Chicken Growing in Popularity: Study

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Chicken Growing in Popularity: Study

It seems that consumer aren't asking "Where's the beef?" as much these days, as they reduce their consumption of red meat in favor of chicken, according to a new study by market research firm Packaged Facts.

The study, "The Fresh Meat Market in the U.S.: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Turkey and Lamb in Retail and Foodservice," said while the $66 billion beef sector still rules the roost, chicken increasingly was "what's for dinner" in 2008, with sales increasing 6.7 percent -- three times the overall growth rate for meat at retail and foodservice.

Chicken saw 6.3 percent growth at retail alone in 2008, compared to a dip in beef retail dollar sales, and a nosedive for specialty meats.

Obviously, premium red meats took a big hit as shoppers cut back their overall spending.

However, the contrasting sales growth for chicken isn't just due to its status as a lower-cost protein, noted Tatjana Meerman, publisher for Packaged Facts. "The healthfulness of white meat has been hardwired into the American consumer psyche, and now natural and organic claims give chicken a leg up among consumers looking for prime cuts," she said. Indeed, the study estimates that 31 percent of retail meat was labeled natural in 2008, up seven percentage points from 2007.

Natural and organic claims _ along with free-range or cage-free chicken, grass-fed beef, humanely raised veal, and crate-free pork _ resonate with consumers increasingly concerned about food quality, food contamination, and the environmental and ethical implications of their food choices, Packaged Facts said .

Meat branding also helped marketers connect with consumers in 2008. The report concluded that 50 percent of retail meat was supplier-branded in 2008, up 4 percent from 2007. This branding helps re-establish confidence in consumers, who are more likely to pay a premium for meat when they trust in the quality, said Packaged Facts.

Specialty livestock - such as Angus or Kobe beef -- minimal ingredient addition, cut variations, and case-ready packaging helped drive meat sales this year, according to the report.

Researchers analyzed the market dynamics for raw, minimally processed meat and poultry sold through retail and foodservice sectors, and provided market size and growth data from 2004 through 2008, as well as projections through 2013.

The Packaged Facts study also features retail vs. foodservice trend comparisons; global market perspectives, including import and export data; a Top 10 raw meat marketer compilation for 2008 and competitive profiles of major marketers; retail channel shares analysis, including self-serve vs. full-service/butcher breakouts and retail preferences among organic shoppers; and per capita consumption and demographic data by product type.

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