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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

State of the Consumer

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dennis Sun

As we all know, times have changed since last March and, of course, the big gorilla is COVID-19. Life may not totally be like it was before last March as there are some changes to our lifestyle, which may not come back. Those in rural states may see more normalcy than other states, or at least we hope so.

            One of the biggest changes for consumers has been how and where to buy meat. They took the meat shortage last spring and summer very seriously. When domestic consumers went to the grocery store and found the meat case almost empty, knowing restaurants were closed, they panicked. The good part is they found local meat and liked it.

            A new report has come out from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) titled “State of the Consumer.” This report showcases the pros and cons of COVID-19 on beef demand. As many know, NCBA is a contractor to our beef checkoff and develops reports such as this. From beef producers, on up the chain until the beef product gets to the consumer, everyone needs to know what the domestic consumer wants. 

            The report showed that most everyone had concerns over COVID-19. I was surprised to see only 23 percent of those surveyed had concerns over getting the virus. I thought it would have been higher. Most everyone was concerned over the economy and disruption of childrens’ learning.

            The report showed people were buying homes and small acreages. If they had to work from home and the kids go to school at home, they needed to get out of the apartment in the cities. People are leaving cities for suburbia in droves.

            The report showed most consumers are uncomfortable eating out, so they are looking for easy-to-cook meat products, like hamburgers or meatloaf. But, they are learning to cook new cuts of beef, too.

The website has seen a lot of action regarding new cuts of beef and how to cook them. Not surprisingly, consumers wanted to know more on how to cook roasts and gravy. 

            The report showed 84 percent of consumer meals are currently being cooked at home and 66 percent said they will continue to cook at home. This number will go higher as grilling season comes on.

            Beef, specifically, saw a week in March with nearly a 90 percent growth year-over-year and continues to maintain levels consistently around 20 percent higher than last year. In fact, share of dollars for beef grew from 53 percent pre-pandemic to nearly 58 percent during the pandemic. At one point, consumers said 88 percent of their meals were being cooked at home.

The report showed 55 percent of consumers are stocking up on groceries in general. The percent for consumers stocking up on toilet paper and ammo have to be a lot higher. But, 59 percent say they are stocking up on chicken, 55 percent on ground beef, 30 percent on steaks and 13 percent are stocking up on plant-based products.

            Food behaviors are shifting, and after this pandemic is over, some will remain. Over 52 percent of consumers said they are more knowledgeable on how to cook beef and what to buy. All of us in the beef business need to track these shifts to ensure consumers get what they want – that’s just good business.

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