More Americans purchasing meat since the pandemic began, study finds

The Power of Meat report from FMI and Meat Institute sheds light on Americans' meat eating habits, showing where private brands can improve their strategy.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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meat infographic

Despite inflation hitting the category, the meat category has seen sales increase nearly 4% since the pandemic began. The 17th annual Power of Meat report by FMI and Meat Institute show how the category has changed in recent years, and what consumers are looking for at the grocery store when it comes to meats, including private label products.

“The Power of Meat shows Americans continue to count on meat’s taste, quality, convenience, and value throughout another unusual and challenging year,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the Meat Institute. “The Meat Institute and partners in the Protein PACT for the People, Animals and Climate of Tomorrow will continue to deliver information and innovation for the 98.5% of American households that purchase meat, continuously working to support healthy families, healthy communities, healthy animals, and a healthy planet.”

The Power of Meat study was conducted by 210 Analytics on behalf of FMI—The Food Industry Association and the Meat Institute’s Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education. The report showed that 98.5% of American households still purchase meat, despite the rise of the plant-based category. The 4% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels is due, in part to increased home cooking, record-high online shopping, and a shift to digital sources for recipe inspiration.

“Shoppers’ Meat IQ is higher than ever, and the Power of Meat shows they are looking for even more ways to purchase meat and get inspiration for preparing meals,” said Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for FMI—The Food Industry Association. “Retailers are constantly working to give shoppers more choices in the meat department and further enhance in-store and online shopping options.”

74% of Americans describe themselves as meat eaters, according to the study. Meat department visits declined slightly less this year (50.4 visits per shopper per year), but shoppers spent slightly more during each trip. In response to higher prices and inflation pressures, shoppers are eating out and ordering in from foodservice less often, while trying to recreate restaurant experiences at home instead, and have adjusted retail meat purchase habits. Volume meat sales remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels for fresh (up 3.7% since 2019) and prepared meats (up 4.3% since 2019). 

Among the top-increasing meats, fresh beef volume increased nearly 5% since 2019, bacon 7%, and fresh lamb sales increased nearly 20%. More meat consumers shopped online than ever (61%, up from just 39% in 2019), and nearly half of meat shoppers (46%) today shop online regularly.

Americans are eating 80% of meals at home (down from 88% at the pandemic peak in April 2020), and 57% prepare four to seven dinners per week with meat. More than half of meat shoppers (51%) say websites, apps, and social media are their top resources for meat preparation advice. Of those who search online for meat cooking tips and ideas, 72% use Google or another search engine and 57% use YouTube, showing how and where private brands to target ads and recipes for their meat products.

The full report from FMI can be purchased here.