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05.09.2022

What Meat Consumers Say Versus What They Do

“According to research conducted by Midan Marketing” may be one of my favorite phrases to write when I’m developing content for Midan or our clients. In my position as a Customer Insights Analyst, it’s my job to know what consumers are thinking, feeling and doing when it comes to meat. Little makes me happier in my work than when Midan has proprietary research I can use to tell the story of meat consumers. But because of the nature of consumer research surveys, I also try to be prepared to answer one specific question…

“How do you know if consumers actually do what they say they’re doing?”

This is a natural question and one that opens the door to explain the breadth of what Midan’s Customer Insights Team does. (And I love it!) Because, you see, while proprietary Midan research is my favorite source for talking about today’s meat consumer, it’s far from the only source we use. When given the option and resources, our team will always overlay our survey data (what consumers are saying with their mouth) with retail sales data (what consumers are saying with their dollars).

To highlight this, I want to explore data from a survey Midan conducted with meat consumers in March 2022. This survey was a general tracking survey, collecting consumers’ current thoughts on a variety of topics, including sustainability. We know sustainability is a huge topic and one where the industry and consumers aren’t always on the same page. The findings from our March research were in line with sustainability research we conducted last summer, with a main takeaway being: Consumers currently associate “sustainably raised meat” with “animal welfare.”

Specifically, the research found 43% of meat consumers think “sustainably raised meat” is meat that is raised humanely, without antibiotics or hormones. Additionally, 42% of consumers said sustainably raised meat comes from animals that are grass-fed and pasture-raised.1 Before sharing these numbers, I see if I can find retail sales data that agrees (or disagrees) with the research. Data reported by NielsenIQ shows sales of products with animal welfare claims increased 24.9% from 2019 to 2021. “Humane” claims increased 25.1% and “Free Range” claims 28.1%.2 As sustainability becomes increasingly important to meat consumers and since they equate it with animal welfare, it’s not surprising sales of products with animal welfare claims rose almost 25% – more than any other category NielsenIQ looked at. In this case, it perfectly syncs up: Consumers are acting on their values and doing what they say they would.

Compared to the amount of consumers who associate sustainably raised meat with how animals are raised/treated, fewer consumers felt a sustainably raised claim on meat should address carbon footprint (28%), climate change (22%) or greenhouse gas emissions (19%).1 Similarly, in the sales data, we see claims around environmental sustainability have seen a 16.5% increase over the last two years2 – a smaller sales jump than that for animal welfare claims.

This trend continues for the whole of our sustainability research, with the topics consumers think the meat industry should be addressing, from worker safety to waste reduction, mirrored by sales data that shows where consumers are spending their money.

This doesn’t mean consumers never misrepresent themselves in consumer surveys. Some experts estimate up to 50% of people in any given sample will provide dishonest responses on any given survey.3 (Hopefully those experts didn’t provide those stats via a survey!) They do this for a variety of reasons from boasting about their behavior to wanting to be socially accepted or not being able to predict or remember their actions accurately.

Experienced market researchers know how to write surveys that can reduce or eliminate the respondents’ need to exaggerate their actions; experienced analysts can identify when survey data doesn’t align with other available data and know where to dig to get to the real story. At Midan, the Customer Insights Team is careful to do both of these things so when we share data “according to research conducted at Midan Marketing,” we trust that it is an accurate representation of today’s meat consumer.

1 Midan Marketing, Meat Consumer Tracking Survey, March 2022
2 NielsenIQ Product Insight, Total Store: Total US xAOC: Year end 2021 – 52 weeks W/E 01/01/22 vs. 2YA
3 mTab, Why People Lie on Customer Surveys (and How to Minimize It)
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