FRESH MEAT TRENDS: Branded Beef Has Broad Consumer Appeal

Beef reigns supreme among consumers’ protein choices, according to research released earlier this year from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. Nearly half of consumers surveyed cited beef as their No. 1 protein choice, and 97 percent said they ate beef between one and 12 times each week.

The study, which aimed to probe consumers’ perceptions and preferences regarding meat and the meat industry, was the result of doctoral research conducted by Lindsay Chichester, who evaluated a range of popular opinions about meat.

Digging into details, 65 percent of consumers preferred some type of branded beef, said Chichester. This group includes the largest breakout group, 28 percent, which preferred steaks branded as Angus. Chichester’s academic adviser, animal scientist Ty Lawrence, noted that the perception proves the power of marketing. “A lot of that is obviously going to tie back to the recognition of a brand like Certified Angus Beef,” he said.

The term “Angus” outweighed any other branding term, including Prime, tender, organic and grass-fed in consumer perception, but branding with words isn’t enough. Consumers are looking for quality behind those terms, affirmed Lawrence, who noted that the data also indicated that customers “want a higher quality cut of meat,” among other issues.

Among the study’s other findings, most consumers — 83 percent — make their meat purchases at a supermarket, where competition rules the meat case. Of special interest to most is price, color of the meat, the amount of edible product, and marbling. “So, we’re still looking at price, color, yield and quality,” Lawrence observed. “The customers want the best combination of quality and cutability at a price they deem reasonable – and that’s different for everybody.”

Results further indicated 56 percent of consumers are willing to pay a premium for all-natural products. However, the survey also showed consumers were unsure of the true meaning behind a “natural” label, Chichester pointed out. “Producers should know they have a market for natural products,” she said. But it comes with a need for producers to better define and educate consumers about what those labels mean, Lawrence added.

The survey also pointed out a need to correct misperceptions. One-third of consumers thought eating meat from animals treated with antibiotics would make them “resistant to antibiotics.” Another 57 percent said they were concerned that animal mistreatment is widespread in the industry.

“We have some education to do,” observed Lawrence. “And we have a long way to go in showing our consumer base that animal husbandry is alive and well in production.”
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