U.S. seafood consumption losing share to meat; growth has come from imports

Seafood products need to be more appealing to consumers says the Aquaculture Outlook report from the Economic Research Service, USDA, released today.
October 8, 2004

Over the five year period 1998 to 2002, total U.S. meat consumption (beef, pork, and poultry) has gone from 210 to 221 pounds per person on a retail-weight basis. Over the same period domestic seafood consumption increased by less than a pound, and most of that growth has come from higher seafood imports. To continue to expand their market at a pace beyond just the rate of population growth, the seafood industry (including aquaculture producers) will have to develop ways of making their products more appealing to consumers to gain a larger share of total protein consumption. While the major meat industries are much larger in size and have advantages in product development and promotions that their size allows, the seafood industry should have some advantage in the wide variety of products that it produces.

Aquaculture producers are likely to be at the forefront of seafood suppliers competing with the traditional meat industries. Advances on a number of research fronts are expected to continue to improve the production efficiencies of almost all aquaculture enterprises.

While most of the attention has been focused on primary production issues such as feed efficiency, mortality rates, diseases, and growth rates, more attention will have to be focused on product development, especially with respect to at-home food preparation if a larger share of total protein consumption is to be gained.

The domestic aquaculture industry is expected to face strong competition in the remainder of 2004 and beyond from both the continued growth in imports of aquaculture products from around the globe and from the domestic poultry and livestock industries.

Other Highlights:
Catfish Sales Down, but Prices Rise

In 2004, catfish sales by growers to processors are expected to total between 630 and 635 million pounds, down between 4.7 and 3.9 percent from 2003.

Tilapia Imports Up 19 Percent
U.S. tilapia imports totaled 117.2 million pounds over the first half of 2004, up 19 percent from the same period in 2003. This is a continuation of the growth seen in tilapia imports over the last several years.

Shrimp Imports Top 500 Million Pounds
U.S. shrimp imports in the first 6 months of 2004 totaled 501 million pounds and valued at $1.51 billion, a 17-percent increase in quantity and a 2-percent increase in value. Shrimp imports have now risen strongly over the last 4 years. Since 2000, shrimp imports in the first half of the year have risen from 290 million pounds, an increase of 73 percent.

Atlantic Salmon Imports Fall for Second Year
U.S. imports of Atlantic salmon over the first half of 2004 totaled 192 million pounds, down 10 percent from the previous year. This is the second consecutive year that imports have declined after rising continuously since 1995, the first year that separate data on Atlantic salmon was available. The value of Atlantic salmon imports for the first half of 2004 fell by 9 percent or $44 million and totaled $428 million.

Mollusk Exports and Imports Mixed
Over the first 6 months of 2004, U.S. exports of oysters and clams were both higher, while exports of mussels declined. Oyster exports increased the most, with shipments in the first half of 2004 totaling 3.1 million pounds, up 38 percent from the same period in 2003 and following a 29-percent increase the previous year.

Exports of clams also rose in the first half of 2004 after increasing in 2003, totaling 2.2 million pounds, 7 percent higher than in 2003. However, the total value of clam exports was down 22 percent, as the average price of clam exports dropped sharply.

Mussel exports totaled only 543,000 pounds over the first 6 months of 2004, down 25 percent from the previous year. The domestic market for mussels has been expanding as they become a low cost seafood item for many restaurants. The increased demand as shown through steadily growing imports has limited the incentive for domestic producers to export.

Ornamental Fish Imports and Exports Rise, Again
Over the first 6 months of 2004, both imports and exports of imported ornamental fish increased. After falling for a number of years, the value of U.S. ornamental fish exports has risen for the last 3 years in a row. Exports in the first half of 2004 were valued at $5.1 million, up 16 percent from the same period last year and 39 percent higher than in the first half of 2001. The largest market for U.S. ornamental fish exports is Canada, which over the first 6 months of 2004 accounted for 42 percent of the export value. Shipments to Hong Kong and Taiwan were also considerably higher in 2004.

The full Report can be downloaded as a PDF from:

Related Websites:
Aquaculture Briefing Room

NASS Catfish Production 

NASS Catfish Processing 

NASS Trout 

National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries of the United States (wild harvest