Ready or not, the 2013 holiday season, full of family gatherings, workplace parties, get-togethers with friends and neighbors and general holiday merriment, is here. While most of us typically think of turkey, pies, sweet potatoes and stuffing as Thanksgiving approaches, according to a Nielsen report, beef and pork fare well during holiday season spending on fresh food items. Nielsen is a global information and measurement company that provides market research, insight and data about what people watch and buy.

Beef, pork rank high in Nielsen report on fresh food spendingThanksgiving and the week of Christmas are the highest-selling weeks of the year for fresh food sales, according to Nielsen. Fresh food sales are 8 percent higher during the week of Christmas and account for 32 percent of total food sales during that week.

The produce section and meat counter are not novelties during the holiday season, and Nielsen reports that 82 percent or more of U.S. households purchase the top 10 fresh food categories year-round. Included in the top ten are beef, bananas, potatoes, onions, chicken, tomatoes, deli bulk meat, packaged salad, processed lunch meat and pork.

With spending higher on these items during Christmas week, Nielsen says quality and price of these key fresh categories is key during this high-selling time of year.

Consumers’ shopping carts are filled with food from more than the top 10 categories during the holidays. What other products fare well during the holiday season? Based on the Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts Shopper Insights, consumers are 2.3 times more likely to purchase hams, 2 times more likely to purchase baking ingredients, 1.7 times more likely to purchase cream cheese, 1.6 times more likely nuts and seeds, 1.4 times more likely to purchase shrimp, 1.3 times more likely to purchase citrus and 1.2 times more likely to purchase bacon.

It’s no secret that beef prices are higher than other protein choices, including pork and poultry. The Beef Demand Determinant Study, commissioned by the Beef Checkoff Program in fiscal year 2013, reported that one of the top three determinants effecting beef demand was price. According to information compiled by USDA and based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail prices in October 2013 were $3.39 per pound for ground beef, $6.82 per pound for Choice Sirloin Steak and $3.58 per pound for pork chops. How high will consumers spend? The November Food Demand Determinant Study, completed by Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, reports that consumers are willing to pay $6.71 per pound for steak and $3.97 per pound for hamburger. On the pork side, consumers were willing to pay $3.75 per pound for pork chops.

According to the Beef Checkoff, pound for pound, beef nets more sales for pork and chicken and accounts for more than 50 percent of meat-case sales, excluding seafood purchases. With the holiday season less than one week away, and consumers making their shopping lists right now, price will be a determining factor. So while children will be anxiously waiting to see what treasures are left beneath the tree on Christmas morning, beef producers and market analysts will no doubt be watching closely to see what proteins consumers choose to fill their shopping carts with this holiday season.