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Production costs change US meat consumption habits

By Ed Bedington , 31-Jan-2013

The increasing cost of production is changing the face of US consumption patterns, farming leaders have highlighted.

Speaking at the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, John Anderson, of the American Farm Bureau, said the increased costs of US meat production were meeting with consumer resistance and he expressed concern that domestic consumers were being outbid by foreign consumers as exports boomed.

He said the changes were being driven by escalating feed costs, and said that was having two effects. “We’ve seen a reduction in feed consumption – and that is partly down to a drive for efficiency due to higher and higher feed prices. We thought we were efficient 10 years ago, but we’re much more efficient now. However, efficiency will only get you so far.”

He said the other key factor behind reduced feed consumption was falling production: “In the US we’ve seen the lowest beef count since the 1960s.”

He said the combination of rising costs and drought was hitting hard and had been driving greater numbers of cattle to market.

And he added that, in production terms, both beef and pork consumption was falling, while poultry, which had been steadily rising for many years, had also flattened out. “Some of that might be down to a slowdown in export business to Russia, but cost has also played a part.”

He said those costs and supply tightening had taken time to filter through to the retail price, but it was now being felt, adding that the increased cost of beef was seeing the protein lose market share and would likely see pork consumption overtake beef in the next few years.

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