Higher prices for beef and pork are having an impact on consumer purchasing patterns at restaurants. That’s according to the latest “Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report” by Technomic, Inc.

Rising prices for beef – and to a lesser degree, pork – will have direct implications for operators and suppliers through 2013,” says Darren Tristano, vice president of Technomic. “It’s vital for suppliers and operators to work together in keeping meat products cost-effective. Opportunities are emerging to explore different cuts of meat and develop innovative applications that cross-utilize beef and pork across the menu.”

Technomic found in its 2013 report that 92 percent of consumers eat beef at least once each week, and 64 percent of consumers eat pork at least once a week. The study also found 77 percent of consumers said they will change their behavior regarding beef dishes at restaurants if prices increase. Additionally, 49 percent of consumers said they would order beef items less often, and 43 percent said they would dine out less often if beef dishes increased in price at restaurants.

Yet consumers still desire to have affordable meat options.

“The vast majority of consumers report they anticipate purchasing beef at restaurants three months from now at the same rate as they do now,” Technomic said. “Consumers who expect to purchase beef more often at restaurants say this is because they want to try new beef items. This signals room for operators and suppliers to experiment with new beef offerings and use unique ingredients and flavors that can satisfy consumer demand while also justifying higher price points.”

Other findings from the report:

  • Consumers say that, on average, four out of every five meals they eat contain some type of meat, such as beef or pork; a greater proportion of older than younger consumers’ meals contain meat.
  • Consumers say that when presented with a choice of protein for a menu offering, they order the item with beef or steak about one out of three times (33 percent). For nearly as many occasions (29 percent), consumers order these items with chicken; about a tenth of the time they order menu items with fish or other seafood (12 percent) or pork (9 percent).
  • Roughly three out of five consumers say they enjoy pork served with sweet/honey (65 percent) and smoky (58 percent) barbecue sauces, glazes and marinades. Additionally, consumer preferences for sweet, tangy and chipotle-flavored barbecue sauces are on the rise.
  • Consumers are willing to pay more for beef products with natural production methods and eco-friendly practices, especially those with steroid, hormone and antibiotic-free claims.