New data from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows meat processing and dairy product manufacturing are the largest components of food sector sales.
Food and beverage manufacturing plants transform raw food commodities into products for intermediate or final consumption by using labor, machinery, energy, and scientific knowledge. These plants accounted for nearly $267 billion or 16.8 percent of sales, shipment values, and revenue from all U.S. manufacturing plants in 2021, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census’ Annual Survey of Manufactures.
Meat processing is the largest industry group in food and beverage manufacturing, with 26.2 percent of sales in 2021. Meat processing includes livestock and poultry slaughter, processing, and rendering. Dairy product manufacturing, which ranges from fluid milk to frozen desserts, accounted for the second-most sales at 12.8 percent in 2021.
Other important industry groups by sales include other foods, beverages, and grain and oilseeds. Other foods include snack foods, coffee and tea, flavorings, and dressings.