Americans are expected to eat an estimated 54.3 pounds of red meat this year, which would be an increase of almost a half a pound over 2015 — and would mark the first increase since 2006, according to USDA data.

Crain’s Chicago Business is reporting that new menu items, protein-centric diets and reduced prices for red meats are accounting for the rise in consumption.

“Certainly there's been a big push towards eating more meat and more meat proteins,” said Altin Kalo, an analyst at Steiner Consulting Group, an economic and commodity-trading adviser. Increased beef production also is contributing to the rise, he noted.

“Suddenly there is this extra supply of meat,” Kalo said. “You're going to have to somehow consume all of it.”

The USDA is reporting that the U.S. cattle herd is at a five-year high, which has helped to drive down the price of beef as the country continues to recover from a cattle shortage. A pound of raw ground beef was retailing for $4.38, a 7 percent decrease from a year ago.

Source: Crain’s Chicago Business