Although still rebounding from the difficulties of the recession, the U.S. economy achieved three consecutive quarters of growth in 2014. According to Rabobank’s North American Agribusiness Review, consumer confidence is on the rise: “Consumer confidence, as measured by the Index of Consumer Sentiment, rose to 98.1 in January compared to 93.6 in the previous month. The index has risen for the last six months and is now at a level not seen for over a decade suggesting that finally consumers are shaking off concerns over the economic outlook.”

Naturally, this confidence brings with it the American consumer’s willingness to spend more discretionary dollars on consumer goods, food and entertainment. 

For the purposes of this column, let’s focus on food -- specifically increased animal protein consumption. This boost benefits animal agriculture. For example, in 2014, pork sales grew by nearly 5 percent and dairy output grew as prices went up. Meanwhile, poultry production rose by nearly 10 percent. According to the USDA, broiler meat production totaled 3.3 billion pounds, an 8.2 percent growth over 2013. 

The U.S. demand for these and other animal-based proteins is certainly projected to continue to increase. 

How did this growth impact animal feed production? According to Alltech’s annual Global Feed Survey, U.S. feed manufacturers produced an estimated 172 million tons in 2014 -- up more than 4 percent over 2013 (165 million tons).

Based on the comments presented in this issue’s cover story, “U.S. animal feed production volumes growing,” the consensus among the feed manufactures interviewed, 2015 is poised to set a new record. Short of some major issue in the global economy or with the weather, large feed millers across the country predict their overall volumes will grow. The caveat: On a regional scale, smaller feed operations will be held at the mercy of local demand and conditions.

Tell me about your mill’s 2014 experience and its 2015 outlook. Emails welcome: jroembke@wattnet.net.