Farmers and meatpackers produced a record 99.7 billion pounds of red meat and poultry in 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. They are on track for an even bigger slaughter this year.
Tyson Foods Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc. and other meat companies are building new plants that are expected to push U.S. meat production up 3.8% in 2018, the biggest increase in more than 20 years.
“We have a world that has a growing middle class that’s demanding protein,” said Dean Meyer, a farmer near Rock Rapids, Iowa who built a new hog barn and cattle feedlot to grow his sales to nearby slaughterhouses run by Tyson, JBS and others. “We think that’s a great opportunity.”
The U.S. beef-cattle herd has expanded by 12% over the past four years. Meat companies produced a record 47.7 billion pounds of poultry in 2017, and slaughtered hogs at a faster pace than ever before.
Growing flocks and herds have meant lower costs and fatter profits.