Will U.S. meat and poultry consumption regain pre-Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) highs of 2006? If so, when will it happen?

In a profit-and-loss environment dominated by RFS-induced volatile and high corn prices, poultry producers get their bearings from consumer consumption in 2006, a time before the RFS and two poor corn harvests that drove up feed costs and poultry prices, destroying much demand.

U.S. per capita chicken consumption reached a high in 2006 of 87.7 pounds. As the industry cut production in 2008 and 2009, consumption dropped for three straight years, bottoming out at 81.0 pounds in 2009. USDA estimates chicken production now is around 83.1 pounds. Following a similar pattern, per capita consumption of all red meats and poultry was 221 pounds in 2006 and now is 204 pounds. 

Will per capita consumption regain levels of 2006?

Will the total U.S. per capita consumption of poultry and red meats regain the pre-RFS level of 220 pounds? A panel of poultry and meat company executives shared answers at the National Chicken Council annual meeting. 

"I would be surprised if it does," answered Cargill Beef President John Keating. "But to be painfully honest, in view of the dietary concerns and the problem with obesity in the U.S., maybe it shouldn't be back at that level. The cost of food in this country is relatively cheap, and we probably consume a little too much." 

Keating said he expects meat prices to continue to rise worldwide over time as world demand for proteins increases. 

Donnie King, senior group vice president, poultry and prepared foods, Tyson Foods, foresees only moderate increases in meat and poultry consumption in the U.S. "The growth in meat and poultry consumption will be greater outside the U.S. in places like China, India, Africa and Mexico," he said.

Ed Fryar, chief executive officer, OMP Poultry, said health concerns of consumers favor increased demand for chicken over the long term. "U.S. per capita consumption of chicken may not be up to 90 pounds by 2020, but it should be above the 87-pound level of 2006," he said.