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AMC 2024 Top 10 Takeaways

Midan Marketing

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The 2024 Annual Meat Conference was the largest ever held, with more than 2,300 attendees gathered in Nashville to celebrate all things meat. Educational sessions focused on what’s next in technology, sustainability and consumer trends, while the Exhibit Hall featured what’s new and exciting in products, packaging and flavors. The Midan Team was busy listening and learning throughout the conference to gather insights and bring you our annual Top 10 Takeaways.

1. Power of Meat 2024: Meat Consumers Focused on “Less” in 2023

Meat sales continued their roller coaster ride in 2023, with an increase in dollars but a decrease in units. Consumers were feeling lots of pressure on their pocketbooks due to the sustained impact of inflation, with groceries costing 32% more than before the pandemic in 2019.

But there is good news: 34% of households believe their finances will improve in 2024. Ninety-one percent can be persuaded to spend a bit more.

Here are a few things to know to help capture those optimistic consumers willing to splurge:

  • Maximize Trips: Tomorrow’s consumer shops less and buys differently. Trips per buyer per year were down 2.7% versus YA (down 5.8% vs. 3YA). Units per trip were down 0.4% versus YA (down 6.4% per 3YA). Promote value versus cost to win more meal occasions and optimize spend within the meat department.
  • Price Plus: Shopping today is driven by “the world of and.” Despite economic pressures, consumers no longer shop on price alone. They are concerned about “price and health” or “price and sustainability.”  Explore ways to balance the full spectrum of consumer wants and needs.
  • Protein: Meat’s nutritional profile and protein power still matter. “Surround sound” the protein message on the package, in the meat case and in your marketing.
  • Convenience: Hybrid meals rule in all but Boomer kitchens. Case ready favorability is continuing to rise, driven by younger generations whose meat dollars are growing fast.

(Power of Meat 2024, An In-Depth Look at the Meat Department Through the Shoppers’ Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, LLC, Sponsored by Cryovac®)

2. A Tight Labor Market Has Upped the Ante for Worker Retention Strategies

The national unemployment rate in January 2024 was 3.7%. Manufacturing has been hit especially hard – this sector added essentially no jobs in 2023 – and competition from outside the meat industry in areas like high-tech manufacturing is increasing. With more job openings than workers to fill them, it’s imperative that companies implement plans like a talent strategy and/or employer branding to retain employees. Recent stats underscore the importance of investing in your workforce beyond salary: While the top predictor of turnover is pay and benefits that are not competitive, 70% of workers would leave a company for better development and learning.

(Understanding Labor: Where We Are and Where We’re Going:  Alex Chausovsky, Bundy Group; Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group)

3. Coming to You Live and In Person: Beef Carcass Fabrication

2024 AMC attendees were treated to a live beef loin fabrication demonstration. The interactive presentation provided insight on where various cuts come from and was the first of its type at an AMC as a direct result of attendee requests. A major focus was the impact of primal-level fabrication decisions on the resulting retail cut mix, labor requirements, yield potential, merchandising opportunities and ultimately, profits. Educational experiences such as this one can be invaluable for those who are just entering the industry, or those who serve in industry roles that don’t allow for daily interaction with the products they support and sell.

(Behind the Meat Counter: Beef Carcass Fabrication: Diana Clark, Certified Angus Beef; Jess Pryles, Hardcore Carnivore)

4. Begin to Harness the Power of Artificial Intelligence in the Meat Value Chain

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to dramatically transform retail meat departments and processing plants. Three key areas offer growth opportunities:

  • Efficiency: automate to work smarter
  • Optimization: make better decisions to get more bang for your buck
  • Creativity: reimagine creative functions to become more productive

While data and technology are necessary for any AI transformation, people and process changes are proven to be the most critical factors for success.

AI technologies will also continue to be rolled out at the consumer level, in areas like dynamic personalization for meal planning, predictive grocery shopping and improved traceability via smart labels.

(The Use and Application of Artificial Intelligence – How to Make This Advanced Technology Work for Your Business: Matt Schwartz, Afresh; Alicja Spaulding, Rastelli Foods Group)

5. Animal Welfare Regulations Creating Operational Challenges for the Pork Industry

The 2024 AMC regulatory and policy update session highlighted the ongoing impact of California’s Prop 12 and Massachusetts’ Question 3. As deadlines for implementation of these animal welfare regulations approach, stakeholders across the pork supply chain are feeling the pressure to comply, leading to increased operational costs. Producers are grappling with the financial burden of ensuring their operations meet these new standards, resulting in higher input costs, while inflation-weary consumers are being hit with price hikes at the retail level.

It’s imperative that our industry takes control of the narrative by embracing emotional storytelling that highlights the positive strides we have made in animal welfare. By amplifying the stories of producers committed to ethical practices, we can counteract the influence of activist groups and foster greater understanding and support for our sector’s contributions to animal welfare and sustainable agriculture.

(Regulatory and Policy Update: Casey Gallimore, Meat Institute; Andy Harig, FMI)

6. The Meat Industry is Stepping Up Its Sustainability Commitment

This session highlighted the progress of the meat industry’s continuous improvement program based on science-based target initiatives defined by the Protein Pact and led by the Meat Institute. Members and non-industry allies are focused on effective communication to build consumer trust; the projected impact of consumer trust on daily protein consumption by 2030 translates to a sales increase of $17 billion per year. One hundred percent of Meat Institute members have committed to reporting on Protein Pact sustainability metrics by 2030.

The session also offered a road map for industry stakeholders to establish a sustainability platform that takes into account their existing efforts; most companies do not need to start from scratch. The three steps to get started are:

  • Conduct a sustainability program review
  • Establish an emission baseline (LCA or GHG)
  • Engage with supply chain partners

In the Exhibit Hall, various meat and poultry brands demonstrated sustainable practices already in action. On the production side of things, Forward Farms showcased their first to market, 100% carbon neutral raised beef. Regenerative practices were also on display with brands like Pasturebird and their rotating fresh pasture approach. Packaging companies also touted sustainable products, such as Cascades’ cardboard recyclable fresh protein tray made from 100% recyclable products. With more than half (55%) of shoppers trying to do their part for the environment through conscious purchase decisions and recycling1 this continued dedication to sustainability should only serve to drive continued consumer demand in the meat and poultry space.

1 Power of Meat 2024

(Sustainability in the Meat Industry: Status Update, Solutions, and Success Stories: Eric Mittenthal, Meat Institute; Sara Crawford, Sustainable Environmental Consultants)

7. Multiple Factors Affecting the Market Outlook for Meat and Poultry

Pork: In Recovery Mode

2023 was the worst year for pork producers since 1998; however, there have been positive developments in recent months: production costs are lower (and may continue to drop), demand has improved (particularly at wholesale) and is being driven by strong exports, and consumer-level demand has also recovered sharply. Expect consumer-level demand to remain near pre-2021 levels, which were historically good.

Poultry: Profitable Again but Still Facing Headwinds

While lower feed costs have helped poultry regain profits, the industry still faces production challenges: labor and logistics costs remain high, regulatory pressures and sustainability requirements are ramping up and HPAI is still a concern. Despite these headwinds, poultry is well-positioned for 2024. Anticipate strong demand at retail, as boneless breast prices relative to ground beef/loins are favorable.

Beef:  High Quality Drives Consumer Demand

Despite economic challenges, consumer demand for beef remains strong. Much of the credit for this goes to the beef industry itself for its commitment to ongoing, increased production of high-quality meat, evidenced by sustained growth in USDA Choice and Prime grading over the last several years.1 Furthermore, 92% of shoppers agree that meat/poultry can be a great price, but if it did not taste good, they will not buy it again.2

1 USDA, Projection CattleFax
2 Power of Meat 2024

(Market Outlook for Meat and Poultry, Randy Blach, CattleFax; Steve Meyer, Partners for Production Agriculture; Christine McCracken, Rabobank)

8. Women’s Luncheon: The Value of Mentorship

During a luncheon that was open to all attendees, the Women’s Meat Industry Network (WMIN) presented a panel of female leaders highlighting the importance of mentorship within the meat industry. A clear theme emerged from the discussion: To help our industry thrive and diversify, we must give back. Panelists shared individual examples of how they had sought out mentors, the specific benefits they received from mentorship and the immense value of allyship in the workplace. WMIN has launched an online mentoring platform that helps connect members interested in mentoring or being mentored. This service is free for members; March 25 is the closing date for the spring cohort. Learn more here:  WMIN | wmin.org

(Networking Lunch: Carving the Future of the Meat Industry Through Mentorship: Catie Cantrell, Heinen’s Grocery Stores; Sandra Sage, Clemens Food Group; Danette Amstein, Midan Marketing; Christina Gonzalez, Stahl-Meyer Foods; Drea Starch, Niman Ranch)

9. The Changing Face of the Consumer Across Generations, Incomes and Ethnicities

Consumers are feeling the pinch: Food prices are 30% higher than in 2019 but wages have not kept up. This has had the greatest impact on low- and middle-income households, who have pulled back on discretionary spending. With foodservice costs 4.3 times the cost of eating at home, lower income and older generations are holding on to retail, while higher earners and younger shoppers continue to dine out. Retailers should focus on meal occasions across the day to drive volume and think beyond dinner to get one more unit in the basket.

Online grocery in the U.S. is expected to reach 13.8% penetration by 2025. On average, 30% of online baskets have a meat item. And the news gets better: If you can successfully fulfill an online meat order, you’ll likely get a repeat purchase. Not surprisingly, younger consumers are the ones leveraging online grocery shopping: 79% of Gen Z consumers shop online for the same meat products they buy in stores, versus only 38% of Boomers.

Trust is key for diverse consumers, and investing in their culture to help understand what products they want and why they matter helps foster that trust. Three out of five Hispanics cite trust and control as motivation to reject online grocery shopping.

(The Changing Face of the Consumer: Sally Lyons Wyatt, Circana; Jordan Berke, Tomorrow Retail Consulting; Jorge Martinez-Bonilla, C+R Research)

10. Sustainable Packaging is Now a Key Focus of Government Policy

The U.S. packaging industry is at a crossroads of food waste and public policy, with an unprecedented volume of environmental legislation proposed at state (and ultimately federal) levels. One piece of key legislation currently on the radar is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which shifts the onus of handling end-of-life package waste to the producer from either consumers or government agencies. This is a complicated issue across the value chain that impacts types of packaging, who’s responsible and ultimately, who bears the cost.

When it comes to how consumers feel about packaging, 43% of consumers still say environmental impact is an extremely or very important packaging characteristic when making purchasing decisions. Most consumers also equate sustainability with recyclability.

(Sustainable Packaging and Policy Landscape – Where Are We Now & Where Are We Going: Dan Felton, AMERIPEN; Myra Foster, SEE)


AMC 2024 was an incredible showcase of meat industry expertise and innovation as well as a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues and other meat professionals. We’ll look forward to seeing you next year in Orlando!