story by Kim Souza
American’s are eating less meat these days, a trend that has Tyson Foods executives talking.
Jim Lochner, chief operating officer of Tyson Foods Inc., said the amount of protein available to U.S. consumers has declined in recent years, a trend that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Lochner spoke Thursday (Mar. 1) at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2012 Global Agriculture Conference
"We are operating in a different world than we were a few years ago," Lochner said. "After decades of steady growth, U.S. per capita consumption of protein declined 11% from the peak in 2006, a trend that is likely to continue."
He said the reason for the decline is a major paradigm shift across the industry. No longer is rising consumer demand fueling more production. Lochner said as feed costs and commodity inflation pressures have risen in the last few years, less protein is being produced.
At the same time U.S. production is falling, world demand for protein is rising, he said.
Americans on average consumed an estimated 220.4 pounds of meat, poultry and fish in 2011, that is six pounds more than they are expected to eat this year, according to the National Chicken Council.
Lochner says less is being eaten because there is less meat available on a global scale.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported cattle inventory at the lowest level since 1952. The U.S. herd includes 29.9 million beef cows and 9.2 million milk cows, down 3% and 1% respectively, from a year ago.
As less beef has moved through the supply chain, consumers have trimmed about 5.5 pounds of beef from their diet in the past two years. The retail price of all fresh beef in January hit a record $4.64 per pound, up 9.0% from last year.
Chicken per capita consumption totaled about 84.4 pounds last year, that is expected to decrease to 81 pounds in 2012.
Both pork and turkey consumption is expected increase slightly this year at a per capital rate of 46.2 pounds and 16.3 pounds. Fish consumption is forecast to remain steady at 15.5 pounds per capita.
"Tyson has a broad portfolio of products that can help our customers grow," Lochner said. "We don't just sell meat in a box. We provide innovation and food solutions to our customers and consumers, and that is what differentiates us from our competitors."