No cause for Angusangst

You heart what you meat.
Courtesy photo

Identifying the typical behavior of consumers during times that are anything but typical has been one of the tasks of the NCBA market research team.

Shawn Darcy, director of market research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in the first quarter of 2020, most American consumers were eating beef and chicken on a weekly or more basis, 71 and 83 percent respectively. Meat alternatives weighed in at 29 percent but do include more traditional proteins in addition to newer replacements.

During his virtual presentation for the Beef Improvement Federation, Darcy said consumer perceptions of beef have increased slightly but still lag behind consumer perceptions of chicken by 7 percent. Even so, he said most consumer perceptions are positive or neutral, rather than negative. From 2018, year over data shows a growth in consumers’ confidence in beef as being free from hormones, raised humanely, environmentally friendly, raised without antibiotics, and other attributes important to consumers. Perhaps most notably, Darcy said when consumers are asked about how livestock is raised, perceptions about beef are more positive than chicken and negative beef perceptions are down to 44 percent from nearly 70 percent previously. About a third of consumers are neutral for both chicken and beef production.

About 29 percent of consumers say they have some concerns about animal welfare while concerns about hormones, antibiotics, and environmental impact are all at or below 6 percent. When consumers were asked about their familiarity of cattle production, 27 percent said they’re unfamiliar though the majority consider where and how their food is raised.

The Beef Quality Assurance program, he said, is being used to educate consumers so they are more confident in beef safety and humane treatment and is doing exactly that. With the goal of representing conventionally raised beef, or the beef consumers can access at the grocery store, market research is showing that 70 percent of consumers are more confident in safety and 67 percent are more confident that cattle are treated humanely.

During three major focus groups, market researchers tracked engagement with the BQA videos and reported a jump in engagement when the nostalgic music and “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” slogan appeared, something Darcy said speaks volumes for the branding work.

Due to COVID and more meals being consumed at home, Darcy said beef is seeing a year over year increase of about 26 percent in beef consumption. Not surprisingly, full-service restaurant transactions are far down but are beginning to come back. Concern for food shortages are also leveling out. As more people are working from home, nearly 70 percent of consumers are ordering groceries online. Most of those who are doing so, are doing so monthly, are younger than 45 years of age, have kids at home, and are middle to higher income. For nearly half, it is a shopping trend they plan to continue.

The Beef Improvement Federation Research Symposium ran June 8-12 and sessions are available online at ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at or (970) 768-0024.