Structural Change in Meat Demand: The End of the "Chicken Little" Era

Stanley R. Johnson
June 1987  [87-WP 22]

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Johnson, S.R. 1987. "Structural Change in Meat Demand: The End of the "Chicken Little" Era." Working paper 87-WP 22. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Meat consumption patterns have changed in the United States. A cursory inspection of the disappearance statistics for meat in the United States reveals that generally, the consumption of red meats has decreased or remained constant while the consumption of poultry and other meats has increased. Economists have had only modest success in developing cogent explanations for these changed consumption patterns, and a "chicken little" psychology has come to dominate much of the recent discourse. Arguments, for the most part not based on demand theory, have been put forth that recent consumption changes cannot be explained by relative prices, income, and simple demographic effects. Conjecture about lifestyles, health concerns, consumer attitudes toward red meats, and other factors suggest implicit prophesy of doom for the beef industry. Systematic analyses of consumption changes and assessments of the theory are needed to address these largely unsupported suppositions.