Meats and Meat Products

SIC 5147

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of wholesale distributors of fresh, cured, and processed (but not canned or frozen) meats and lard. Establishments engaged in the wholesale distribution of frozen packaged meats are classified under SIC 5142: Packaged Frozen Foods. Establishments engaged in the wholesale distribution of canned meats are classified in SIC 5149: Groceries and Related Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.

According to Dun & Bradstreet, 3,812 establishments were engaged in the wholesale distribution of meats and meat products in 2010. This represented a slight decrease from the U.S. Census Bureau figures of 4,118 in 2003. Total industry revenues reached $13.1 billion in 2009, and the industry employed a total of 64,333 people, down from 66,619 in 2003. Almost 68 percent of establishments employed fewer than 10 workers, and states containing the most firms in the business were California (481), New York (388), and Texas (300). California was also home to the most employees (7,630); New York was second with 4,622. Illinois and Texas were a close third and fourth with 4,534 and 4,127 employees, respectively.

The top states in terms of sales were California, which accounted for about 15 percent of sales, followed by Michigan (11 percent), Texas (9 percent), New York (8 percent), and Illinois (6 percent).

The Cryovac Division of Sealed Air Corporation, in conjunction with the National Cattleman's Beef Association, underwent an assessment of "supermarket fresh meat departments" in 2002. Their focus was in the areas of "packaging, point of sale materials, and the presence of nonmeat items in the meat case." There were a total of 25 leading U.S. markets that took part in this audit. Findings revealed that beef, poultry, and pork were the leaders in the retail marketplace. About 65 percent of the average retail meat cases contained beef. Poultry followed with 22 percent, and pork had 14 percent. Consumers' demand for leaner and boneless cuts remained prevalent with 82 percent of steak and 93 percent of roasts retailed as boneless. The report also concluded that consumers shop for convenience and that 98 percent of the meat markets accommodated them with a section devoted specifically to that purpose. However, less than half used a point-of-sale to attract consumers to the section. A major finding was in regards to conflicting labeling, specifically on ground beef: Less than half of the packages lacked cooking instructions. Also, in almost 94 percent of the fresh meat markets, their cases contained processed meats as well. The "fresh meat case may be moving toward providing whole meal solutions rather than providing only fresh meat," according to the report. Average beef consumption had increased by 5 percent, and the average price had of beef had increased by 2 percent. This finding concluded the shift in consumer demand. Since 1993, there has been a dramatic shift in the way consumers shop for meat. Even though the price is higher for premium cuts, some consumers tend to prefer the premium labeled meats.

According to Steve Kay, editor and publisher of Cattle Buyers Weekly, 2001 was the "year of mergers," some of which were between former leaders within the industry. Some of these involved IBP, Inc.; Packerland Packing; Taylor Packing; Emmpak Foods; Moyer Packing; Rocco Enterprises; and B.C. Rogers Poultry. The merger activity slowed down in subsequent years.

According to the National Cattelmen's Beef Association, total beef consumption in the United States was down to 61.1 pounds per capita in 2009. This represented a significant drop from the 79.2-pound figure in 1985 and reflected Americans' increasing health awareness. Per capita consumption of poultry, however, rose from 65.6 pounds (52.1 pounds chicken and 11.6 pounds turkey) to 96.9 pounds (80 pounds chicken and 17.4 pounds turkey) in the same time period. Pork experienced must less significant changes, dropping from 51.9 pounds per capita in 1985 to 49.8 pounds in 2009.

U.S. exports of meat declined in the 2000s, and the safety of meat and meat products continued to be an issue after bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly referred to as "mad cow disease," was discovered in Canada. By 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expected that exports of U.S. beef would increase 17 percent, reaching 2.26 billion pounds, whereas beef imports were expected to be around 2.54 billion pounds. Tighter domestic beef supplies were expected to cause a slight increase in imports in 2011. In the poultry segment, the USDA reported that exports of broiler meat were down more than 7 percent in 2009 to 520.7 million pounds, whereas turkey exports increased about 10 percent to 52.7 million pounds.

One of the largest meat and meat products wholesalers in the United States was Monfort, Inc., a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods. Monfort began in the 1930s near Greeley, Colorado, as a family-owned cattle-feeding operation. It was purchased by ConAgra in 1987. In 2010 ConAgra had 24,400 employees and annual sales of more than $12.0 billion.

In the 2000s Monfort was the only major meat-producing company with cattle feeding, beef, pork, and lamb processing operations, national distribution and transportation systems, a by-products and pet foods division, and a construction company. An innovator in the industry, Monfort introduced quarter-inch trim specifications, which started an industry-wide trend toward lean cuts. In response to retailer demand for even leaner cuts of meat, the company began offering Super Lite cuts, trimmed to one eighth of an inch. Demand for the products grew as innovative packaging, value-added products, and exports helped boost sales.

Another industry leader was Tyson Foods of Springdale, Arkansas. Tyson was one of the nation's largest chicken producers but also had interests in beef and pork. With 117,000 employees, Tyson had 2009 revenues of $26.7 billion. Smithfield Foods Inc. of Smithfield, Virginia, specialized in pork production and also offered turkey products. The firm had annual sales of $11.2 billion with 48,000 employees in 2009. The diversified Cargill Inc. of Wayzata, Wisconsin, was the United States' largest private corporation and a giant in the agricultural products industry, generating $116.5 billion with 159,000 employees in 2009. Sara Lee Corp. of Downers Grove, Illinois, was responsible for meat brands like Ball Park and Jimmy Dean. Other industry leaders included Hormel Foods of Austin, Minnesota; Perdue Inc. of Salisbury, Maryland; and Pilgrim's Pride Corp. of Greeley, Colorado.

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