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Medicine LibreTexts Types of Beef and US Consumption

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    Types of Cattle:

    Cattle is the collective name for all domesticated oxen (genus Bos). Cattle are classified as follows:

    1. Bulls - male cattle, usually not raised to be eaten.
    2. Calves - young cows or bulls prized for their meat.
    3. Cows - female cattle after their first calving raised in this country principally for milk and calf production. In France, cows are used for beef when they are no longer needed for milk.
    4. Heifers - young cows or cows before their first calving. Heifer meat and organs are becoming increasingly popular as a food source.
    5. Stags - male cattle castrated after maturity, principally used for dog food.
    6. Steers - male cattle castrated prior to maturity and principally raised for beef.
    7. Veal - a calf or young beef animal. A veal calf is raised until about 16 to 18 weeks of age, weighing up to 450 pounds. Male dairy calves are used in the veal industry.

    Veal is the meat of young, usually male, calves that are by- products of the dairy industry. Dairy cows must calve before they begin to give milk. Calves that are not used in the dairy herds are used in today's veal industry. Although veal may come from any calf under the age of nine months, most comes from calves slaughtered when they are 8 to 16 weeks old. Veal is lighter in color than beef, has a more delicate flavor and is generally tenderer. Young veal has a firm texture, light pink color and very little fat. As soon as a calf starts eating solid food, the iron in the food begins to turn the young animal's meat red. Meat from calves slaughtered when they are older than five months is called a calf. It tends to be a deeper red, with some marbling and external fat.

    Beef Consumption in the United States

    Meat consumption in the U.S. has roughly mirrored the rise and fall of beef consumption in the last century, with a low of 76.9 pounds of red meat per person in 1935 rising to a high of 136.1 pounds in 1971. From 1971 to 2019 Americans reduced their red meat intake to about 105.2 pounds per person. 

    The graph below shows the per capita consumption of beef and red meat in the U.S. from 2009 to 2019, using data from the USDA

    Screen Shot 2022-09-05 at 10.14.41 PM.png

    Since the late 1970s, beef consumption in the U.S. has declined, in part due to consumer concerns about the health impacts of eating too much red meat. Instead, Americans are eating the more affordable chicken.

    Beef Consumption After the Pandemic

    As COVID-19 spread—and killed at least 20 workers from meatpacking plants in the Spring of 2020 before ultimately causing the deaths of a further 600,000 people in the U.S.—beef consumption seems to have fallen to 13.2 billion pounds nationally, down from 13.9 billion in 2019. People also began purchasing more of their beef from the grocery store than from restaurants and other foodservice venues. 

    USDA ERS - Chart Detailglobal-meat-production (1).png

    For more information on meat consumption, visit








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