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Ground pork offers versatility in the meat counter and at home
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Ground pork offers versatility in the meat counter and at home

Farm families who butcher their own pigs know the value of high-quality ground pork. Now, consumers are finding that ground pork can serve as a nutritious and delicious protein source.

Ground pork came into favor during the 2020 COVID pandemic when households turned to home cooking.

Recipes for pork tacos, meatloaf, sloppy joes, meatballs, casseroles, and burgers were easy to find online.

It didn’t take long for the National Pork Board to learn consumers were buying ground pork for recipes and using the pork within a few days of bringing it home.

“Ground pork sales surged during 2020, up 18 percent and outpaced poultry,” according to information from the National Pork Board. Through 210 Analytics, NPB’s third-party data analytics resource, they found that 50 percent of households that purchased ground pork in 2020 were new to the product. Consumer research also showed that grocery shoppers were making specific recipes like egg roll in a bowl or wontons.

The households were younger, and 90 percent of those reached for comment said they planned to purchase ground pork again.

To learn more about consumer interest, the Pork Checkoff reset meat cases in 35 Hy-Vee stores in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska this year.

They wanted to see if showcasing ground pork, traditionally an inexpensive and unfeatured protein, could increase meat sales in 2021.

The test expands the number of “facings” available on the shelf and included two ground pork items from Hormel (1-pound chubs and 1-pound tray packs), as well as pork burgers, unseasoned pork sausage, and Italian sausage.

With a goal of clearly merchandising ground pork and making it easy for consumers to find it, the test began in July and runs through November 2021. Early feedback suggests ground pork sales are up slightly from the very robust 2020 sales.

National ground pork sales are up nearly 23 percent from July 2019.

Additional results will be published after the study is done. The National Pork Board will report their results to the industry through internal channels, as well as via porkcheckoff.org.

The concept of ground pork has piqued the interest of the National Pork Board. The product has a lot of room for growth. Late 2020/early 2021 studies determined that consumers want to purchase fresh ground pork displayed on a foam tray package and overwrapped. They especially like the idea that a butcher had freshly ground and packaged the ground pork. Chub/tube packaging or square brick packaging were viewed as environmentally friendly, but not as appealing.

Most importantly, ground pork packaging hasn’t published the lean-to-fat ratio, but the Pork Checkoff is working to change that going forward. Shoppers need a variety of lean content products to create their best pork dishes.

The National Pork Board is now working with retailers and packers to offer different lean contents (80/20, 85/15, 90/10).

The checkoff group will continue to see how ground pork can fit into the U.S. consumer’s diet.

Thank you to Katelyn Gradert, Minnesota Pork Board director of communications, for providing this information from the National Pork Board.

Minnesota Farm Guide Weekly Update

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