American consumers want to know the story behind the meat they purchase – how the animals were raised, what they were fed, how they were treated.

That consumer trend was confirmed by the 12th annual Power of Meat study announced by the Food Marketing Institute and the North American Meat Institute last week during the Annual Meat Conference in Dallas.

The Power of Meat study, sponsored by Sealed Air and conducted by 210 Analytics, revealed that when deciding where to shop for food, meat ranks as the third-most important department in that decision. The research found that meat sales make up between 20% of weekly sales for most supermarkets up to as high as 40% for some independent stores.

Additionally, the Power of Meat study found double-digit growth for organic, antibiotic/hormone free, grass-fed and other special attributes of meat products. Shoppers are rewarding brands for the innovation and increasingly equate quality with brands, including national manufacturer, small/regional manufacturer and store brands.

Shoppers report high interest in expanded assortment of all these items as well as claims relative to better treatment of the animals and greater environmental stewardship.  

While consumers are drawn to branded meat products, the study also found that trips to the grocery store were down 2% year-over-year, especially among younger shoppers. The millennial generation, those born between 1977 and 2000, take only 96 trips per year to the supermarket, compared with 119 trips on average across all age groups.

Still, price per pound has the greatest influence on meat purchases, and the Power of Meat study found lower retail meat prices are driving increased volume of sales.

Convenience meat and poultry items are viewed as a growth segment, with robust volume increases. It’s a category valued by high-income, convenience shoppers with price, quality and freshness perceptions identified as possible hurdles to wider adoption.