Consumers' willingness-to-pay for meat decreased for all evaluated retail products and food service meals, except the plant-based patty, in February compared to January. Demand was also lower for all products and meals in February of 2023 than in February of 2022, according to the latest Meat Demand Monitor.
The combined beef and pork projected market shares for February were 31% and 21%, respectively at the grocery store and 40% and 14% at the restaurant.
"I think we continue to see the typical U.S. resident 'tighten their belt' financially as cost of living outpaces wage growth. This in turn is pinching both at-home and away-from-home meat demand," says Glynn Tonsor, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University.
Consumers also don't expect relief anytime soon as MDM respondents anticipate increases of 2% (or less) in retail ground beef, pork chop and bacon prices.
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.
Taste, freshness, price and safety remain most important when purchasing protein, however the importance of price increased most since January.
Dining in continues to be a popular choice for respondents with 74% indicating they ate breakfast, 55% lunch and 65% dinner at home in February. In February, 16%, 22% and 31% had beef the prior day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pork was included in 19%, 10% and 17% of these meals.
While the majority of respondents correctly noted that USDA inspects all meat sold commercially and cooking temperature is more accurate than color in assessing if meat is "done," more than half of respondents incorrectly responded to questions on pork color and beef quality grade information.
Tonsor says respondents routinely answer those questions incorrectly in the MDM survey.
"While there is always room for improvement in educational efforts, I think the broader meat industry also needs to consider how important some of these details are to consumers," Tonsor says. "For instance, domestic meat demand has had a good run (until say Q4 2022) while also having incorrect knowledge by many on pork color and beef quality grades per the MDM."
In February, 69% of respondents self-declared as regular consumers of products derived from animal products, 12% indicated they are flexitarian/semi-vegetarian, and a combined 11% indicated they are either vegan vegetarian or vegetarian.
One surprising find in the February MDM survey was role of strength-training or other fitness-related goals increasing in importance when respondents make protein purchasing decisions, says Tonsor. More than half of Millennial (1981-1996) and Gen Z (1997 or after) respondents indicated protein consumption is part of their efforts in meeting personal health goals - a point worthy of ongoing monitoring, Tonsor notes.
"I think positioning meat items to align with those seeking to meet personal health goals will continue to be an important opportunity for the industry," Tonsor says. "Having convenient, and desired package sizing is likely aspects of seizing said opportunity."