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Industry Statistics

Beef Industry Overview

  • Most unique and complex lifecycle of any food, includes variety of segments
  • Takes 2-3 years to bring beef from farm to fork
  • 2016 Forecasted Economic impact: $67.56 billion in farm cash receipts for cattle and calves1

Evolution of Beef Industry

  • The U.S. beef production system used to be inefficient- cattle were moved around based on the location of grass at any given time
  • The first widespread early cattle feedyards in the nation were built by cottonseed oil-mill operators in the 1850s to utilize mill by-products
  • Around 1914, due to a drop in number of cattle, we started feeding cattle at earlier age, which resulted in higher-quality meat

U.S. Beef Community

  • Average age of a principle beef cattle rancher is 58.32 
  • 913,246 total cattle & calf operations2. Of these:
    • 727,906 are beef farms and ranches. Of these:
      • 91% are family-owned or individually-operated
      • 11% are operated by women
    • 26,586 are engaged in cattle feedlot production. Of these:
      • 80% are family owned or individually operated
      • 5% are operated by women
    • 64,098 are milk cow operations
  • All Cattle and Calves
    • 94.4 million - 1% increase from 2017 (93.7 million)
  • All Cattle on Feed
    • 14 million - 7% increase from 2017 (13.1 million)
      • >1000 head capacity - 82% of cattle on feed, 1% increase from 2017
  • Cows: Beef Cows
    • Beef: 31.7 million - 2% increase from 2017
    • Dairy: 9.4 million - 1% increase from 2017
  • Cows and Heifers that Calved
    • 41.1 million - 1% increase from 2017 (40.6 million)
  • 2017 Calf Crop
    • The 2017 calf crop in the United States was estimated at 35.8 million head, up 2% from last year's calf crop. Calves born during the first half of 2017 were estimated at 26 million head, up 2% from the first half of 2016. Calves born during the second half of 2017 were estimated at 9.81 million head, 27 percent of the total 2017 calf crop.
    • The combined total of calves under 500 pounds and other heifers and steers over 500 pounds (outside of feedlots) is 26.1 million head, 2% percent below on year ago.
  • Heifers over 500lbs
    • 20.2 million - 1% increase from 2017
  • Steers over 500lbs
    • 16.4 million
  • Bulls over 500lbs
    • 2.25 million
  • Calves under 500lbs
    • 14.4 million
  • Slaughter 
    • Commercial Slaughter: 32.2 million 
      • Calf: 512,300
    • Federally Inspected Slaughter: 31.7 million
      • Steer: 16.77 million
      • Heifer: 8.6 million
      • Cow: 5.77 million
      • Bull: 550,200
      • Calf: 503,400
    • Federally Inspected Beef Production: 25.86 million

Top 5 States

  • All Cattle
    • Texas: 12.5 million - 2% increase
    • Nebraska: 6.8 million - 5% increase
    • Kansas: 6.3 million - 2% increase
    • California: 5.2 million - 1% increase
    • Oklahoma: 5.1 million - 2% increase
  • Cows and Heifers that have Calved
    • Texas: 5.1 million - 3% increase
    • California: 2.4 million - no change
    • Missouri: 2.25 million - 5% increase
    • Oklahoma: 2.17 million - 2% increase
    • Nebraska: 1.97 million - 1% decrease
  • Beef Cows that have Calved
    • Texas: 4.59 million - 3% increase
    • Missouri: 2.17 million - 5% increase
    • Oklahoma: 2.13 million - 2% increase
    • Nebraska: 1.91 million - 1% decrease
    • South Dakota: 1.8 million - 8% increase
  • Dairy Cows that have Calved
    • California: 1.74 million - 1% decrease
    • Wisconsin: 1.28 million - no change
    • New York: 625,000 - 1% increase
    • Idaho: 600,000 - no change
    • Pennsylvania: 525,000 - no change
  • Calf Crop
    • Texas: 4.4 million
    • Missouri: 2 million
    • Oklahoma: 1.95 million
    • California: 1.88 million
    • South Dakota: 1.84 million
  • Cattle on Feed
    • Nebraska: 2.77 million - 12% increase
    • Texas: 2.65 million - 9% increase
    • Kansas: 2.45 million - 7% increase
    • Iowa: 1.26 million - 9% increase
    • Colorado: 1 million - 6% increase

  • Of the 30,219 feedlots those with less than 1,000 head of capacity compose the vast majority of U.S. feedlots (93%).5
  • As of January 1 2016 of the 13.1 million head on feed, feedlots with greater than 1,000 head capacity account for 81% of all cattle on feed.5
  • The amount of beef consumed in the U.S. (i.e. purchased by consumers in foodservice and retail) in 2016 was 25.668 billion pounds.1
  • The amount of beef consumed in the U.S. Per Capita 55.7 lbs.
  • Average price of USDA Choice beef sold in retail in 2016 was $5.96/lb down from $6.29/lb in 2015.1
  • Value of U.S. beef exports (including variety meat) in 2016: $6.343 billion, up from $6.302 billion in 2015.6
  • Volume of beef export: 1,187,050 (metric tons) in 2016 up from 1,067,614 (metric tons) in 2015. 6
  • Top U.S. Beef Export Markets (including variety meat) for 2017
    • Japan: 307,559 metric tons; $1,890 million
    • Mexico: 237,972 metric tons; $980 million
    • South Korea: 184,152 metric tons; $1,220 million
    • Canada: 116,561 metric tons; $796 million
    • Hong Kong: 130,728 metric tons; $884 million
    • Taiwan: 44,800 metric tons; $410 million

1U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2016
2U.S. Department of Agriculture, Census of Agriculture, 2012
3Livestock Marketing Information Center, Jan. 1, 2016
4CattleFax Data 2016
5CME Group Daily Livestock Report 2016
6U.S. Meat Export Federation 2016

2016 National Cattlemen Directions Statistics