Growing animal welfare concerns signal three opportunities for food companies

by Monica Watrous
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Humanely raised, cage-free chicken
 Fifty-eight per cent of shoppers may be seeking products with such claims as free-range, cage-free or humanely raised.

ROCKVILLE, MD. — Animal welfare has become a concern for a growing number of consumers, according to Packaged Facts, which found 58% of shoppers may be seeking products with such claims as free-range, cage-free or humanely raised.

David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts
David Sprinkle, research director of Packaged Facts

“Consumer concern over animal welfare issues has reached critical mass in the meat and poultry industries, creating a new generation of challenges and opportunities,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.

Demand for humanely raised meat and poultry products is part of changing consumer perceptions of healthy eating. Preferences have shifted from so-called diet foods to products that are free of gluten, artificial or bioengineered ingredients, antibiotics and growth hormones, Packaged Facts said.

“Agricultural producers, food retailers and restaurants alike are playing key roles in growing the market for protein products that satisfy next-generation consumer demands for food animal welfare,” Mr. Sprinkle said.

Recently, Panera Bread switched to bacon sourced from pigs that meet the company’s animal welfare standards for reduced confinement and antibiotics. Chipotle Mexican Grill has long held similar standards for the meat it serves in its restaurants. Meanwhile, a growing number of national restaurant chains and retailers have made a commitment to serving or selling cage-free eggs.

In a recent report, Packaged Facts identified three ways in which food companies can capitalize on this growing trend.

First, marketing animal-welfare related practices is essential to staying competitive as more companies demonstrate engagement in such issues through labeling, advertising and promotion, Packaged Facts said.

Grass-fed beef
Grass-fed beef products are growing in popularity.

“As attested to by the proliferation of grass-fed beef and related products, the range of consumers, organizations and marketers engaging with animal welfare issues has passed the tipping point,” Packaged Facts said. “Correspondingly, Packaged Facts anticipates the range of and competition from products marketed on animal-welfare related attributes will continue to increase.”

Second, companies should leverage the inherent links between animal welfare and the healthfulness and sustainability of meat, poultry and dairy products. Packaged Facts research shows 53% of U.S. adults said they believe humanely raised meat and poultry products are healthier.

“Shrewd companies will find ways to incorporate animal welfare claims into their value-added and premium-priced products, while also leveraging the inherent link to sustainability,” Packaged Facts said.

Third, companies should cater to the trend of flexitarian dieting, said Packaged Facts, which found that 21% of Americans report cutting back on red meat in the past few years and that 49% agree that consuming more vegetarian sources of protein is better for the environment.

“Unsurprisingly, some animal-based protein companies are already looking to the future by investing in or acquiring plant-based protein companies, as well as next-generation meat substitute products,” Packaged Facts said. “Expect this trend to gain momentum as marketers respond to the growing demand by vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians for more and better products.”
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