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EU Meat Market Study

13 June 2013

British Pig Executive

EU - Some two years ago, the EU Consumer Scoreboard ranked the meat market as one of the lowest performing goods markets. Following this result, the Commission committed itself to explore further the consumers’ situation and decision-making in the meat market.

A follow-up study has just been published. The following are some of the highlights:

When asked about the most and least important factors that they take into account when purchasing meat, the most important factors for consumers are sensory cues (‘the meat looks fresh’ with 10.2 per cent, ‘the meat looks tasty’ with 8.7 per cent and ‘the meat is displayed hygienically’ with 8.4 per cent), price (‘the price is reasonable’ with 8.1 per cent and ‘the price is affordable’ with 7.9 per cent) and origin (‘the meat is produced in my country’ with 7.9 per cent). Aspects such as traceability or time before reaching use by/best before date are of average importance (6.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively). Specific meat types are relatively less important (‘the meat is organic’, ‘the meat is animal welfare certified’ or ‘the meat is produced according to environmental standards’ with respectively 3.3 per cent, 4.8 per cent and 4.8 per cent).

  • Consumers focus on a limited number of information aspects when they buy meat: 68 per cent look for the durability date, 67 per cent for the price and 48 per cent for the country of origin.
  • 40 per cent of EU consumers use a supermarket as their main retailer for meat, followed by butchers (25 per cent) and hypermarkets (18 per cent). Smaller proportions mention grocery or convenience stores (7 per cent), discount stores (6 per cent), farms (2 per cent) or markets (2 per cent).
  • Consumer ability is limited in terms of understanding and knowledge of the meat market: The level of understanding of a 'best before' date or a health claim is rather low (36 per cent of EU consumers indicated the right meaning of a 'best before' label and 23 per cent knew the exact meaning of a 'low fat' claim ). Only 4 per cent identifyed the correct meaning of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo.
  • When asked about meat waste, 23 per cent of consumers report that they had thrown away edible parts of meat or meat products in the past month, on average 3.5 times. This share of consumers is higher in the EU15 (25 per cent) than in the EU12 (16 per cent). As the main reason for throwing meat away, consumers are most likely to mention the meat being past its use by/best before date (31 per cent of those who reported waste) and ‘I prepared/cooked too much’ (18 per cent).

The report therefore suggests to launch information campaigns about meat waste and the detriment that it generates, both in financial as well as environmental terms, as meat waste is shown to be most frequently due to storage and preparation issues that could be avoided.

  • 32 per cent of EU consumers would like to buy meat less often. The most frequent reasons they mention for this is health (54 per cent) and that meat is too expensive (34 per cent). On the other hand, only 21 per cent of consumers look for information regarding nutritional values.
  • 21 per cent of consumers agree that a media story on meat that might be unsafe changed their eating habits.
  • 17 per cent of respondents to the consumer survey eat meat every day, while 26 per cent eat meat 4 to 6 times a week. On average, respondents eat meat and meat products 190 days a year, which equates approximately to every second day. Consumers in the EU12 eat meat more often than their EU15 counterparts, with 217 days on average. This figure is driven by high averages for meat products, chicken and pork. In contrast, the consumption of beef, turkey, veal and lamb is slightly more frequent in the EU15.
  • Only 20 per cent of consumers are satisfied (score 8 to 10 on a 10- point scale) with price, 18 per cent with the availability of environment/climate certified meat and 20 per cent with the availability of animal welfare certified meat. Consumers also seem concerned with the impact meat has on health – only 36 per cent are satisfied with this aspect. Consumers are most satisfied with the general availability of meat (58 per cent satisfied) and hygienic conditions (51 per cent).

On the impact on health:

According to the study, the ‘impact on health’ has a high impact on overall satisfaction but performs below average consumer satisfaction levels. However, the report highlights that overall the level of consumer understanding of the impact of meat consumption on health is low, and they are often confused by conflicting information about meat and health. Negative consumer perceptions of the safety of meat in the EU could reflect a lack of awareness regarding safety and negative media coverage during food crises.

Provision of information to European consumers should be the key priority, including encouraging them to use a wider range of information sources as well as to look for different types of information when they purchase meat. In addition, information campaigns and consumer education programmes should be undertaken, also in schools, together with all relevant stakeholders. Their focus should be on:

  • Helping consumers to better understand the impact of meat consumption on health in order to guide them in making decisions;
  • Enabling consumers to use more objective criteria in their assessment of the safety levels of meat and meat products. Conveying positive messages about the meat market will help build consumer trust.

On the price of meat:

The analysis showed that prices of meat diverge across the EU, but the differences are related to differences in comparable consumer prices, rather than to different levels of retail concentration.

However, overall, the level of consumers' satisfaction with the price of meat is rather low. The study therefore recommends further monitoring of price formation in the meat supply chain is recommended, including analysis to assess to what extent meat prices reflect the production costs or excessive margins at certain stages of the supply chain.

There is a gap between consumer intentions and their current behaviour - the widest one can be observed for organic meat (41 per cent of EU consumers said they would like to buy this type more often whereas only 16 per cent buy it now).

The main obstacle to buy specific types of meat (organic meat/animal welfare certified meat,...).seems to be a too high price, except for environment/climate certified and religious slaughter certified meat, for which respondents were more likely to answer ‘I am not sufficiently well informed’(respectively 34 per cent and 35 per cent of answers). Other reasons often cited by consumers were insufficient choice or the lack of availability of such meat types at their retailer.insufficient choice or unavailability of a particular meat type at the retailer.

The analysis of prices shows that organic meat is 66 per cent more expensive than the regular one, meat with an origin or an animal welfare certificate is 20 per cent more expensive.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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