Dennis Sun: And The Survey Says....

Ag Columnist Dennis Sun writes, "A recent survey conducted to measure factors influencing consumer beef product purchasing decisions found the lowest attribute – by a sizable margin – was having low-carbon beef, defined as beef produced with 10 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions."

January 19, 20243 min read

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For those involved in the beef industry, staying in tune, in touch and aware of what consumers want is a very important part of the business.

It is one of the many reasons we belong to livestock organizations, support the Beef Checkoff and are a part of beef promotions. Like all other food and food service industries, we know consumers rule.

Besides catering to the wants and needs of our customers, understanding those wants and needs is of the upmost importance.

A recent survey conducted by Livestock Economist Ted Schroeder of Kansas State University, with funding assistance from the Kansas Beef Council, was designed to rank factors affecting beef purchasing decisions by consumers.

This survey was a national representative survey of 3,001 U.S. consumers to identify and measure the importance of factors influencing beef product purchasing decisions. The results of the survey revealed numerous practices cattle producers can do to improve beef product demand.

Consumers completed a set of questions in which they ranked the importance of nine beef product attributes when making purchasing decisions. The respondents indicated their three most and three least important among the nine attributes.

Some key findings from the survey found participants rated product freshness, product safety and price and flavor highly, with the two most often ranked as most important being product freshness and price.

Also of overall importance were animal welfare, the use of hormones and antibiotics and supporting local producers.

The lowest attribute – by a sizable margin – was having low-carbon beef, defined as beef produced with 10 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions. Eleven percent did identify low-carbon beef as important, so it was some peoples’ priority.

This tells me most consumers are not concerned with carbon or realize with proper grazing, cattle are a zero-net gain of carbon.

Consumers thought beef product freshness was essential, which can be easily managed by packers and retail outlets. Food safety has to be the focus of the whole beef chain responsible for beef products.

This is even more important as we now have approval to import beef from Paraguay, where there is a history of foot and mouth disease. We need to keep telling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop allowing beef from countries like Paraguay and Brazil into the U.S.

The price of beef is a tough issue to control. With low numbers of cattle and a high demand for beef, prices are going to stay strong. Also, the price of beef should reflect a profit for beef producers and feeders and a reasonable profit for the packers.

Some consumers surveyed ranked price relatively low in importance, and we see this today in the demand for Prime beef around the world. This tells me a lot of beef eaters have value in a great beef meal, as they want flavor, juiciness and tenderness in a beef product.

Beef consumers need to realize in recent years, producers have improved genetics and methods to identify flavor, juiciness and tenderness with genetic traits.

Consumers are a big, diverse group as the survey proved. The fact is no single beef product attribute was ranked among the three most important by over much more than one-half of those surveyed.

They all enjoyed eating beef though.

Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit wylr.net

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