The Meat and Poultry Industry: Basic Statistics

The U.S. meat industry directly employs nearly 800,000 people: 488,500 in meat packing, 118,600 in meat processing, and 223,200 in poultry processing. The industry is responsible for generating nearly two million additional jobs for the people who produce equipment and ingredients used in meat and poultry processing, transportation, and retail and foodservice sales.

On an annual basis, meat packers transform 32.95 million head of cattle, 772,000 calves, 113.16 million hogs and 2.185 million sheep and lamb into beef, pork, lamb and veal. Meanwhile, poultry processors transform (pdf) 8.6 billion chickens and 250 million turkeys into chicken and turkey products.

Annually, sales total $133 billion in meat packing and processing and $52 billion in poultry slaughter and processing.

In 2012, the industry exported 8.1 million metric tons of beef and 7.25 million metrics tons of pork to nations around the world. Poultry companies exported 10 million metric tons of chicken products and 707 thousand metric tons of turkey.

An estimated 95 percent of Americans make meat or poultry a regular part of their balanced diet. Thanks to its affordability, in the U.S., Americans spend just 11.25 percent of disposable income on food and they spend 1.6 percent of their disposable personal income on meat and poultry products.

In 2013, USDA estimated there were 806 federally inspected livestock slaughter plants in the U.S.

Total industry daily slaughter capacity is estimated at 446,275 hogs, 110,325 steers and heifers and 24,164 cows.

Affordability of Meat and Poultry

The U.S. meat and poultry supply is the most affordable in the world according to global data. The U.S., in 2012, spent 5.68 percent of its disposable income on food consumed at home, compared to 9.6 percent in Canada, 24.6 percent in Mexico, and 47.7 percent in Pakistan.

Recent data show how consumer prices for meat have remained relatively stable over the past 25 years. Market forces have also been the primary contributor to the returns received by cow calf operations and hog farmers. (pdf)

Meat and Poultry Safety

U.S. meat and poultry products have an excellent safety record that reflects continuous improvement. This progress may be measured by the reduction of bacteria on fresh and ready to eat meat and poultry products according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, which show that most foodborne illnesses commonly associated with meat and poultry products are declining significantly.

According to CDC, from 2000 to 2012 there were reductions in foodborne illnesses in key categories, including:

  • A 45 percent decrease in illnesses caused by E. coli O157
  • A 24 percent decrease in illnesses caused by Listeria monocytogenes
  • A 7 percent decrease in in Campylobacter.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) data show that the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef declined 81 percent between 2000 and 2012. Data also show an 81 percent reduction of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products between 2000 and 2011, the most recent year data is available. It’s noteworthy that sometimes success is measured what doesn’t happen. In 2013, there again were no recalls from federally inspected establishments due to listeriosis. In fact, there hasn’t been a listeriosis illness triggered recall since 2003.

Challenges remain for the industry, however, as CDC data released in 2013 showed a 17 percent increase in salmonellosis cases. Overall, however, Salmonella is declining on meat and poultry.

For more information, read The Amazing Meat & Poultry Supply (pdf).

The U.S. meat industry employs nearly 500,000 people:
144,300 in meat packing
118,600 in meat processing
224,700 in poultry processing.
Read More