Study: Americans cutting red meat

Jan 31, 2014

According to a recent study, one-third of American consumers spent 2013 reducing red meat consumptions, primarily for health reasons.

The latest research from Mintel, an international market research company, reveals some 39 percent of beef and other red meat consumers ate less in 2013 than they did in 2012.

Furthermore, 25 percent of pork consumers claimed to have eaten less pork in 2013 than they did in 2012, according to the research. In contrast, only 10 percent of beef and other red meat eaters are eating more, and only 13 percent of pork consumers are eating more.

“Health trends motivating consumers to cut fat and cholesterol intake are by far the most dominant factors affecting the red meat market,” says Patty Johnson, Global Food Analyst at Mintel. “While some consumers are turning away from red meat in favor of healthier alternatives, there are still a staggering amount of Americans who partake on a regular basis. For many of those who are cutting back they are very well trading up to a higher quality meat product.”

But according to the study, 16 percent of those Americans who say they are consuming less red meat are eating less but higher quality red meat. According to Patty Johnson, this creates an opportunity to market higher quality meats to consumers.

Mintel claims that innovation in this category has been low for several years. Packaging may be an area for meat manufacturers to innovate, particularly to appeal to women. More than one-third (35 percent) of women would like to see more resealable packaging, 26 percent say they want individual sized portions and 23 percent would like to see recipe options on the package.

While health concerns are the top reason consumers are cutting back on red meat, the price of it is certainly another matter of contention, the study claims.

More than half (58 percent) of consumers in the study say they have noticed the price of red meat increasing in the past 12 months and 36 percent say it is too expensive to buy as often as they would like.

“The red meat category is facing a difficult future, as both health trends and price are working to discourage consumer demand for red meat products. The industry also has done little to innovate since the recession and therefore has offered consumers little to get excited about. This presents an opportunity for the industry to try to invigorate the market with new products, improved quality and improved functionality,” concludes Patty Johnson.

John Lundeen, Executive Director at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s market research shared some of their own research on the topic with WLJ.

“Yes, most Americans are still eating beef. Our total “eat at least monthly” number has not changed,” he said.

In addition, the foodservice sector has not faltered, with more volume moving through in 2013.

While adding that there has been some loss to “inhome eatings,” of beef, Lundeen said it can’t be narrowed down to nutrition.

“My gut says it is a combination of price, convenience and nutrition,” he said.

But the bottom line—the beef demand index clearly shows that demand is strong. “But most folks think that is just an indicator of high prices, whereas it really is the relationship of market prices to expected prices at a supply level. Numbers above 100 indicate prices above what we should receive at that supply level. But that is too complicated to explain,” Lundeen said. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor