more of in their diet, protein tops the list,” said David Portalatin, a Houston-based food industry adviser for NPD Group.
It’s a sharp turnaround from 2007 through 2014, a time when per-capita meat and poultry demand slumped 9 percent as rising corn-based ethanol demand and a drought sent commodity prices sharply higher. Though cattle and hogs are now far cheaper than their 2014 peak, prices could still rebound. U.S. meat exports have soared as the global economy improves, outpacing the gains in domestic demand.
“Ten years from now, there will be higher plant consumption, but beef will always be king,” Epic Burger founder David Friedman said. “People are always looking to put more protein into their diets. But they want high quality and transparency in the food they’re eating.”