U.S. Soy and the United Soybean Board conducted a recent consumer survey to learn what information about meat production methods, such as where and how an animal is raised and what the animal is fed, most influence consumer purchasing habits in both the grocery store and restaurants. This national, demographically balanced, survey included over 1,200 meat-eating consumers, and found some illuminating insights about the priorities placed on meat production methods, particularly the high value placed on the quality of the animal’s diet.
The results of the survey highlight key opportunities for U.S. poultry and pork producers. More than 75% of consumers were willing to pay more for meat knowing the animal was fed a nutritious diet, and 62% of them consider diet highly important. This is likely because consumers consider the top indicator of brand trustworthiness to be knowing that the animal was fed a nutritious diet.
The majority of tested messages, including “U.S. born and bred”, “Not fed synthetic ingredients” and “Fed U.S. grown grain” made consumers more likely to purchase the product. While these were specifically tested as on-package messages, they may impact purchase if used in digital marketing and point-of-sale materials.
Consumers also demonstrated a clear preference for feed they considered to be “quality.” Overwhelmingly, consumers preferred animals fed whole grains such as corn or soybeans to animals fed synthetic feeds. 77% of consumers place some importance on the makeup of an animal’s diet, and more than ¾ of those consumers prefer whole grains to some combination of animal byproducts, DDGs and synthetic proteins/amino acids.
Perhaps most interestingly, the majority of consumers consistently indicated a similar interest in animal diet, regardless of whether they were eating at home or dining out. Even when dining out, results hardly varied between quick service restaurants (QSRs) and upscale restaurants. In other words, swine diet is top of mind at all points of sale.
Poultry and pork producers have an opportunity to improve their products’ image and increase profitability by showcasing quality animal ingredients, like soybean meal, in their feed more prominently. Research indicates that consumers have a surprisingly keen interest in what animals are fed, and are willing to pay more for animals fed to their expectations.