Cost and nutrition concerns are key reasons why consumers limit beef consumption, according to a report released in the Beef Issues Quarterly, a publication supported by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Beef Checkoff.
Report author Rick McCarty, NCBA vice president of issue analysis and strategy, found that many consumers believe eating other meats is healthier.
"The widespread belief that it is better to eat more chicken and fish and less beef along with a concern that it is unhealthy to eat beef every day is driving about a quarter of beef users to limit their beef consumption," McCarty's report says. "The healthfulness of ground beef also is a limiter. Giving consumers accurate information about beef's fat and calorie content and nutritional benefits is important to both help them make informed meat protein choices as well as reinforce beef's value."
The study examines results from an online survey using a representative portion of U.S. consumers. The study was conducted in May, 2012, and received 3,048 results.
Two key groups are of particular interest to the study: Millennials (consumers born 1980-2000) and moderate beef eaters (those who eat beef one to two times per week).
Millennials generally believed that beef should be balanced with eating other meats, and both moderates and Millennials replace ground beef with other ground meats.
Microwave performance was also an issue for a quarter of consumer respondents and moderates, and one in five Millennials.
The lean finely textured beef issue has caused many consumers to be concerned about the safety of beef. Millennials showed specific concern about the treatment of animals related to hormones and antibiotics.
Though he found many factors that do affect beef consumption, there were several factors that McCarty reports are not significant to restricting beef.
Some hypothesized contributors that do not significantly affect consumption include: cattle contributions to global warming (71% said they have not heard this reason, or they don't believe it), water use by beef production (71%) and feeding corn to cows is unnatural (69%).
Though the hypothesized reasons for limiting beef consumption were not found to significantly alter consumption choices, McCarty says they are still important.
"It should be noted that these claims are not unimportant given that as much as 20 percent of consumers say they at least occasionally limit beef as a result of a few of these concerns," McCarty writes. "However, even those that are essentially non-issues regarding consumption should be addressed as part of the industry’s issues management efforts."
Read the full report in the latest Beef Issues Quarterly, found here.