Cuts of beef from USDA

Consumers are stocking up on meat, causing the industry to focus more on retail products and less on the food service industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many industries to rapidly adjust to meet current demands, and Angie Krieger says the meat industry is no different.

“Consumers are shifting largely to retail demand,” she says. “They are stocking up and buying more meat.”

Krieger, who serves as vice president of domestic marketing for the National Pork Board, says that demand has caused the industry to focus more on retail products and less on the food service industry. Most restaurants have been closed due to the pandemic, although many still offer pick-up or delivery.

With more people cooking at home, Krieger says consumption of pork is rapidly increasing. She said roughly four weeks ago, sales of pork were up 89% from a year ago. A week later, sales were up 102% from 2019.

“That has gone down as more people have stocked up, but there is likely more pork in refrigerators and freezers than ever before,” Krieger says.

She says most pork cuts are up across the board. That includes ground pork and sausage, loins, chops and hams.

With summer approaching, grilling season is starting to warm up. Krieger says the pork board has been busy educating consumers about grilling fresh pork.

“We have rapidly changed course to get more information out about how to prepare pork,” she says. “We have reached 32 million consumers over the past few weeks.

“This is a terrible tragedy for so many people, but it is an opportunity to highlight the flexibility and value of pork.”

The beef industry has also made adjustments to recent demand, says Steve Wald, executive director for culinary, manufacturer and distributor engagement with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Wald says the beef industry invests a good deal of time and money in product development.

“Today the beef checkoff is focusing more on recipe development because consumers need to find a way to use the cuts they already have in the freezer,” he says. “We felt we already had a pretty good portfolio for consumers, so now it’s about education.”

Wald says over the past 25 years, the beef industry has developed more retail cuts from the carcass, most notably items such as the flatiron and shoulder petite tender steaks. He says this brings more value to the carcass and offers consumers even more options.

“It’s a long process because we work closely with packers and distributors,” Wald says, adding consumer input is always important.

Consumers have taken part in naming several of the new cuts the beef industry has developed over the past two decades.

“We look at demand to figure out how to best use these new cuts,” Wald says. “We like what we can offer the consumer.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.