Pork’s New Position During COVID-19

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges for the meat industry, quite possibly changing the dynamics forever. Processing disruption, the foodservice quandary, and consumer behavior will all be analyzed as the proteins work to find a home on plates. 

Recently the National Pork Board released some very interesting statistics on consumer behavior during COVID-19. The data, collected by numerous resources, is part of the new master brand strategy known as “Real Pork” released by the National Pork Checkoff. Real Pork is an effort to position pork and the pork industry better to consumers and to highlight the authentic flavors that pork presents to all consumers. As a meat scientist and a pork producer, I am excited about this new brand strategy and think it addresses many of the positive meat messages that we try to promote every day. 

It has an especially catchy name considering that “pre-COVID” we spent a considerable amount of time and effort addressing the nationwide craze over alternative meats. Consider this:

•    During COVID 69% of households are now making more than 80% of their meals at home. 
Consumers are craving more meal options from all segments of the food industry, which presents new opportunities for the meat industry to tap into consumer eating experiences away from foodservice.

•    During COVID 31% prioritize something comforting when cooking at home and 58% say eating at home with family is important to them. 
Could this present an educational opportunity for youth? Could this change the trend of eating out and pre-processed/pre-cooked foods moving forward?
 
•    49% of shoppers say their biggest challenge is either new ideas or lack of inspiration to cook. 
Again, big opportunities here for lesser known cuts of meat and creative ideas. There are numerous cuts that we (the meat industry) have not exposed our consumers to, creating numerous new opportunities!

•    73% of carnivores and 63% of omnivores agree: real meat is the best source of protein.

•    38% of consumers want to know about the farm their meat came from. 
Traceability is still important. Food awareness has increased substantially during the pandemic and it is evident in the recent explosion of direct-to-consumer marketing.

Although there have been many negative aspects of this pandemic for producers and consumers alike, it is critical we remain aware of the opportunities present for global meat demand. The appetite for meat protein is alive and well, and we will come through the current challenges in a positive position.


Newman is a meat scientist at Arkansas State University, a pork producer and president of the National Pork Board.

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