Consumer Trends and Beef Cattle
Today’s Consumer’s are on the
Today’s consumer is fast paced, constantly on the go, and therefore, has less time to
get dinner ready. As a result, buyers are looking for quick, easy solutions that don’t involve extensive
For the beef rancher, this means huge steaks are falling out of favor for those
shopping for home dinners. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that beef requires longer preparation, and
consumers have taken to other meals that have used new techniques to limit prep time and get the food on the plate
faster. A lot of consumer’s today are looking for easy packaged, easy to purchase, easy-to-heat meals. The beef
industry as a whole has made it a goal to appeal to this newfound desire for quick, on-the-go meals.
The good news is that beef has not, nor will it, fall out of favor. It has always been
a favorite dinner, especially among males, and restaurant sales of beef have remained consistently strong, with
many diners seeing a nice filet as a treat to be eaten only when out to dinner.
Cutting Through the Clutter
With the average consumer bombarded by 5,000 marketing messages a day, many of
the related to the food they eat, there is a growing confusion over what is considered healthy and what is not. Fad
diets, different studies and changing food pyramids create a sense of confusion among consumers over nutrition and
it often difficult for them to cut through the clutter and find out where the nutritional and healthy truth
The growing grass-fed ranching community aims to capitalize on this by offering beef
raised on what is marketed as "sustainable" farms. Under this moniker, cattle are also touted as naturally fed,
free of chemicals and supplements. This has growing appeal among today’s consumer, and, for the rancher, this label
can and does fetch a higher price.
But here again exists confusion. There is currently no firm, regulated standard as to
what does and does not qualify as "grass fed" beef. Though the USDA is working with the industry to establish
labeling guidelines, this too has confused consumers, who are still awaiting word on the health impacts of eating
Researchers from various foundations and groups are studying the various and changing
habits of today’s consumer to better understand how the beef industry needs to adapt, if at all, to keep pace.
Beef, It is what’s for dinner
While overall beef consumption in America has waned over the last few years,
there has been a noticeable increase in demand in the past few years.
Few deny that health, convenience and, most importantly, taste, are driving consumer
habits these days when it comes to eating and nutrition. Fad diets, such as the Atkins and the South Beach
programs, definitely spurred an increased demand for a good steak, but generally, statisticians and consumer groups
point to healthier conscious consumers and the convenience of today’s ready-to-eat meals as two of the main factors
driving down overall beef consumption.
But lately, since 1999, economists point to an increased demand in beef consumption
driven by economic, rather than nutritional, factors. The availability of heat-and-eat products such as hamburgers,
briskets and stir fry’s has appealed to today’s on-the-go American. For smaller ranchers, this trend toward the
ready-to-eat is not exactly consoling, as the production capabilities needed and the slick, multi-million dollar
marketing is just not possible for today’s smaller ranchers.
Cooperative Extension and Beef Cattle