WASHINGTON – Per-capita consumption of red meat and poultry in the United States next year will drop to its lowest level since 1990, according to the latest estimates from the US Department of Agriculture. Prices for cattle and hogs will remain strong while broiler and turkey prices will be under pressure until reductions in broiler production take hold, the report indicated.

The November issue of the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) from USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board showed estimates of meat and poultry production that are lower from previously estimates levels, leading to a reduced estimate of consumption.

Consumption of red meat and poultry in the US in 2012 is now estimated to be 199.7 lbs. per person, off 9 lbs. from the 208.7 recorded in 2010 and the lowest level since 1990, when it was 199 lbs.

Beef is projected to take the biggest hit, with per capita consumption dropping from 59.6 lbs. per capita in 2010 to 57.6 lbs. in 2011 and 54.1 lbs. in 2012, the report said. Pork consumption will slip from 47.7 lbs. in 2010 to 45.9 lbs. in 2011 and rebound to 46.2 lbs. in 2012, the WASDE report said.

On the poultry side, consumption of broiler meat is predicted to gain about a pound this year, rising from 82.3 lbs. in 2010 to 83.2 lbs. in 2011 before slipping to 80.4 lbs. in 2012. Turkey consumption will hold its own, with 2012 consumption tied with the 2010 level at 16.4 lbs. per person.

USDA said it cut its estimate of beef production due to “slightly lower cattle slaughter” and slower growth in carcass weights. Broiler production is forecasted to decline as flocks are thinned out during late 2011 and into 2012. Turkey production is estimated to increase slightly “as prices are expected to favor expansion during 2012,” the report said.

Tight supplies of cattle will support higher prices in 2012, according to USDA, with the average price for steers now estimated at $113.98 per hundredweight this year, rising to a range of $117 - $126 next year. Hog prices are heading up and will average $63 to $68 per hundredweight in 2012, the report said.

Broiler prices are under pressure, however. “Weakness in domestic demand and current overhanging supplies” are putting pressure on prices, which are expected to struggle going into 2012 before recovering to the range of 82 to 88 cents per pound in the third quarter of 2012," the report said.