- With consumers preparing to grill for the Fourth of July holiday, The Wall Street Journal reports that beef is the most popular choice when it comes to ground meat, representing a $12-billion-a-year retail market during the past 12 months ended May 26. Ground turkey was the second most popular at $1.2 billion.
- Still, consumers are increasingly open to burgers made from chicken, salmon, tuna and plants as an alternative to beef, the paper said. Some food companies are pushing the idea, including Hormel Foods, which in June launched a campaign encouraging buyers to “make the switch” from ground beef to ground turkey. Tyson Foods also has introduced shrink-wrapped packs of ground chicken and chicken burgers as an alternative to traditional beef burgers.
- Poultry burgers can be cheaper than beef — the U.S. Agriculture Department estimated turkey and chicken patties are about 8% to 15% less expensive than hamburger in grocery stores, something that may not matter in a strong economy, the Journal reported. Experts believe turkey, seafood and plant-based burger producers likely are fighting for second place in a world were beef burgers are likely to remain on top.
Although consumers are more willing than ever to try meat and burger alternatives, their appetite for red meat continues to grow. The USDA expects annual red-meat consumption in the U.S. to reach 110.9 pounds per person this year, up from 108.2 pounds in 2017. At the same time, meat production on U.S. farms has grown by nearly 66% in the past three decades, keeping prices low for hungry consumers.
That doesn’t mean producers of other meats and protein sources are giving up. They know younger consumers are looking for new flavors and healthful foods — opening the door for tuna, salmon or plant-based options. And despite a love of meat, consumers are seeking other protein sources to include in their diets, and companies are taking notice. Acquisitions such as Nestle’s purchase of Sweet Earth could become more prevalent as the global meat-substitutes market is projected to hit $5.96 billion in 2022. Even Tyson Foods, best known for its chicken, beef and pork, got into the act by investing in plant-based company Beyond Meat and cell-cultured meat startup Memphis Meats.
As friends and families from around the U.S. fire up their grills this holiday week, no one expects the desire for beef burgers to flame out any time soon.
Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO, told Fast Company last year that his business isn’t out to demonize traditional beef products, and that consumers have a strong attachment to the taste and texture of meat. Instead, he thinks producers of beef, pork, chicken and meat alternatives can work together and learn from one another to bring people the burgers and protein products they want.
It seems that as long as the economy is healthy – and President Trump’s proposed tariffs don’t negatively impact the meat industry – consumers will continue to eat both beef burgers and meat-alternatives at a healthy rate even as more players come to the table.