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Today’s Sustainably Minded Meat Consumers

Justana Schilling

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Woman holding vegetables in a mesh bag in a kitchen with her child

We see sustainability and climate change mentioned frequently in the news and hear about it in social circles more than ever. Corporate and personal commitments to sustainability are no longer considered to be taking a step above, but rather common practice. Two in three consumers say they are very concerned about sustainability, with most saying their worry has increased over the past two years. Sixty-nine percent of consumers say doing things that benefit the environment or people makes them feel happy.1 Whether it’s coming from a place of true concern or just to feel virtuous, consumers want to make more sustainable choices, which has led to more than half of consumers reporting sustainability in their top four purchase criteria.2 So how do consumers factor in sustainability when it comes to their meat purchases?

From Midan’s Meat Consumer Segmentation 3.0 research, we dug into consumers’ thoughts and actions around meat and sustainability in our new Sustainability Profile Report. In this report, the phrase “Sustainability Enthusiasts” was coined to group consumers who consider sustainability “a great deal” when purchasing meat. While only 17% of meat consumers fall into the Enthusiast category, almost one third of meat consumers think about sustainability when purchasing meat.3

Most Sustainability Enthusiasts fall into Midan’s Connected Trendsetters or Claim Seekers segments. Connected Trendsetters are the youngest among the segments and are defined by their connection – to the internet and to each other. They are adventurous eaters and act as influencers in their social groups. Meat is their main dish, but they have eclectic tastes and are interested in all protein types. Claim Seekers, a heavily female segment, pay careful attention to what they eat. They want meat and poultry products that are healthy for their bodies, healthy for the animals and healthy for the planet. This segment, driven by quality and claims, is most motivated to purchase meat that is organic, humanely raised, grass-fed or raised without antibiotics. Both Connected Trendsetters and Claim Seekers show an increased level of concern for sustainability issues over the past year. These consumers are specifically looking for and purchasing sustainability centric products in the meat case.

The meat industry has received a lot of attention when it comes to sustainability, and Sustainability Enthusiasts have varying feelings about this. One third agree that concerns about meat production harming the environment are overstated while another third feel neutral.4 Ongoing communication with meat consumers is essential as the definition of what it means to “be sustainable” continues to evolve.

The following are three key indicators to be aware of when it comes to sustainability at the meat case:

1. Build Trust With Consumers

Sustainability matters to meat consumers. Today, 40% of American consumers say they don’t trust companies to be honest about their environmental impact.1 One in three Sustainability Enthusiasts look to purchase meat from companies that protect the environment.3 It is essential to be transparent and communicate sustainability practices to help build trust with modern meat eaters who value sustainability.

From previous research, we know animal welfare is a key component to sustainability for consumers. A recent study found consumers’ trust in the welfare of animals raised in the United States is at an all-time high,5 suggesting the meat industry is working in the right direction to communicate humane animal practices.

When it comes to food and meat production, consumers name farmers as the most trusted source in the food system.4 Start at the beginning and have farmers help tell the story of your brand. Ensure your brand message includes a commitment to sustainability that consumers can connect to.

2. Despite Inflation, Interest in Sustainability Has Staying Power

Ninety-four percent of households report they are concerned about food inflation in 2024.6 Since 2021, we have seen inflation across categories impact consumer purchasing. Yet, over the past five years, we have also seen sales of sustainability-marketed products grow two times faster than conventionally marketed products, even as they command an average 28% price premium to their conventional counterparts.7

When we dig into purchase drivers at the meat case, 87% of meat consumers are concerned about the price of meat. Yet, 38% say they look for “better for the planet” products and labels when purchasing meat and poultry, up from 29% in 2019.8 While inflation is a real issue for consumers, they continue to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable products and willingness to pay for them.

Inflation has taken money from the pockets of consumers who are on the fence about buying sustainability-focused products, but for Sustainability Enthusiasts, sustainability is a priority despite cost. As more consumers begin to embrace sustainability, especially if a better economy is on the horizon, sustainability is likely to be more durable than ever before.

3. Consumers’ Priorities Around Sustainability Are Shifting

Back in 2021, Midan conducted our Sustainably Raised Meat Research, where we learned that most meat consumers connect sustainably raised meat primarily to animal welfare issues and secondly to environmental issues, such as carbon footprint and waste reduction. Last year through Midan’s Meat Consumer Segmentation 3.0 research, we discovered that sustainability connections have shifted. Now, nearly one-third of meat consumers said sustainability, in terms of meat and poultry, represented environmental issues (less impact, reducing resources and greater consciousness) as the top issue. While consumers still referenced animal welfare issues, they are no longer at the top of the list. Animal welfare must be a part of the sustainability message, but environmental issues have become the priority when it comes to sustainably raised meat.

Sustainability is and will continue to be on the forefront of product development and consumer trends. It is essential for companies and brands to respond to evolving consumer demands and communicate how sustainability is incorporated into their products. Sustainability Enthusiasts are leading the way for sustainable meat purchases, but meat consumers across the board are concerned about sustainability. Learn more about today’s sustainable meat shopper in Midan’s Sustainability Profile Report.


1 Mintel Global Outlook on Sustainability 2023

2 Bain & Company, The Visionary CEO’s Guide to Sustainability, 2023

3 Midan Marketing, Meat Consumer Segmentation 3.0, 2023

4 Gardner Food & Agricultural Policy Survey, November 2022

5 NAMI and Technomics, Consumer Trust in the Animal Protein Industry, Q4 2023

6 Circana, Top Trends in Fresh 2024, February 2024

7 Circana and NYU Center of Sustainable Business, 2023

8 Anne-Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics LLC, The Power of Meat 2024, Report sponsored by Sealed Air Food Care Division/Cryovac®


About the Author

A former member of the National Beef Ambassador Team, Justana now acts as Midan’s Insights Coordinator. As such, she will uncover, develop, organize and articulate insights into compelling stories. Justana’s education includes a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural & Applied Economics and a Master of Science in International Agriculture with a focus in marketing. She interned at the Texas Beef Council and in Australia concentrating on production agriculture. In her spare time she enjoys being involved on her family’s cattle ranch, baking and traveling.

Bridget Wasser