What is included in the calculation of the size of a commodity market?

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I'm trying to figure out the size of the global wagyu beef market. But I think the question is the same for regular beef, chicken, etc. How many points of sale are included? For example the packer kills the animal and sells the beef to the distributor. The distributor sells to the grocery store. The grocery store sells to the consumer. Is every point captured in the global market size?


According to Motoyama, Sadaki, and Watanabe (2016), "on a global scale, the carcass production of Wagyu is quite limited, equivalent to about 2% of beef carcass production in the United States (11,698,479 t) and Brazil (9,675,000 t), 4% of that in China (6,408,200 t), 8% of that in Argentina (2,822,000 t), 10% of that in Australia (2,317,766 t) and 17% of that in France (1,400,400t)."

      - Motoyama, M., K. Sadaki, and A. Watanabe. 2016. "Wagyu and the factors contributing to its beef quality: A Japanese industry overview." Meat Science 120: 10-18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2016.04.026

Beef production has one of the most unique and complex markets of any food produced. The cattle and beef industry includes a variety of distinct segments, and it takes 2-3 years to bring beef from farm to fork. Let's consider U.S. beef production. The U.S. industry is roughly divided into two production sectors: cow-calf and cattle feeding. Cow-calf producers keep a herd of cows that are bred annually to produce a crop of calves. Most calves are born in the spring and weaned at 3 to 7 months. After weaning, the calves may enter a stocker program, a preconditioning program, or backgrounded before entering a feedlot. Many calves are bought and sold through these stages of production which can occur at auction markets or as direct sales between producers. A feedlot is the final stage of cattle production where steers and heifers are fed for the slaughter market. Depending on weight at feedlot placement, feeding conditions, and desired grade, the feeding period can be 90 to 300 days. On December 31, 2017 (last available data) there were 729,046 beef cow operations with inventory and 25,776 feedlot operations with inventory according to the Census of Agriculture. The beef packing industry handles the harvesting of cattle and processing, packaging, and transporting of beef. There were 776 federally-inspected cattle slaughter plants in 2022 according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. At the retail level the complexity increases because of the number of different products involved and alternative market outlets. The retail level includes grocery store, food service, internet on-line shopping, and export sales. Each month USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board prepares World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). The April 2023 WASDE beef balance sheet pegged total 2023 beef supply at 31.066 billion pounds including beginning stocks of 723 million pounds, total production of 26.843 billion pounds, and imports of 3.500 billion pounds. Similarly, separate estimates are made for components of disappearance where 2023 exports are forecasted at 3.135 billion pounds, per capita consumption at 57.0 pounds per person, and ending stocks of 640 million pounds.


Answered by:
Dr. Lee Schulz
Associate Professor
Last updated on April 21, 2023