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Educational opportunity remains on pork color, beef quality grade.

Ann Hess

February 6, 2024

3 Min Read
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U.S. consumers were willing to pay more at food service for ribeye steak, ground beef, pork chops, bacon and chicken breast in January compared to December. However, they were not willing to pay more for those same protein products at retail.

According to the January Meat Demand Monitor, the combined beef and pork projected market shares were 32% and 19%, respectively at the grocery store and 41% and 14% at the restaurant. Meals consumed away-from-home varied in prevalence. Quick service held the largest share for breakfast and lunch meals while casual dining led for dinner. Combined, casual dining, fast casual and quick service comprised 63%, 68% and 66% of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals in January.

“It appears there was an uptick in away-from-home demand, likely reflecting fewer at-home meals around holiday celebrations,” says Glynn Tonsor, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University and author of the monthly MDM. “That said, we did not see an uptick in financial sentiment so that is not the driver.”

In January only 15% of respondents indicated their household finances are better than last year, compared to 14% in December. Those indicating improved finances reported higher prior day meal inclusion rates of beef, pork and chicken.

Launched in February 2020, the MDM project is funded in-part by Beef Checkoff and Pork Checkoff and tracks U.S. consumer preferences, views and demand for meat with separate analysis for retail and food service channels. The monthly survey is conducted online with more than 2,000 respondents reflecting the national population.

Since the survey began, consumers have been asked each month four simple true/false questions: 

  • USDA inspects all meat sold commercially to ensure it is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled.

  • Cooking temperature is more accurate than color in assessing if meat is “done.”

  • White color indicates better pork eating quality than red color.

  • Select indicates better beef eating quality than Choice.

Consistent with past months, the majority of respondents in the January survey correctly noted USDA inspects all meat sold commercially and cooking temperature is more accurate than color in assessing if meat is “done.” However over one-half of respondents incorrectly responded to questions on pork color and beef quality grade information—another consistent trend since the MDM began.

“I think there remains a sizeable educational opportunity,” Tonsor says. “Narrowly, we regularly find the majority of respondents do not correctly recognize the role of red/pink coloring in pork and do not correctly recognize beef graded Choice is superior to that graded Select.”

In the January Ad Hoc Questioning, a new question was posed to consumers: “Think back to yesterday and recall the amount of time you spent in preparing food and drink for consumption, in presenting food, and in cleaning up your kitchen. Combined across those activities and all eating occasions at home yesterday, how much time would you say you spent?” On average, respondents indicated they spend 44 minutes preparing, presenting and cleaning up.

Tonsor says further analyses will examine the differences across households and the impact on relative importance of product convenience on meat demand.

“Given the importance of convenience in protein purchasing we seek to better understand the amount of time consumers spend in meal preparation, presentation and cleaning,” Tonsor says. “We expect notable heterogeneity across households both in time involved and in associated impacts on domestic meat demand. The January MDM survey is the start of this analysis and more refined assessments are underway.”

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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