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Red Meat Consumption in America

Updated on December 4, 2017
Patrick Patrick profile image

Patrick has been working as a freelance writer for the past 3 years

What studies have found with regards to red meat intake in the U.S.

For a majority of homes in the United States, meat is a part of the normal diet. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States Statistics Division Food Balance Sheets Millennium (2001), meat, in the United States, contributes to well over 15 percent of the daily energy intake, 40 percent of the daily protein intake and 20 percent of the daily fat intake. Although data by the USDA has shown that the total consumption of meat have almost doubled between 1909 and 2007, the consumption of red was found to have decreased since the 80s.



Components and determinants of meat consumption

According to the report by the USDA, the consumption of red meat between 1970 and 2007 was found to have dropped by 20g/cap/d (from 105g/cap/d to 85g/cap/d). According to these reports, although red meat still represents the largest proportion of meat consumed in the United States, statistics have shown that this percentage is on the decline as consumers switch to other alternatives, particularly poultry.

In the United States, the consumption of meat is influenced by a number of factors, which include gender, age, race as well as education. According to the USDA data, the total meat intake was found to range from 100 to 150 grams per day. Of this, 50 to 90 grams per day was red meat. This trend was suggested to be influenced by such factors as affordability of meat as well as rising consumer income in the country. According to findings by the (NHANES) national health and nutrition examination survey (2003-2004) men were found to consume more amounts of all types of meat per day than women. Apart from fish meat, the consumption of mean was shown to peak among adults aged between 20 and 49 years old, with a greater proportion of the meat being red meat. However, the amount of meat was found to be less among individuals of younger and older ages. Although three races (blacks, whites and Hispanics) were shown to consume same amounts of red meat, blacks were found to consume the largest amount of poultry as compared to the Hispanics and whites. On the other hand, high consumption of poultry and fish was reported among those with higher education level.



Monetary value

With a population of about 318 million people in the United States, meat and poultry industry has been shown to be the largest segment of agriculture in the nation. In 2012, the sum of meat and poultry production reached well over 93 billion pounds. On the other hand, well over 482,100 individuals were reported to have been employed in the meat and poultry parking and processing industries in 2013, with their combined earnings amounting to well over $19 billion. Through the various production and distribution channels, The meat industries (Meat and poultry) have also been reported to permeate various firms in all the sectors of the economy of the united states, and in all the states. Overall, all the companies that are involved in the production of meat, their suppliers, distributors as well as retailers have been shown to employ well over 6.2 million people in the united states. This totals to about $200 billion in wages for all the jobs related to the production of meat. Together, the companies and employees of meat production provide an average total of $81.2 billion in revenues through direct paid taxes. The two industries have also been found to generate an average of $864.2 billion annually to the economy of the nation through its ripple effect.

Health Issues

The consumption of red meat has been associated with a number of increased health risks such as cardiovascular disease, colon cancer as well as diabetes mellitus.

Cardiovascular disease

According to studies carried out by Kalemen et al (2005) and Kontogianni et al (2008), red meat was one of the factors associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although findings between various studies have been found to vary, they tend to agree that a link exists between red meat and CVD. With some of the studies reporting that lean meat is to a lesser extent associated with increased risks of CVD, researchers are yet to agree on the role of excess fat and trans unsaturated fatty acids in increasing the concentration of cholesterol in blood, and thus contributing to CVD.

Colon cancer

In 2007, WCRF (World Cancer Research Fund), combined an extensive body of evidence from a variety of studies, and came to the conclusion that the body of research, which supports the link between red meat and increased risk of cancer in convincing. However, studies have also proved inconsistent with various studies finding a link and others finding no link between red meat and this type of cancer. For studies that support this link, the risk of developing cancer is largely dependent on the carcinogenicity of meat consumed. Given that there have been no conclusive studies as yet as to the association of red meat and cancer; it is recommended that consumers eat less than 500 grams of red meat per week. Moreover, they are advised to minimize the consumption of processed meat and avoid cooking meet at very high temperatures.

Diabetes Mellitus and Risk of incident stroke

Currently, there is no significant evidence to prove that red meat can increase the risks of diabetes mellitus. However, studies have found a link between diabetes mellitus with daily servings being associated with a 19 percent increased risk.

A number of cohort studies have been carried out to determine the relationship of red meat and stroke. However, these studies have used various types of meat to research on different types of stroke sub-types, which have in turn made it difficult to come to a good conclusion. On pooling to different studies, the risk estimate of stroke was not found to be significant. However, when two studies evaluated the total meat consumption and total ischemic stroke, pooled risk estimate demonstrated a 24 percent increased risk.

Health issues


Benefits to health: Major source of Protein, Immune system help (Zinc and Iron)

Lean red meat has been shown to be one of the best dietary sources of high quality protein. According to a study carried out by Hodgson et al., (2006) the modest increase in the intake of proteins from red meat was shown to not only lower blood pressure, but that it also did not increase blood lipids. According to experts, intake of this protein go a long way enhancing the healthy growth of children as well as helping the older adults age well. On the other hand, iron and zinc present in red meat has been shown to be more bio-available in red meat as compared to a variety of other alternative foods. Moreover, red meat can enhance their absorption. Iron is an important mineral that plays a significant role in the early cognitive development of children. It also enhances the normal energy metabolism as well as the immune system. On the other hand, zinc is an essential for the healthy immune system among children as well as enhancing better healing of wounds, normal growth as well as reproductive development.


According to a variety of studies, it has been shown that the consumption of red meat has been on the decrease. However, the link between the consumption of red meat and various health risks including colon cancer and CVD is yet to be established given that the different types of studies have been shown to contradict each other. The future of red meat consumption is therefore still a debatable issue that will require more conclusive studies in future. However, given that no study has been able to disapprove the notion that red meat can increase the risk of a variety of health concerns, it is recommended that consumers reduce their consumption or red meat to at least prevent chances of developing these health risks. According to experts, white meat obtained from such sources as chicken and fish can be used as substitutes given that they have not been associated with these risks. However, they should also be consumed in moderation. Consumers can also acquire proteins and other nutrients from such plant foods as peas and beans among a variety of other grains.

© 2017 Patrick


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