Americans Won't Forget Cheese When they Fire Up their Grills

May 21, 2015 11:08 AM
Americans Won't Forget Cheese When they Fire Up their Grills

Memorial Day is the single largest “beef day” of the year, boosting burger and cheese consumption.

The summer grilling season has arrived, and that bodes well for both cheese and beef consumption. The Memorial Day holiday in the United States is the single largest “beef day” of the year— the beef industry’s equivalent to Black Friday, ushering in the start of grilling season, according to

“Weather permitting, when shoppers head to the grocery store to stock up on meat and veggies for grilling­—cheese often lands in their shopping carts as well,” says Sara Dorland, analyst with the Daily Dairy Report and managing partner at Ceres Dairy Risk Management, Seattle. “Consumers purchasing beef choose ground beef half the time because it remains one of the most cost-effective cuts. And if shoppers buy ground beef—29 percent of the time they use it to make burgers”

U.S. annual at-home consumption of hamburgers ranges between 10 and 12 burgers per capita. Moreover, Dorland notes that when people grill burgers—over 70 percent of them prefer their burgers to be cheeseburgers. “That’s good news for cheese manufacturers,” she adds.

As Americans know, however, not all burgers are grilled and eaten at home. The American Automobile Association (AAA) projects that 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home for Memorial Day this year, which is up 4.7 percent from a year ago. “With more people traveling, it is also possible that more travelers will find themselves in restaurants along the way,” says Dorland. “And many of them will be eating burgers.”

According to the NPD Group, Americans ate approximately 9 billion servings of burgers in restaurants last year. That puts per-capita consumption of burgers eaten away from home at 28 per year, up 3 percent from 2013 and the first year-over-year increase in at least five years, notes Dorland.

“If 70 percent of those burgers are topped with cheese, that’s nearly 300 million pounds of cheese used per year for cheeseburgers, which equates to 2.6 percent of annual cheese production, assuming one 0.75-ounce slice tops each burger,” says Dorland. Adding burgers eaten at home to those consumed away from home shows that around 430 million pounds of cheese is eaten on burgers each year, which is just shy of 4 percent of 2014’s total cheese production, according to Dorland’s calculations.

“As grills around the country fire up next week—there will probably be healthy amounts of cheese consumed as well as beef,” says Dorland.

The summer grilling season has arrived at a particularly advantageous time for U.S. cheese manufacturers because plants continue to produce more cheese than a year ago.

“Additional domestic consumption could help keep cheese stocks at manageable levels as schools let out and more milk heads to cheese manufacturing in coming weeks,” notes Dorland. “Stronger domestic commercial cheese disappearance may also partially explain why U.S. cheese prices have continued to fare better than their international counterparts.”

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