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Consumers willing to pay more for pork chops, bacon at retail

Optimism for household finances to be better in December 2024.

Ann Hess

January 8, 2024

3 Min Read
National Pork Board

U.S. consumers were willing to pay more at retail for ribeye steak, ground beef, pork chops, bacon and chicken breast in December compared to November. However, consumers were not willing to pay more for those same items in food service.

According to the December Meat Demand Monitor, the combined beef and pork projected market shares were 32% and 20%, respectively at the grocery store and 38% and 14% at the restaurant.

“I think stronger retail and weaker food service, dinner meal demand in December (versus November) reflects both holiday effects (most gatherings are not in restaurants) and some pivot given household concerns around finances,” says Glynn Tonsor, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University and author of the monthly MDM.

In December, 74%, 51% and 70% consumed breakfast, lunch and dinner at home in December, compared to 72%, 53% and 70% the previous month. Twelve percent, 22% and 33% had beef their prior day for breakfast, lunch and dinner in December compared to 14%, 21% and 32% in November. Pork was included in 19%, 11% and 18% of meals in December, similar to November’s 18%, 11% and 18%.  

Launched in February 2020, the MDM project is funded in-part by Beef Checkoff and Pork Checkoff and tracks U.S. consumer preferences, views and demand for meat with separate analysis for retail and food service channels. The monthly survey is conducted online with more than 2,000 respondents reflecting the national population.

Freshness, taste, price and safety remain most important when purchasing protein, however Tonsor notes there are 31% more considering price a top 4 consideration (of 12 examined) than considering price a bottom 4 purchasing factor.

In December, only 14% of respondents indicated their household finances are better than last year; compared to 15% the prior month. Tonsor says wide-spread financial concern continues to impact protein purchasing decisions. Those indicating improved household finances report higher prior day meal inclusion rates of beef, pork and chicken than those saying their finances are the same (44%) or worse (42%) than last year. As for prior day consumption of key muscle cuts in the past month, pork chop and beef steak declines with the erosion of financial sentiment while chicken breast consumption is less sensitive to financial sentiment.

Tonsor says chicken breasts may be less impacted by financial sentiment as some consumers may decide to turn to chicken from more expensive items as their economic situation declines as well as view the protein a more consistent and versatile item that can be a main entrée or ingredient. 

While ground beef was not asked about in the December ad hoc questioning, past MDM assessments suggest some consumers also pivot from more expensive beef muscle cuts within the beef complex to ground, roast, etc. rather than exit.  

One note of optimism from the latest MDM was that the December data, using forward-looking questions, saw 30% expect their household finances to be better in December 2024 compared to December 2023. 

“This suggests forward-looking optimism relative to the backward-looking pessimism on household finances that I ended the base Dec MDM report with,” Tonsor says.

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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