The United States consumes the most meat per capita of any nation in the world. As of 2009, Americans consumed an average of 265 pounds of meat per person annually, dwarfing the global average of 92 pounds per person. The nation’s voracious appetite for meat has created a massive and heavily mechanized domestic meat industry. The United States produced about 132 billion pounds of meat in 2013.
Chickens, cattle, and hogs make up the vast majority of meats produced in the country. More than 8.5 billion chickens were slaughtered nationwide in 2014, followed by roughly 32.5 million cattle, and 112 million pigs in 2013.
Based on the 2014 Department of Agriculture (USDA) Livestock Slaughter report, Nebraska slaughtered more meat, by weight, than any other state. Roughly 8.7% of meat slaughtered in the United States in 2013 came from Nebraska, or nearly 11.5 billion pounds of meat. These are the states slaughtering the most animals.
Over the last 50 to 60 years, farming has become increasingly concentrated in fewer companies and fewer locations. In 2013, 12 states produced about two-thirds of total slaughtered meat by live weight in the country.
The production of particular types of livestock is even more concentrated in several of these states. For example, more than 22% of all U.S. cattle were slaughtered in Nebraska, a higher share than in any other state. And more than 26% of pigs were slaughtered in Iowa, also the highest such share nationwide.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St. Erik Bohlman, chief of the animal products branch at the USDA, and Sahar Angadjivand, agricultural economist at the USDA, explained that the concentration of the livestock industry in these states is partly attributable to the presence of feed sources and available grazing areas. Corn production, for example, which is a primary source of feed for livestock, is heavily produced in the Heartland region, including Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri — three of the nation’s top meat producers.
Some animal advocacy groups maintain the inhumane treatment of animals is also an issue, especially at large farms producing massive quantities of meat. Poor treatment can also vary between livestock types. Lindsay Rajt, associate director of campaigns at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said “chickens suffer greatly [and] are arguably one of the most abused animals on the planet.”
Slightly more than 1.4 million people were employed in food manufacturing, roughly 1.1% of all U.S. workers. Of that, roughly a third were employed in animal slaughtering and processing. However, the meat slaughter industry is not evenly distributed across the country, so its impact on employment varies considerably across states. For example, in Nebraska, more than 2.7% were employed in animal slaughter and processing. By contrast, only 0.01% of workers in Nevada, the second-lowest meat producing state, were employed in animal slaughter and processing.
To identify the most dangerous states for animals, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total live weight of animals slaughtered in each state as a percentage of total weight slaughtered nationwide in 2013 from the USDA’s Livestock Slaughter report. Figures for poultry are as of 2014. The report included the number of cattle, calves, hogs, sheep and lambs, chickens, and turkeys slaughtered in 2013, as well as the weight in pounds of the meat produced. We also reviewed the number and share of a state’s workforce employed in food manufacturing from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
These are the most dangerous states for animals.