Economic Tidbits

Beef—It’s Not So Much For Dinner Anymore

An analysis by Jayson Lusk, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, found that consumer spending on beef has declined over time. Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on household spending,

Lusk examined household spending on beef over time and found that for:

“any given income (or total spending) level, spending on beef has fallen precipitously since 1984 (all figures are in inflation-adjusted dollars). The change over time is most dramatic for the higher income/spending households. In 1984, the lowest and highest quintile income households spent $265 and $681 per year (in 2017 dollars), respectively, on beef for consumption at home. By 2017, these figures had fallen to $158 and $352, respectively.”

Lusk cites several possible explanations for the downward trend in spending on beef. Changing beef prices, fewer people in a household, competition from other protein sources, or a shift towards more food spending away from home (the survey only tracks spending on food eaten at home) could all be contributing to the reduced spending.

A couple of takeaways for Nebraska from the Lusk findings. First, Lusk found that higher income households spend more on beef than lower income households. In economic terms this means beef is a “normal” good—the higher the income, the more consumed. So, continued economic and income growth in the U.S. is important to grow domestic demand. Second, Nebraska’s beef sector shouldn’t look to domestic demand for dramatic growth. Instead, greater growth potential lies overseas, particularly in Asian countries, where economies and personal income are growing much more rapidly. For more information and to see Lusk’s animated graphic which shows the decline in consumer spending on beef across income levels over time, go to:

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