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Factors Affecting US Pork Consumption

Monday, May 16, 2005

By Christopher G. Davis and Biing-Hwan Lin, Economic Research service, USDA - This articles discusses the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, which looks at the pork consumption in the US.

USDA Economic Research Service


Pork ranks third in annual U.S. meat consumption, behind beef and chicken, averaging 51 pounds per person. The Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) indicates that most pork is consumed at home. Pork consumption is highest in the Midwest (58 pounds), followed by the South (52 pounds), the Northeast (51 pounds), and the West (42 pounds).

Rural consumers eat more pork (60 pounds) than urban/suburban consumers (49/48 pounds). Pork consumption varies by race and ethnicity. Blacks consume 63 pounds of pork per person per year, Whites 49 pounds, and Hispanics 45 pounds. Higher income consumers tend to consume less pork. Everything else remaining constant, demographic data in the CSFII suggest future declines in per capita pork consumption, as increases of Hispanics and the elderly—who eat less pork than the national average—enlarge their shares of the population. However, total U.S. pork consumption will grow because of an expansion of the U.S. population.


Although pork is not consumed by certain populations or in certain regions, it is one of the preferred meats in the world and the United States, ranking first in per capita meat consumption in the world and third in the United States (fig. 1). It accounts for approximately 50 percent of daily meat protein intake worldwide (U.S. Pork Manual, Today’s Pork Industry). In 2003, pork accounted for almost 42 percent of red meats (beef, pork, lamb, and veal) consumed in the United States.

Americans’ consumption of pork helps fulfill the daily recommended amount of protein. While a great deal is known about pork’s nutritional value and its production, much less is known about its consumption. Very little analysis has been done on who eats various pork products in the United States, how much is eaten, and where. Analysts at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) have conducted studies on Americans’ consumption of nonalcoholic beverages and various fruits and vegetables, grains, and other foods, but this is the first time pork consumption has been analyzed from a similar perspective. Understanding the basic factors underlying pork consumption will help ERS improve its analysis of supply and demand shifts in the U.S. pork market, and will enable the industry to design effective marketing strategies and to predict future demand. For example, the changing racial/ethnic landscape in the United States and the “graying” of Americans will probably reduce future pork demand (Lin et al., 2003); Hispanics, the fastest growing ethnic group, eat less pork than Blacks or Whites, and as people age they reduce their food consumption.

This report presents the results of an analysis of the most recent data from USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals to determine the factors affecting fresh and processed pork product consumption (see box Data and Methodology). A descriptive analysis was conducted on the distribution of pork consumption across different marketing channels, geographic regions, and population groups.

Data and Methodology

Since the 1930s, periodic surveys of household and individual food consumption in the United States have been designed and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The most recent are the 1994-96 and 1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII), conducted by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Data from the 1994-96 CSFII are representative of noninstitutionalized persons living in the 50 States and Washington, DC. In 1998, an identical survey was conducted to augment the data, the CSFII sample for children. In 2002, CSFII was integrated into the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey administered by the Department of Health and Human Service’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The CSFII surveys were administered to people of all ages to collect dietary intake data for 2 nonconsecutive days, 3 to 10 days apart. In each interview, participants were asked to recall what they had eaten over the last 24 hours. The 1994-96 CSFII contains responses from 15,303 persons who answered questions about the types and amounts of food consumed. The 1998 CSFII survey collected data on 5,559 children up to 9 years of age. For more information about the CSFII, visit the website at

The respondents provided a list of foods consumed, as well as information on how much of each food was eaten, and where and when each food was eaten. Several categories were used for coding locations where the food was purchased. An array of economic, social, and demographic characteristics of individuals—such as respondents’ level of education, household income, race, age, and gender—was also collected. This rich database can be used for estimating the market and consumption distribution of a selected food by numerous delineations.

U.S. Pork Consumption Patterns

Pork consumption has fluctuated slightly in the United States, with per capita consumption declining by 10 percent between 1960 and 2003 (table 1). In 1960, per capita pork consumption averaged approximately 59 pounds. Consumption actually peaked in 1944 at 81.1 pounds, fell to 48 pounds per person in 1997, and rebounded to 53 pounds in 1999. Per capita fluctuation from 1999 to 2003 varied only slightly (USDA, ERS, 2004).

The occasional observed declines in consumption are usually associated with higher pork prices (USDA, WASDE, 1998-2002). Each American consumed an average of 51 pounds of pork per year, retail product, during 1994-96 and 98 (USDA, ERS, 2004), or 2 ounces per day.1

The recent growth in the hog industry was partly due to advances in technology (McBride and Key, 2003; Boehlje, 1992). Technology has been introduced into the hog industry through structural change, genetics, and better management and breeding practices. This has led to pork and pork products of consistently high quality (Martinez and Zering, 2004). As the seventh-largest U.S. farm commodity in cash receipts, the pork sector continues to produce large quantities of pork products, estimated at a record 20.5 billion pounds in 2004 (USDA, WASDE, 2004). Total pork consumption has increased over the past years and is expected to continue increasing as the U.S. population grows.

We used the 1994-96 and 1998 data to estimate the distribution of pork consumption by economic and demographic characteristics. The per capitaconsumption of 51 pounds (retail product) was multiplied by the market share (which is measured in percent) for each economic and demographic characteristic to derive per capita pork consumption by characteristics.

Calculating Per Capita Shares

One way to describe the various consumption shares is by converting the survey shares into information already familiar to those in the agricultural industry: per capita disappearance. The per capita use data presented in the tables for 1994-96 and 1998 were calculated by distributing the ERS food disappearance data for pork for those years, using the CSFII survey data as distribution factors and then dividing by the average population from 1994- 96 and 1998. This presents the share of consumption described in the survey in terms of pork consumption per person.

Processed Market Dominates U.S. Pork Consumption

In this study, pork is separated into two main product types, fresh and processed. Fresh products are those muscle cuts of pork purchased from wholesale markets by food services or from grocery meat counters directly by consumers, cooked just before eating. Processed pork products are transformed by grinding, curing, smoking, or seasoning prior to wholesale or retail sale. Both categories can include frozen products.2 The 1994-96 and 1998 CSFII data indicate that 38 percent of the pork consumed was fresh and 62 percent processed. Applied to the 51 pounds per capita pork consumption noted earlier, Americans consumed, on average, 19 pounds of fresh pork and 32 pounds of processed pork per year in 1994–96 and 1998. (fig. 2).

Figure 2: U.S. pork consumption: fresh and processed pork

Processed consists of canned and dehydrated. Pie chart divisions show percent of population consuming at least one type of pork. See text Calculating Per Capita Shares for an explanation of methodology.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, based on data from Agricultural Research Service, 2000: 1994-96 and 1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals.

The consumption of individual pork cuts within each main product type can also be estimated with CSFII data. Individual cuts in the fresh pork category included pork chops, pork steaks, ribs, fresh ham, other fresh pork, and pork parts (such as fat backs, cracklings, ears, tails, heads, feet, neck bones, salt pork, chitterlings, liver, rinds, pork skin, and tripe). The processed pork category was disaggregated into lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, smoked ham, and other processed pork.

Pork chops held the largest market share for all identifiable fresh cuts, followed by fresh ham, pork steak, and pork ribs (table 2). Over 28 percent of the fresh pork eaten by Americans was pork chops, while fresh ham accounted for 13 percent. More than a third of all fresh pork consumed was nonspecified pork cuts. Processed pork dominates U.S. pork use. The average person consumed more smoked ham (14.4 pounds) than any other processed pork product. The second-most-consumed processed pork products were smoked sausage (6.5 pounds) and processed nonspecified pork (4.9 pounds). Bacon and lunchmeat (including hot dogs, etc.) were the thirdand fourth-most-consumed processed pork at 3.2 and 2.8 pounds per person.

Lower Income Households Report More Pork Consumption

In the CSFII survey, households were classified into three income brackets using the Federal poverty guideline. For reference, the Census Bureau reported that the weighted average poverty income threshold for a fourperson household was $15,961 annually during 1994-96 and 1998, derived from the U.S. Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2000). The poverty guideline was developed by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services for the implementation of Federal food programs. Some of these programs, such as the Food Stamps Program, have used annual household income at 130 percent of the poverty level to determine eligibility. The present study uses 130 percent of the poverty-level threshold to define the low-income category—about 19 percent of U.S. households. About 39 percent of households had income exceeding 350 percent of the poverty level (called high-income), while 42 percent of households had income falling between 130 and 350 percent of the poverty level (middle-income).

The CSFII results indicate that consumers in high-income households consumed less pork per capita, both fresh and processed, than did those in low- and middle-income households (table 3 and fig. 3). Per capita consumption of fresh pork was highest among low-income consumers, and of processed pork it was highest among middle-income consumers.

Further Information

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Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service - May 2005

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