What are the driving factors that make a shopper decide which cut of meat to purchase at the grocery store, whether to cook at home or dine out and how much to spend on those purchases? Those are questions the ninth-annual Power of Meat survey attempts to address. The survey, which was released at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and American Meat Institute (AMI) Annual meat Conference explores purchasing, preparation and consumption trends of meat and poultry products.

How’s, what’s and when’s of meat, poultry purchase decisionsSo why should you care? And isn’t this just another “survey du jour” that will change in a few days? Maybe, but this is also the type of information that producers, processors, distributors, retailers and food service professionals take into consideration when developing and adapting business plans. According to AMI President and CEO James Hodges, the meat and poultry industry is continuously responding to consumer demands. He says, “The variety of convenient fresh and processed products on the market today offer easy, nutritious meal solutions that are indispensable at that critical, ‘what’s-for-dinner,’ decision hour.”

Among the highlights of the survey, which was conducted in November 2013 among a sample of 1,406 U.S. consumers, were that the number of home-cooked meats containing meat or poultry increased per week. While the increase was slight, from 3.6 to 3.8 dinners per week, with misleading campaigns and propaganda aimed at reducing meat consumption becoming more prevalent, an increase is a trend in the right direction. Additionally, of those who changed their meat purchases in 2013, 36 percent increased their spending, up 9 percent from the previous year.

The survey also reports that while price per pound and total package price remain the top two factors in meat and poultry decision making, nutrition, knowledge and speed are increasing in importance for shoppers. Heat-and-eat, ready-to-eat and one-pot meals increased in consumer preferences in the survey. Additionally, health and wellness is also a growing trend in decision making for shoppers. According to the survey, 31 percent of shoppers put “a lot” of effort and 47 percent put “some” effort into making nutritious choices, and 78 percent of those surveyed agreed that ample fresh meat nutrition information is available.

For shoppers who participated in the survey, quality, strong customer service, in-stock performance and variety were the main factors leading to a satisfying experience in the meat aisle. Customer service and having a butcher on hand were important to consumers. In all, 58 percent of respondents said they were “very satisfied” with the meat department they visit the most.

It wasn’t all “check the box” responses in the survey, which included shopper recommendations to improve the meat department. Suggestions focused on four central themes of lower prices, better variety, better customer service, and freshness and quality.

What’s the bottom line? Meat continues to be the center of the dinner plate, and consumers want to purchase high quality protein to serve their families. As an industry, from cow-calf producers making genetic improvement decisions based on demand for a high quality, lean product, to brand managers working throughout the beef chain to deliver market-driven, consumer-demanded branded products, and to retailers and food service entities making decisions about packaging, customer service and variety, we have an opportunity to respond to surveys like this. We have an opportunity to continue to improve our corner of the production cycle. We have an opportunity to ensure shoppers continue to be satisfied with their meat and poultry purchasing decisions. 

To view the top 10 findings of the survey, click here