Beef’s struggles leave door open for seafood


Steven Hedlund

Published on
January 24, 2012

Editor’s note: SeafoodSource Editor Steven Hedlund is attending the National Fisheries Institute’s 2012 Global Seafood Market Conference in Miami this week. 

How does seafood stack up against competing proteins, particularly beef, when it comes to growing U.S. consumption and gaining market share? Actually, pretty good, according to Duane Lenz, manager of operations and analyst services for CattleFax, a Denver-based pricing and information service.

Lenz is one of five speakers who addressed a crowd of more than 200 seafood professionals at the National Fisheries Institute’s 2012 Global Seafood Market Conference in Miami on Thursday morning.

At 57.3 pounds in 2011, U.S. per-capita beef consumption is much higher than U.S. per-capita seafood consumption, which is stuck at about 16 pounds. However, beef consumption is down from the 1970s when it topped out at nearly 80 pounds and even the late 1990s and early 2000s when it ranged from 65 to 67 pounds. Scarcity of land, unfavorable weather, narrowing margins and increasing demand from overseas are among the factors contributing to tightening U.S. beef supplies. Beef consumption is forecasted to drop again in 2012 to 55.6 pounds.

This presents an opportunity for seafood to gain market share on beef, Lenz told SeafoodSource following his 20-minute talk.

As supplies tighten, prices rise — beef prices are up significantly from just a year ago. (For example, ground beef prices jumped 24 percent from 2010 to 2011, while chuck prices increased 25 percent.) Consumer price resistance is a major concern for beef, and now Americans are beginning to realize that seafood really isn’t much more expensive than beef, he explained.

“The door’s open,” said Lenz.

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