Meat has always been a staple of the American dinner plate, but how consumers choose to consume it is constantly changing. Along with a new focus on plant-based diets and the introduction of alternative proteins and "meatless meats," what Americans find important for the animal protein they do consume has also evolved.
Consumers are increasingly looking for meats with labels such as natural, organic, antibiotic-free and hormone-free. Between 2011 and 2015, compound annual sales growth of conventional meat was only at 4.6%, while products labeled natural, antibiotic-free, organic and hormone-free increased 14.6%, 28.7%, 28.6% and 44%, respectively, according to Nielsen. Meat products labeled minimally-processed, though, declined 1.6%, suggesting consumers are looking for more specific labeling.
Despite this rise in sales, natural, organic, antibiotic-free and hormone-free products only represent a small portion of the overall meat sector. In 2015, 6% of products in the meat department were labeled natural, 2% were minimally processed, 3% were antibiotic free, 3% were hormone free and 1% were organic.
Younger Americans are also more open to consuming animal fats now than they were a year ago, according to research from Coast Packing Company and Ipsos Research. Overall, 13 percent of all consumers are receptive to animal fats, up 9 percent from a year ago. Nine percent also say their consumption has increased.
Almost a quarter of Millennials are open to animal fats in their diet, and 20 percent have increased their intake of them. Age is still the most decisive differentiator among the demographics, with a greater percentage of those 55 and up less open to animal fats than any other age group, almost double the response from Millennials.
In terms of gender, 18 percent of men are now open to animal fats, compared to only 8 percent of women. Fourteen percent of men have increased their intake of animal fats, while only 5 percent of women report the same.
This may be a sign of trends to come, as consumers may not be fully turning away from animal meats and fats, but instead looking for new ways to consume them. Eric R. Gustafson, CEO of Coast Packing, notes, "Clearly, healthy animal fats like lard and beef tallow are back, proving that last year's survey was not an aberration. Everything old is new again, or so the expression goes."