2018 Meat Industry Headlines

Wow, what a year! Change. Growth. Success. 2018 had it all.  Let’s take a minute to recap the themes of this year’s biggest meat industry stories. And look ahead to see how they’ll shape 2019.

1. Positioning Protein Alternatives: Protein alternatives (including the diets that go with them) are here to stay. And it’s not just vegetarians exploring this category. Meat eaters are also weighing their options at the meat case. The key to tackling this disruptive trend is to not be antagonistic toward it, but instead find a way to coexist. Of course, that doesn’t mean we stop passionately marketing proteins. Take a look at how you can best position your brand to not just weather this change, but to grow and outlast future disruptions. And protein alternatives will no doubt face their own set of challenges. Looking ahead, rules and regulations regarding the terminology that can and cannot be used to market these products are coming. In fact, the USDA and FDA have already said that they will have joint oversight over this new category — just another example of how outside of the norm these meat alternative products are. But that won’t stop the push to complete a total replication of meat proteins. The question is, “Are your products positioned to win during this time of exploration?”

Outlook for 2019: Count on the battle for the center of the plate to continue to be a challenge that cannot be ignored but can be won.

Dive deeper with these articles:

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AMC 2018 Top 10

At Annual Meat Conference (AMC) 2018, digital dominated. How today’s meat consumers are using digital to plan, purchase and prepare meals was the unifying theme that coursed through nearly every session. As always, the Midan team was on the scene to sift through all the learnings and compile our annual list of top takeaways. See below for our most meaningful nuggets, with the influence of digital leading the pack.

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Midan’s Reaction to Chain Reaction: Quick Facts on Antibiotic Use in Livestock

Mainstream media outlets swallowed up the subjective content of the recently published Chain Reaction III study, evoking fear and panic among consumers. The report wants consumers and investors to pressure the top 25 fast food and fast casual restaurants to move to meat offerings from livestock raised without the use of antibiotics. It cites consumption of meat from animals that may have been given antibiotics as a leading cause of antibiotic resistance. The report also calls for more government action and pressure from investors to remove such animals from their supply specifications.

At Midan Marketing, we strive to examine the news with both the meat industry and consumer in mind—here’s how you can be a cattle-lyst for the conversation.

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Resolve to Own Protein in 2016

It’s easy to guess what the top New Year’s resolutions are every January:  lose weight, get in shape, eat better, right?  (Raise your hand if you’ve picked one of these.)

The start of a new year,shutterstock_334226393 when people enthusiastically resolve to focus on their health and wellness, is a great time to be in the fresh meat industry. In order to capitalize on all the ways that meat can help the health-conscious achieve their goals, it’s important to understand two key factors challenging today’s meat consumption.

Fad Diets are Trending Down

Although the new year is the perfect time to promote lean meat to help build muscle and lose fat, interest in high-protein diets like the Paleolithic Diet appears to be fading. According to Google Trends, online searches for “Paleolithic Diet,” “Primal Diet” and other high-protein diets have been dropping significantly since 2013, reaching an all-time low in 2015. Plant-based diets, however, appear to be on the rise.

So, all those folks who were flocking to the meat case for their high-protein fix aren’t so much these days. But while high-protein diets might be losing their appeal, balanced diets are always in style. So while you might not get as many Caveman dieters, you can still lure lots of folks who are trying to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Lean beef and pork deliver the high-quality protein every body needs all year long. We in the meat industry need to make sure consumers understand this.

Alternate Protein Sources aren’t Slowing Down

While Americans might be fickle about their fad diets, their love affair with protein seems to be going strong. Unfortunately for the meat industry, people are often choosing their protein in the dairy case instead of the meat case. The current Greek yogurt craze is just one example. Many consumers have shifted away from meat in the past year. According to our Protein and the Plate research:

  • 70% of consumers said they substitute non-meat protein for fresh meat once a week
  • 20% of meat eaters said they are replacing fresh meat more often than they did a year ago

While consumers have an increased awareness of the importance of protein, they aren’t always turning to one of the best sources on the planet to get it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the meat industry needs to OWN protein!  We are missing out if we don’t shout it from the rooftops and plaster it on the package and all marketing materials.

Fresh Meat:  The Perfect Diet Food

Let’s face it:  those gung-ho consumers with their New Year’s resolutions might not make it to the gym as often as they like (myself included), but there’s little doubt they’ll get to the grocery store. Be ready with products and messaging that help them start the new year on the right foot, with the right protein:  fresh meat.

The time is now to communicate how fresh meat is the ideal protein source for a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure your websites and social media posts are talking about it and start planning now to get this important messaging in store and on packages.

Check out these “Protein Builds” videos from Maple Leaf Foods that effectively relay the importance of protein in a healthy diet.

Leave a comment or email me directly at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.  I love to hear from you!

Meat is the Bad Guy…Again

Even before the official report on whether red meat would be classified as a carcinogen was released by the IARC, I was approached by a fellow mom on the soccer field this weekend.   Knowing that I work in the meat industry, she hit me with, “So I hear meat causes cancer!”

And so it begins… again.  According to Meatingplace, “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has concluded that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans and that red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans.”

It doesn’t take long for the media to shorten that finding into the kind of inflammatory headline I heard on the soccer sideline.   No matter that the IARC reviewed a total of 940 agents for their potential to cause cancer:  the only one getting any attention is red meat.  (Other potential cancer-causing agents, according to the IARC’s report, include air and sun – really.)

Meat, as usual, continues to be an easy target. So whether you’re a packer, processor, retailer or allied industry supplier, you’re likely to face questions about these findings like I have.  This is a prime opportunity to review the scientific data in our arsenal that helps promote red meat’s excellent nutritional value.

The industry response thus far has been swift and smart, with both NAMI and NCBA weighing in with comments that give much-needed perspective on and context to the rulings.  A Q&A document presented by the IARC that delves deeper into the report also notes that their cancer-causing classifications don’t assess the level of risk, a critical point in the discussion that is often lost in the media frenzy.

To help you fight the provocative headlines closer to home, we’ve pulled together a few resources you can review to educate yourself, your customers, your consumers, and maybe even the woman sitting next to you at your kid’s soccer game.

Risk Bites Video: What does “Probably Cause Cancer” actually mean?

Meatingplace:  IARC issues carcinogen ratings on processed, red meat

Meatingplace:  Parsing the IARC ruling on meat and cancer; it’s complicated

Meatingplace Issues Story:  The Next Cut

Bending Gender Roles at the Grill

Yes, I like pink, and I wear a lot of jingly bracelets. I love every show Shonda Rhimes has created and own more bottles of nail polish than I am proud of. I totally embrace that I am a girl who enjoys fabric shopping and trying new casseroles. While all of this is true, I also grew up playing competitive sports, drove dump trucks one summer in college and should buy stock in Anheuser-Busch. I would in no way consider myself a tomboy, but I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty.

So in the world of “anything you can do, I can do better,” why is it that to “man the grill” is so gender specific (and annoying)?

Jacob Brogan discusses the gender roles associated with grilling in his article Grillax, Bro” and I could not help but question a few points he presents. While I do agree that grilling appears to be a male-dominated sport, I do not view it as a “societal trap” where, if sucked in, men are somehow waving the white flag to gender stereotypes. Instead, I look at it is a shared interest. If I wanted to be the Grill Master in our home, then I would learn how to do so.  I just have had no desire to dethrone my husband of that title, and am more than content being the Sultan of Salad. After reading the article, however, I was moved to create a social experiment of sorts. What if my husband and I switched roles in the realm of meal prep? I could still wear my ballet flats and he could keep his work boots, but the tongs would be swapped – salad tongs for Robert, grilling tongs for me.

But first, let me take a grillfie.


First of all – silly me for thinking Robert would choose to prepare a salad. His side dish of choice: a squash and tomato casserole filled with cheese and bacon. I went with a fairly simple olive oil/vinegar ribeye marinade I found on Pinterest.  After we planned our meal, I made a list, because that’s what I do and he said “Well, I think I’ll just wing it!” So off we went to the grocery store, and the rest was delicious, gender-role-shattering history.


While I had never even touched our grill, I was not new to cooking or preparing meat. I love trying new marinades and smashing chicken with my husband’s hammer to make stuffed chicken (perhaps I didn’t do that right), so I was excited about tackling the whole process. I felt fairly comfortable behind the grill, and had only one terrifying moment when I thought our patio would face a fiery end.  Robert fared equally well, jamming through casserole prep while listening to The Allman Brothers Band – air guitar in one hand, wooden spoon in the other.

Although I do feel more comfortable in the indoor, stovetop and preheated oven arena of cooking, I did enjoy my time behind the piping grates and would definitely do it again.

So what does our little experiment say about gender stereotypes and grilling?  Robert learned to grill by watching his dad and picking up tricks of the trade.  It’s what he’s comfortable with and good at.  But just because men have manned the grill since cavemen first rubbed two sticks together doesn’t mean there isn’t room by the fire for the females, especially millennial females like me.  We’re more likely to make grilling social (see my food pix on Instagram!), turn to our phone or tablet for recipe ideas (Pinterest is my go-to) and not be afraid to shake up age-old myths that only men are good at grilling.

Here’s to girl power at the grill!

AMC Top 10 Blog

At Midan, we’re always looking for the “golden nugget.” In Midan-speak, that’s the “ah hah” moment, the light bulb realization, the kernel of truth that resonates when we learn something new. There was no shortage of golden nugget learnings at AMC this year, and we are excited to share some of our team’s top takeaways:AMC team photo

1. Meat is losing steam with youngsters

– 60% of Millennials believe they can get their daily allowance of protein without eating meat (Anne-Marie Roerink, Power of Meat Presentation)

2. Sodium is on consumers’ radar

– Sodium has taken over 1st place from total fat as the most scanned nutritional value on labels (Anne-Marie Roerink, Power of Meat Presentation)

3. The more space retailers dedicate to value-added meat, the more successful they will be

– Higher-performing retailers allocate 30% (vs. 10%) of the meat case to value- added meat, to achieve 2.2 times the sale velocity (Steven Ramsey and Chris DuBois, IRI)

4. Provide a mid-week meal solution

– Wednesday and Thursday are the most unplanned meal days (Steven Ramsey and Chris DuBois, IRI)

5. Consumers love grocerants

– Consumers rank four supermarkets (Wegmans, Whole Foods, Publix and Trader Joe’s) among the top overall foodservice experiences (Wade Hanson, Technomic, Inc.)

6. US meat production IS sustainable

– The US meat production system is the most practical and efficient system in the world (Maureen Ogle, author of In Meat We Trust)

7. Americans LOVE to talk about food

– 25% of all social conversations are about food and drink, so consider how you can engage consumers to make your brand part of the chatter (Bradley Nix, Brand Chorus)

8. Meat is unfairly under attack

– The health benefits of eating more meat are being dismissed (Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise)

9. U.S. export markets are critical for the meat industry

– Asian markets are especially important for US premium meat exports (Randy Blach, CattleFax & Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, Inc.)

10. Red meat might be out, but alcohol is in?

– Proposed 2015 Nutrition Guidelines recommend limiting meat consumption from a health and sustainability standpoint, but indicate that moderate alcohol intake can be part of a healthy diet. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that none of the committee members are food or environmental scientists (Susan Backus, Vice President, North American Meat Institute Foundation)

Let us know your thoughts! Any key learnings you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

2015 AMC: THE Place to be for Meat Industry Professionals

It’s hard to believe the Annual Meat Conference begins this weekend.  As a planning committee member and someone who cares very deeply about this industry, I’m personally excited for this year’s conference as there are many issues to tackle with meat industry leaders, and many faces to meet and greet.

It’s no secret that our industry has plenty going on, as terms like sustainability, Dietary Guidelines, price elasticity and social media become more relevant every day.  The committee has set the bar pretty high for this year’s conference to address these issues and many more, and deliver an outstanding meeting.

The Annual Meat Conference is the one meeting of the year where our industry gets together to learn about and discuss broad relevant topics while sampling the best meat products out there! The 2 ½ days go by very quickly – make sure you don’t miss out on the following.

  • Education and Discussion: Conference speakers are ready to update you on hot industry topics like natural and organic, value-added meats, foodservice trends and food safety. This year’s workshops are designed to be both timely and comprehensive, to help you better understand the issues and opportunities facing the industry. Keynotes this year include John Rand of Kantar Retail, who will provide some thoughts on the significance of the meat department to overall retail strategy, and Neil Stern from Ebeltoft USA/McMillanDoolittle, who is set to provide us with a visual tour of retail and meat trends from around the world. This year we’re also fortunate to hear from the authors of two best-selling books: The Big Fat Surprise and Meat in America: Past, Present, Future.
  • The Power of Meat: Anne-Marie Roerink will once again share the 2015 Power of Meat (POM) research results that are always chock full of things you need to know about the ever-changing consumer. During the POM session, you’ll also hear my partner, Danette Amstein, share consumer insights and implications about a growing market and potential competitor for our meat departments, Farmers’ Markets.
  • Networking and Relationship Building: Every year, the Midan team looks forward to this conference because it offers the single best opportunity to network with people from all areas of our industry and get up-to-speed on the latest happenings. Additionally, the technology solutions booths were combined with the product tasting event this year, to merge into one big networking event. So you can taste all of the new products while chatting with vendors about technology.

I’m looking forward to seeing you in Nashville! Have a voice, get involved, connect with other meat industry professionals and take advantage of the Best in Meat on One Plate.

2015 Trends

Just like you, I’ve been reading about 2015’s proposed “top trends” to figure out which ones matter to the meat industry.  While some of the more far-fetched trends are quite entertaining, here are the three that strike me as most likely to have industry-wide implications this year and beyond.  Let me know if you agree.

crystal ball

  1. Meat case demographics are shifting… again

Two significant population shifts are resulting in smaller U.S. households:  more single Americans1, and more aging Americans2.  As more young adults put off marriage and greater numbers of adults transition to senior citizen status, the make-up of the meat case shopper base is once again in flux.  These “bookend” population groups aren’t looking for family packs or large roasts for dinner; rather, they need meals to feed one or two.
The old adage “Give the customer what he wants” has never been more relevant.  Retailers and packers should consider packaging smaller portions for a variety of cuts, not just expensive middle meats.  It’s also a prime time to think about vacuum-packaged  individual servings, sold inside a bigger bag, so customers have the option to use some now and some next week.

  1. A little consumer education about meat can save a lot of dough…

Did you see the recent Meatingplace article about University of Missouri researchers investigating how light affects ground beef packages? The goal of the study is to figure out how to retain ground beef’s bright red color.  As retailers know all too well, markdowns cost millions of annual lost revenue.
We’ve all winced when we’ve heard focus group respondents claim the meat industry “dyes” its meat.  If color is the second highest consideration for fresh ground beef (after price), educating consumers about what’s in the “normal” range for fresh beef should be a priority for our industry.  Just like campaigns for safe cooking temperatures, a program aimed at teaching consumers what an acceptable beef color range is could have multiple payoffs.  Of course scientific research is extremely important, but an education component can also go a long way toward helping consumers be less wasteful at home and retailers maximize profits at the meat case.  If you want proof that a consumer campaign can keep tons of food from being wasted, check out the award-winning “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign by Intermarche, the third largest grocery chain in France.

  1. Meat is on the move. Where will it land?

Inquiring minds want to know… could meat lose its prime entrée position? The Wall Street Journal recently noted, “Chefs around the country, and the globe, are pushing meat from the center of the plate – and sometimes off it altogether.”  Vegetables, my friends, are the new “it” food.  Foodservice is driving this trend, as chefs embrace veggie-inspired dishes and give them high-profile status on their menus. While some in our industry might say that we need to defend meat’s rightful spot, I say hold on a minute.  We’ve always shared the plate with veggies; they’ve been meat’s sidekick since forever.   (Think “meat and potatoes!”)  While I certainly don’t want to relinquish the center of the plate, or heaven forbid, give up the plate altogether, I doubt this current fascination with broccoli and carrots is the biggest threat to meat.  In my opinion, other issues like high beef pricing and consumers actively reducing their meat intake are contributing to this trend and are more likely to have longer-term effects on our industry.

On the plus side, meat byproducts are experiencing a reincarnation of sorts that is worth watching.  Bone broth is becoming very popular, thanks in part to the Paleo diet craze; Time even featured the simple soup in a full-page article in its January 26 issue.  Bone broth is rich in minerals and Omega 3, 6 and 9, and fans swear by its nutritional value, healing powers and beauty benefits.

These trends remind those of us in the meat industry that we need to look outward as much as inward, and take note of what is swirling around us that could shape our future.  What other trends should we be focused on in 2015?  Add your comments below – I’d love to discuss!

1In 1976, 37% of US adults were single; currently, about half of US adults are single – that’s the highest percentage in the past 40-odd years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read the Bloomberg article.

2In the next fifteen years, the number of Americans age 65 and older will have doubled from 2000 figures.  Review the Administration on Aging statistics.

Out of the Frying Pan…

The day lean meat became insignificant in America’s diet

I finished reading in disbelief.

Meatingplace’s article on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) detailed an eleventh-hour, closed-door decision to remove lean meat from the list of foods being recommended as part of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines healthy foods list.

This astonishing action by the DGAC could have far-reaching, drastic implications for the meat industry, and it’s time for us to speak out against these shady, backroom politics.

The Dietary Guidelines are developed every five years as a healthy eating guide for Americans. They also help our government make decisions about school lunch program purchases and other food, nutrition and education policies regarding healthy eating. Daily consumption of meat has been included in the Dietary Guidelines recommendations since the first edition was introduced in 1980. These guidelines are developed by a respected DGAC based on an extensive review of scientific evidence that meat is one of the most nutrient-dense sources of protein and other important nutrients, including zinc, iron and B-vitamins.

I guess I shouldn’t have been baffled at how the current DGAC could decide it is appropriate to strip lean meat from its recommendations. It is clear that some of the committee members have radical viewpoints that aren’t grounded in fact-based science. It seems these individuals were able to sway the other members of the committee, making it acceptable to incorporate personal opinions into government recommendations regarding the makeup of a healthy diet for the American population.

This bold move by the DGAC should be another wake up call to our industry. Those organizations and individuals who want to eliminate meat production and consumption continue to hold sway over how our industry does business. Not only are they working to change consumers’ opinions about farming and production practices in order to influence how we produce and market our livestock, they now appear to be in a position to make government recommendations regarding what we should  eat.

We as an industry must continue to be vigilant in conducting sound scientific research that shows the nutritional value of meat, and use that data to educate consumers (and our government, it appears!) about meat’s role in a healthy diet. If you have such research to share at this time, or you too feel that the current DGAC is way off base in removing lean meat from its 2015 dietary guidelines recommendations, I urge you to stand up and make your voice heard.

Please take some time to review the DGAC’s recommendations and industry comments on the Health.gov website. Then work within your organization and in cooperation with other industry agencies to monitor the timing of the Federal Register’s announcement of the final comment period, and submit comments that support the continued inclusion of lean meats as a necessary part of the dietary guidelines.

I believe this is truly an industry turning point. If we don’t want it to be a tipping point, we must not allow the current recommendations to stand.


Helpful Links

Details about the dietary guidelines development process can be found here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.asp#overview.

During the December 15 DGAC meeting, the committee voted to approve as its final recommendations for a healthy dietary pattern, a diet that did not include lean meat. Following the meeting, interested parties were given until December 30 to comment. If you’d like to review the comments submitted, they can be found here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/readComments.aspx.

According to the Health.gov website on the guideline, the DGAC’s recommendations will be submitted to the Secretaries of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture in early 2015. Once submitted, a Federal Register notice will be published announcing the availability of the recommendations, and another open comment period will be announced along with a date for a public meeting to provide comments to the Federal Government on the report.