Combined per capita poultry and red meat consumption could decrease in 2013 to the lowest level since 1966 when it was 161.2 pounds on a boneless weight  basis, according to yesterday’s “Daily Livestock Report.”  USDA’s forecast combined consumption is 165.6 pounds for next year.  Continued reduced supplies of beef in 2013 will be the major factor causing combined consumption to fall further and be below the 162.9 pounds in 1973 and “quite possibly slipping under the 161.2 pounds in 1966,  the report predicted.

There are a number of reasons why poultry and red meat consumption is declining, especially since 2007, according to the report.  Three important reasons are as follows:

Growing exports. This is especially true for pork, which saw exports jump by more than 40 percent in 2008 and will set another record this year. Beef exports also increased in recent years as recovery from the 2003 BSE situation occurred. Larger exports meant lower domestic “availability” and thus lower consumption. Exports began to be a real factor when production increases were limited by the next factor.

Higher costs. Rapid growth of corn-based ethanol production has coincided with the downtrend in U.S. meat and poultry consumption. The first major diversions of corn to ethanol drove feed costs higher and producers of all species “saw floods of red ink,” the report noted.  Some companies reduced output while others were forced out of business thus further reducing market supplies.  “Exploding oil prices” added fuel to the fire by making ethanol, and thus corn as a fuel feedstock, even more valuable, the report said.

The fruition of 30-40 years of government policy.  An on-going drumbeat of over-regulation “doesn’t get a lot of talk but, to us, it is the elephant in the room,” the report said. If the federal government decides to “wage war” on a product and continue that war for long enough, it will eventually have an impact, the analysts argued.  The “feds have indeed” waged war on meat protein consumption for many years, the report added. Further, a large number of non-governmental agencies that oppose meat consumption for reasons ranging from the environment to animal rights to social justice have increasingly dedicated their budgets against meat consumption.  “It is amazing that  poultry and red meat consumption has held as long as it did,” the report concluded.