Perhaps more than ever before, consumers want to know about what’s in their meat and poultry, how it was raised and where it came from. This need to know taps a breadth of concerns related to food healthfulness and sustainable practices, as discussed in the Packaged Facts report, Meat, Poultry and Seafood: Restaurant Trends and Opportunities.
For many consumers, choosing a meat and poultry dish revolves around keeping it real: they seek all-natural choices that reflect their desire to keep human intervention they perceive as negative out of the process.
- More than 6 in 10 restaurant meat and poultry eaters say that “all natural” is important to them when selecting meat/poultry dishes at a restaurant.
Animal welfare and sustainability also play a role in their decision, as does how the animal is fed—grass or vegetarian, for example. In this respect, consumers are likely weighing the effect of feeding choice on the quality, taste and healthfulness of the dish.
And local is more important than ever. The percentage of consumers who make an extra effort to buy local should crack 50% within the next couple of years, in the face of widening concerns about where food comes from.
But in the era of global supply chains, local is also relative: the United States serves as its’ consumers’ backyard. Everything from trout to berries to steaks now comes from the far corners of the world to the local supermarket or restaurant, which can bring a litany of questions and concerns to U.S. consumers lips—and helps explain why meat and poultry from America’s own backyard wins hands down.
- Some 40% of restaurant meat/poultry eaters give it a “5”, and another 39% give it a “4” on a scale 5-point scale ranging “poor quality” (1) to “excellent quality” (5). “Local” meat and poultry is right behind it, with 41% giving it a “5” and 37% giving it a “4.”
- Among seven remaining choices, China and India score the lowest: only 7% give meat/poultry from China a “5,” and 52% give it less than a “3”; scores for India are only slightly better.
In this regard, touting “grown in the U.S.A.” is not only about patriotism and jobs—it goes to the heart of consumers’ concerns about food quality and safety. A pessimist could argue, “better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t”; an optimist could argue that the U.S. is renowned around the world for quality control and strong, consistent food regulation that is hard to beat on a global stage. In either case, U.S. meat and poultry providers should make their homegrown advantage loud and clear on their packaging.
-- By David Morris