Pork is smoking beef

The US pork industry just surpassed the beef industry in production.
The US pork industry just surpassed the beef industry in production.
Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
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America is now producing more pork than beef.

The crossover is more than a blip on a chart. The growth in pork production reflects the industry’s transition from small- and mid-sized farms to industrial-scale operations. It also represents how beef—long the protein of choice among Americans—is lagging behind with no clear evidence it will be able keep pace.

That works for Americans, who are multiplying in number, but aren’t eating more beef and not much more pork. 

So where is all the extra pork going? Mostly into the export market, to Mexico, Japan and China. Under the top-down approach that came with a consolidated industry, pork production is faster and more efficient, important for competing in an increasingly globalized world.

America produces almost 10 billion more pounds of pork today than it did in 1990. As a consequence, more than 97% of US pigs raised for food today spend most of their short lives in warehouses.

As for the beef industry, the decline in demand in America is attributable, in part, to changes in public perception about the healthfulness of red meat, something that still dogs the industry.