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3 Key Messages About Pork in 2023

Michael Uetz

Reading Time: 3 minutes
At Midan, we talk a lot about “sharing your story” with consumers in an effort to make animal agriculture more accessible. Those of us in animal ag must make a conscious effort to step back to understand the consumer perspective. Getting a clear understanding of what they know and what they value is vitally important to connecting with them.

Midan Marketing’s most recent research looked at today’s pork consumers – who they are, where they shop and what claims and attributes are most important to them. We also asked how familiar they are with fresh pork terminology they’re likely to come across in the future, as well as which of those topics they’d be most interested in learning more about. What our study revealed is that there are three topics that consumers are not familiar with but want to learn more about:

1. Breed

More than 70% of pork consumers report they are not very or not at all familiar with the term “Certified Duroc.”1 Though the only breed tested in this research question, it is one of the breeds consumers are most likely to see on package or describing a product online. It also tied for the topic consumers are most interested in understanding better, with a third of consumers saying they’d like to learn more.1 We found similar results in last year’s Beef Attributes research – consumers are familiar with Angus but not with other breed terms like Hereford or Wagyu.2 This likely shows familiarity with Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) as a specific brand rather than as a breed. This distinction is something to pay attention to, though. CAB didn’t try to educate the consumer on the breed itself, but rather how it contributed to the eating experience. Despite this, breed is still an important piece of the story as they carry a set of specifications, a level of quality and assurance of consistency.

2. Disease Resistance

As I talked about in November, a recurring theme in Midan’s research is that consumers are very focused on animal welfare at the meat case. This will be a good starting point for talking to consumers about disease resistance in pork. In this research, we found that half (49%) of consumers aren’t familiar with the concept of disease-resistant pork – and that’s understandable since this product doesn’t exist for retail sale yet.1 With this topic specifically, nomenclature is going to be very important. The opponents of animal agriculture are already referring to these products as gene-edited or GMOs in order to stoke consumers’ fears. This research suggests that coming at it from the angle of improving animal welfare will have the most positive response from consumers. Nobody wants our animals to catch diseases – not the farmers, not the consumers and not anyone else along the supply chain. Explaining that these hogs will inherit a gene that ensures they don’t catch PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) or any other disease has a higher chance of being perceived as positive animal welfare by consumers.

3. Crate-Free

Our pork research also asked about a series of terms related to gestation or farrowing crates, as well as “Prop 12 Ready” and “Question 3 Ready” – claims that speak to crate requirements in California and Massachusetts, respectively. When asked what they want to learn more about, “Prop 12 Ready” and “Question 3 Ready” each had about a third of consumers interested, while claims that specifically mentioned gestation or farrowing crates scored a little lower at 27% and 26%, respectively.1 This one is a tougher conversation because, again, consumers care about animal welfare. On the surface, larger or no crates seem to be the obvious choice for better animal welfare. But this ignores what those of us in the industry know about the aggression sows can have toward their young. My go-to way of tackling this topic is actually talking about farmer and rancher trust. According to the most recent numbers from Gallup, trust in U.S. farmers and ranchers is pretty high – second only to the restaurant industry.3 There is a huge potential here to let the farmers and ranchers be the experts and explain to consumers what they are the experts on – the animals in their care. Our research suggests that reminding consumers that the farmers making these decisions spend every day taking care of these animals and want what’s best for them will help consumers start to understand why we use certain tools and technologies that currently seem foreign to them.

Talking to consumers about unfamiliar or sensitive topics can be challenging. But, among pork consumers, at least a third seem pretty open to learning more, especially men, younger consumers (Gen Z and Millennials) and parents.1 As always, though, getting the message and delivery right will determine whether we resonate with consumers.

1 Midan Marketing, Pork Attributes Research, February 2023
2 Midan Marketing, Beef Attributes Research, September 2022
3 Gallup, Business and Industry Sector Ratings, August 2022

This content was originally published in the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s members-only newsletter Paradigm.


About the Author

Michael is a Managing Principal in our Chicago office. Along with Danette Amstein, he is responsible for establishing and maintaining Midan’s vision and strategic direction and works with meat industry partners to effectively outline business strategies and tactics to help them realize their marketing and operations goals. Michael’s long-term connection with the meat industry started on his family’s ranch in North Dakota and blossomed during his time at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where he met a co-worker named Danette. As a guest speaker, industry committee member and writer of social content posts, Michael has become a respected thought leader in the meat industry. When he isn’t meeting with our partners, chances are he’s riding a horse in cutting competitions or on a cattle drive in the Badlands. He also enjoys working out, watching movies, reading and spending time with family and friends.
Michael Uetz