Meat continues to evolve and be reevaluated by consumers.

ROCKVILLE, MD. — Total retail sales of meat, poultry and meat substitutes are expected to reach nearly $100 billion in 2021, according to a new report from Packaged Facts. Meat will dominate dollar sales due to its higher price point, though it trails poultry in per-capita consumption volume. Meat substitutes will account for less than $2 billion of the projected total, Packaged Facts said.

David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts
David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts

“Meat continues to evolve and be re-evaluated by consumers in the wake of years of consciousness-raising on several topics, including humane animal treatment, meat processing and nutrition,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

In the years ahead, consumers may be more mindful of meat intake, whether for economic, dietary or ecological reasons, Packaged Facts said. Specialty products such as grass-fed or local beef, heritage poultry and wild boar may appeal to those seeking sustainable options, while cost-conscious consumers may take cues from other cultures in preparing less-expensive cuts like brisket.

Previously underused cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder, are gaining popularity at retail and in restaurants. Meanwhile, retail sales of poultry, associated with lower costs and a healthier profile, are projected to rise over the next five years, Packaged Facts said.

“Concerns over the health impacts of red meats have caused an ongoing shift in consumption of poultry, while also reinvigorating the market for pork,” Packaged Facts said. “Yet the market for beef still shows signs of life, with consumers increasingly trading quantity for quality.”



Another trend driving the market for meat and poultry products is the need for convenient, portable snacks, which has given rise to such products as meat jerky, meat snack bars and meat sticks, as well as pork rinds and cracklings.

Still, a faction of consumers has adopted vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diets as a growing number of innovative meatless products have emerged, mimicking the taste and texture of animal protein.

“Continuing innovation in this category of the market is helping to win over even committed meatarians, particularly those seeking healthy forms of protein regardless of its source,” Packaged Facts said.

Evolving consumer preferences have driven the largest meat and poultry processors to reconfigure production practices and marketing, Packaged Facts said. Many of the industry leaders have adopted new animal welfare policies or committed to eliminating antibiotics or growth hormones from the supply chain. Recognizing the growing demand for plant-based substitutes, Tyson Foods last year purchased a small stake in Beyond Meat, a manufacturer of meat-free burgers, strips, crumbles and single-serve meals, and Maple Leaf Foods recently agreed to acquire plant-based protein brand Lightlife Foods.