The news on global meat consumption lends an optimistic outlook for U.S. livestock producers. The news on U.S. domestic meat consumption, on the other hand, is cause for concern.
While global meat consumption is projected to rise 73 percent by 2050, USDA forecasts indicate a sharp drop in U.S. domestic meat consumption in 2012, following declines which have become steeper since 2008.
The projected world meat consumption trend seems inconsistent with the trend in the United States where, for the past few years, per capita meat consumption has fallen sharply. In fact, “the average American will consume 12.2 percent less meat and poultry in 2012 than they did in 2007,” according to the CME Daily Livestock Report.
The global meat consumption trend will be driven by a growing population and rising incomes in developing countries, according to the World Livestock 2011 report, published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. It’s little wonder that U.S. exports of both pork and beef will easily achieve all-time records in 2011.
Several factors contribute to slumping domestic meat demand. There is no question that record high U.S. retail prices for pork and beef in 2011 during a period of high unemployment rates are a drag on meat consumption. Retail prices for beef rose an average of 10 percent for the first 11 months of 2011. Pork also is at or near record highs. Plus, with record exports, there is plainly less product available stateside.
When you add an increasing tendency for aging baby boomers to substitute a salad for a steak or chop, the reasons for declining U.S. meat consumption begin to become clearer.
Athough we can identify some of the factors responsible for declining U.S. meat consumption, the meat industry must still work to counter this negative trend. Domestic meat demand, after all, is a key factor in determining livestock prices. In the case of pork, exports are responsible for about 25 percent of U.S. hog production which leaves 75 percent that is consumed here at home.
Marketing programs designed to spur domestic meat consumption must address changing values as well as a changing, and aging, consumer. The new ‘Pork. Be Inspired’ advertising campaign, which was launched in April, provides an excellent example of motivating consumers to select and prepare more pork products. The pork campaign targets those consumers who are cooking more at home and are open to new recipes and new ideas. Tracking studies show that the campaign’s message of inspiration and creativity in the kitchen is resonating with consumers.
Pork’s promotion is also designed to address the changing demographics of the U.S. population and addresses ethnic diversity. Promotion programs directed toward the U.S. Hispanic population seek to increase pork’s appeal among this growing segment.
The effort has helped pork counter the overall U.S. trend. Domestic demand for pork in 2011 has remained robust, as measured by the demand index and per capita consumer expenditures.
By adapting its message to an evolving consumer, the meat industry can be successful in countering the disturbing trend of declining domestic meat consumption. The industry’s message must engage consumers in a way that addresses changing demographics while addressing evolving consumer priorities and lifestyle.
The effort will require research and creative approaches that are delivered via new media outlets, including social media, to the appropriate customers.
While the meat industry can celebrate the increasing success of exports, it cannot rest in its efforts to address the disturbing trend here at home. With creative promotions delivered via new partnerships with retail chains and by creating exciting new menu items, the meat industry can help counter lagging domestic meat consumption trends.
The sooner and more effectively new marketing messages are created and delivered, the more progress the meat industry will make in shoring up worrisome U.S. meat consumption trends.