Chicken continues to dominate the center-of-the plate, although American families like variety in their evening meals with many mixing their choice of dinner proteins throughout the typical week, according to the “2012 Power of Meat” report issued this week at the Meat Conference. Chicken is served four or more times per week at dinner by 10 percent of consumers, while 53 percent serve chicken one to three times per week, and 14 percent serve it less than once a week.  Only 3 percent never have chicken for dinner.

By comparison,  beef, is served 4 or more times per week by 10 percent of consumers, while 52 percent serve beef one to three times per week, and 18 percent have beef less than once a week.  Four percent of consumers never have beef for dinner.  Dinner choices have been “tremendously affected” by the economic situation, the report said.  Although overall consumption of meat and poultry has dropped, the popularity of less expensive kinds and cuts have “soared”, according to data cited.

Asked about what factors would prompt food shoppers to purchase more meat, 34 percent responded with “none of the above.”  However, this share was significantly lower than the 40 percent that so indicated in the previous survey and compared with the 32 percent found in the 2010 report.  Providing better quality of meat and poultry would encourage 36 percent to purchase more, up from 31 percent in the previous report but noticeably lower than the high of 49 percent in 2007, the first year of the “Power of Meat” report.

Open-ended responses from survey respondents varied, but more than one third of the suggestions to improve shopping for meat and poultry pertained to price.  Survey participants urged lower prices, more specials, more coupons, meal deals, and bulk discounts.  Out-of-stocks for price-featured products irked a number of respondents.  Additional information from the report is as follows:

  • Price takes on an ever-greater role in the meat purchasing decision process.  In addition to price per pound, solidifying its number-one ranking as the most important decision factor, total package costs is now the second most important decision factor, surpassing product appearance.
  • Consumer focus on price and value is further underscored by the growing share of shoppers engaging in pre-trip research and planning meals around promotions.  However, an even greater share compares prices while in the store.  The end result is greater shopper flexibility to adjust purchases to spend less.
  • The popularity of private-brand meat and poultry continues to soar.  However, rather than on outright preference, it is better defined as a greater willingness to purchase private brands.  This led to an increase in the share of “switchers”–shoppers who do not have a preference for national or private brand, but choose based on other factors, predominantly price.
  • Natural and organic meat and poultry experienced an uptick in the number of buyers over the past year to 24 percent of shoppers.  Additionally, 90 percent of shoppers predict they will buy about the same (70 percent) or more (20 percent) next year.  Retailers identified natural and organic as one of the hot growth areas for 2012.
  • Meat and poultry preparation techniques have changed quite a bit over the past five years.  Frying (pan fry and deep fry) experienced a 22 percentage-point decline in use, whereas more people are using the oven and crock pot or slow cooker (up 12 percentage points).
  • Knowledge about meat and poultry, including preparation, nutritional values, and meal planning is marginal at best.  When asking for advice on how to best prepare meat or poultry, family and friends are the predominant source of information, followed by digital resources, such as the Internet and mobile applications for smart phones.  Only 6 percent would turn to the butcher or meat department.  Yet, interest in a “here’s-how-it’s-done” type service in the meat department is moderately high, providing suppliers and retailers with an excellent opportunity to connect with shoppers in new ways.

Data for the report was collected through an online national consumer panel of 1,340 respondents in mid-November 2011.  Vegetarian and vegan lifestyle consumers were not permitted to participate in the survey.  Sealed Air, Cryovac Food Packaging sponsored the survey and report.  To download a copy of  the report and presentation, visit: