The Van Trump Report

US Produces +25% More Pork Than We Did 20 Years Ago… But Consume -9% Less

U.S. farmers produce +25% more pork than they did two decades ago. But… U.S. demand for pork is -9% less than what it was 20 years ago, according to estimates from Kansas State University. The resulting glut has shrunk U.S. pork producers’ profit margins to their lowest levels since 1998, according to the American Bankers Association. If pork producers can’t attract more young consumers, annual consumption will decline by 2.2 pounds per capita over the next 10 years, according to the Pork Board’s research, from 50.2 pounds last year. Players big and small in the more than $50 billion pork industry are feeling the pain. For example, Tyson reported a loss of -$139 million from its pork operations last year.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, beef was king among American consumers and pork held second place, but chicken overtook pork in 1986 as poultry production skyrocketed, making it the cheapest of the big three meats. By 1993, chicken became the most-eaten meat in America.

The rise of industrial-scale hog farms, steadily increasing crop yields and growing overseas demand helped supercharge the U.S. pork industry in the late 20th century, and since the 1980s, pork production in the U.S. has roughly doubled. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects the industry will produce nearly 28 billion pounds of pork this year, cleaved from roughly 125 million hogs. The industry estimates it contributes roughly $57 billion to the U.S. economy and employs 610,000 people. In Iowa, the top pork-producing state, hogs outnumber people nearly eight to one. 

Now, the pork industry is trying to find better ways to increase demand. Much of the American public thinks pork needs to be cooked to high temperatures that leave the meat tough and unappetizing, thanks to old food-safety messaging that was highly successful but no longer relevant or necessary, the industry now says.

For years consumers have cooked pork to internal temperatures of 165 or 170 degrees to protect against the disease trichinosis—and likely have overcooked the meat in the process, said Glynn Tonsor, a livestock economist at Kansas State University. The USDA lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork to 145 degrees in 2011, decades after improvements in pig-raising practices reduced the risk of trichinosis, but some consumers still follow the old rules, Tonsor said. The industry is now pushing 145 degrees as the recommended temperature. The hog industry has spent years breeding some of the fat out of pork by making the animals leaner, which makes the meat easier to overcook, said Tonsor. A 2006 USDA study said some cuts of pork were on average -16% lower in total fat.

There’s a ton of great information and data about the pork industry inside this recent article written by Patrick Thomas, titled, “We’re Not Eating Enough Bacon, and That’s a Problem for the Economy”. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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