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How the Pandemic has Affected Meat Sales

March 25, 2021
Adams Fairacre Farms

Consumers Purchasing More Meat Than Ever

By Bridget Goldschmidt – Managing Editor, Progressive Grocer

Americans are buying record amounts of beef, pork, poultry and lamb, as more time at home during the pandemic spurred a 20% meat grocery sales increase from 2019 to 2020, according to IRI data cited in the 16th annual “Power of Meat” report from FMI — The Food Industry Association and the Meat Institute Foundation.

The national analysis found that three out of every four Americans agree that meat should be a part of healthy, balanced diets — up by almost 20% since 2020 with 94% saying that they buy meat because it provides high-quality protein.

“Americans feel better than ever about choosing meat as part of healthy, balanced diets,” noted Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Meat Institute. “With COVID-19 deepening demand for convenient, affordable food that tastes good and matches Americans’ values, meat fits the bill.”

Almost all U.S. households — 98.4%— bought meat in 2020, according to IRI data cited in the “Power of Meat” report, and 43% of Americans currently purchase more meat than before the pandemic, mainly because they’re making more meals at home.

The proportion of meals prepared at home peaked at 89% in April 2020 and remained at 84% in December, Chicago-based IRI found — significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels and especially affecting Millennials, who were previously the most likely to eat out.

The number of meat shoppers who bought groceries online rose 40% in 2020, and the majority of online purchasers (59%) said that they expect to keep buying about the same amount online in 2021, an indication that food shopping habits may have permanently shifted.

U.S. consumers are also taking up new cooking methods (ownership of air fryers grew 24%); consulting digital sources to find recipes (YouTube use rose 50%); and relying on promotions (checking digital circulars for promotions increased 33%).

“Shoppers are cooking more at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their confidence in cooking and preparing meat has increased,” said Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods for Arlington, Virginia-based FMI. “Further analysis also shows convenient meal solutions are key and that food retailers have opportunities to provide more choices, along with more information and education on consumer priorities like nutrition and meal preparation — building up what we call consumers’ Meat IQ.”

The “Power of Meat” study was conducted by San Antonio-based 210 Analytics on behalf of FMI and the Meat Institute’s nonprofit Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education, and released during the American Meat Conference.