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Fermi estimate: US meat consumption

This will be more about crappy data than detailed modeling, but:

How much meat do Americans eat? How much do I eat? Good question, and I don't know! But a lot of the time, especially in my adolescence, I'd guess an average of 4 ounces for each of lunch and dinner. If lunch was lighter, like cold cuts, dinner was probably heavier, like steak or lamb chops or four drumsticks. Of course, sometimes I had PB&J for lunch, and often now I have falafel or hummus. OTOH, I'd doubt *more* than half a pound a day. So, half a pound is 180 lbs a year, 1/4 a day would be 90 lbs, I'd guess 135-180 lbs/year.

As for Americans, am I high, low, or average? I don't know. I know lots of vegetarians here, but statistically they're not that common; I've seen 5%, so take 10 lbs off the 180. Children often eat meat, but eat less, say 10% eat half as much, so another 5%, and we're down to 160 lbs peak. But honestly, a factor of two range is pretty good for a Fermi, I'm unlikely to improve it by pulling numbers out of my ass.

So, data?

Chicken council has a nice breakdown table; 2012 is 200 lbs of red meat + poultry, 14 lbs fish+shellfish, so 214 lbs. A lot higher than my estimate. A footnote says it's mostly retail weight, though fish is edible weight (so, not counting mussel shells?) and a few minor entries (turkey) are carcass weight.

NPR says 271 lbs. A lot higher! Except, then it has a breakdown chart, which shows about 55 lbs beef, 58 lbs chicken, 45 lbs pork, 15 lbs turkey, about 170 lbs total. That's a huge difference, and shows how much internal consistency checking the journalist did. The latter numbers also match up well to the Chicken Council, except for chicken where they had 80 lbs.

The Meat Institute claims 6.9 oz/day for men and 4.4 oz for women, for an average of 5.7 oz/day, or 129 pounds/year. Or less if we should exclude children. They also say the US produced about 95 billion pounds of the usual land animals, which is 317 pounds per person. They also say that the US exported 7 billion metric tonnes of beef+pork+chicken + "variety meats", which is 15,432 billion pounds. And that exports were 10-20% of US meat production. Ummm... to cap that off, pork and chicken shipments are said to be valued at about $5 billion, but beef exports at $800 billion.

So that's a whole lot of garbage.

The USDA has saner looking numbers... that's just a beef link, but it says 24 billion lbs/year beef, or 77 lbs/person-year of beef. So already that doesn't agree with the first two, though it's close to what the Meat Institute says.

The WSJ says the USDA says 71 pounds of red meat (including pork), 54 pounds of poultry, for 125 pounds/year per person. Which is close to the first Meat Institute number I cited. Their graph says 132 pounds, but that might include fish -- though 7 pounds fish is only half of the Chicken Council number.

It has the interesting lines " These numbers factor in food loss at each level—carcass to retail weight, loss at retail such as spoilage and loss at the consumer level, such as plate waste. About half of the weight of meat is lost from the carcass to the consumption." I suddenly wonder if the "retail weight" includes bones.

Perhaps the 270 is carcass, the 170 is retail, and the 130 is plate. But, I'm having to guess and handwave, in fandom we call that fanwanking. In practice, the uncertainty of the reported numbers is as big as the uncertainty of my wild guesses, though the range is somewhat higher, 130-270.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/430102.html#comments



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2015 04:02 pm (UTC)
I can help you with the "retail weight" issue. There are industry rules of thumb to relate live weight to hanging weight (after animal is killed and gutted) to cut & wrapped weight (butchered weight, which will include some bones).

For beef, cut & wrapped weight is 50% of live weight. For pork, cut & wrapped weight is (IIRC) 45% of live weight. For chicken, a whole cut & wrapped bird is about 65% of live weight; larger birds have a higher percentage for cut & wrapped weight.
Oct. 16th, 2015 04:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I don't think any of those numbers were live weight but I dunno, maybe the 271 was.
Oct. 16th, 2015 10:08 pm (UTC)
For me, the canonical portion of meat or fish at dinner is 4 oz. In my lunch sandwich, probably 2 oz. Breakfast, maybe a couple of strips of bacon with my pancake, or an ounce of salami in my Jewish french toast, but usually nothing, unless you count eggs.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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