On the heels of a solid year for beef, as prices remained strong throughout 2018, consumer demand for beef at retail is up 15% over the past five years, according to the latest retail sales data from IRI/Freshlook.
Driven largely by ground beef and loin cuts, which are particularly popular at the grocery level, strong consumer demand for beef is expected to continue into 2019; the USDA predicts consumers will eat 8.9% more beef this year than in 2015. This trend bodes well for grocers, because the fresh meat case is generally the largest perimeter department and among the most powerful in driving customer loyalty and increased basket size.
What’s more, consumers are increasingly seeking premium varieties, with more cattle in the U.S. herd grading higher than ever before.
"Cattle farmers and ranchers, and the entire beef industry, have worked particularly hard during the past 10 years to produce higher-quality beef, and that work is clearly paying off with increased consumer demand," said Bridget Wasser, executive director of meat science and supply chain outreach for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in a statement. "We're seeing demand for USDA Choice and Prime beef grow, signaling consumer desire for a higher-quality product. An increase in the size of the U.S. cattle herd paired with a higher-quality beef supply shows the industry is responding."
Strong consumer demand for beef spans beyond retail alone, with 97% of foodservice establishments reporting having beef on the menu, which has been shown to increase restaurant traffic by 45%, according to the Beef Checkoff.