Special Report

Which State Has the Biggest Cattle Industry

Where’s the beef? In America, it’s everywhere, in all 50 states. The cattle industry, including dairy cows, is the most important agricultural enterprise in the country. In 2019, it brought in some $66.2 billion in cash receipts, representing roughly 18% of the total for all forms of agriculture, according to a USDA Economic Research Service report on cattle and beef.  

The U.S. is also the world’s largest consumer of beef. According to the latest figures available, we eat 12,592,000 metric tons of it — almost 28 billion pounds — annually, far outpacing the number-two consumer, China (8,530,000 metric tons). We pay a lot for it, too: Prices for beef and veal increased some 22.7% between February and June last year, making then among the 19 groceries driving up your bill the most during the pandemic.

We obviously need to raise a lot of animals to slaughter, then. We even import a significant number, mostly from Canada and Mexico — though, the complexities of international trade being what they are, we also export them to those countries, among others.

Not surprisingly, the country’s largest producer of beef is Texas, our second-largest state, accounting for more than 6 billion pounds a year. (The largest state, Alaska, produces a mere 4.44 million pounds, but then its climate is hardly as friendly to animal husbandry.) 

Nebraska comes in at number two, with more than 5.5 billion pounds. Not surprisingly, the smallest production comes from our smallest state by area, Rhode Island, but even they turn out more than a million pounds of beef a year.

Click here to see which state has the biggest cattle industry.