Per capita chicken consumption in the United States has risen from under 20 pounds in 1909 to about 60 pounds in 2012. During this same time span, beef consumption has dropped from a peak of more 80 pounds per capita in the 1970s to under 60 pounds in 2012. U.S. consumers eat as much beef now as they did in 1909.
Many different factors are possibly in play hereone being cost. A head of beef has always been relatively pricey compared to other forms of meat. Over the past 20 years, beef prices have risen drastically versus chicken and pork.
The rising costs of beef coincide with the decreasing total inventory of calf and cattle in America, which hit a 60-year low in 2012. This could be a result of rising oil and grain prices, as well as on NGOs that oppose meat consumption.
While this may be true, the energy requirement to produce 1 kg of beef is inherently higher than what is needed for 1 kg of chicken.
The rise of chicken can also be attributed to its versatility; beef generally takes longer than chicken to prepare. So not only is chicken easier to cook, but its also cheaper to buy and to produce than its heftier meat relative.
Chicken is also a white meat, which many people characterize as leaner than red meat. Red meat is claimed to be linked to higher cancer and heart disease risks. Red meat's stigma can't help but play to chicken's advantage.