The main selling points for meat substitutes — which revolve around the environment, nutrition and animal welfare — may attract a certain type of consumer. It’s important to consider, however, that in spite of people trying these substitutes, beef is still a leading protein with consumers, and sales remain strong.
One reason beef remains so popular is because it can be divided into whole muscle cuts, like steaks and roasts. Currently, meat substitute companies can only create a ground-meat product, and they do not have the ability to culture fat cells — which contribute to the aroma and flavor of foods like steak. Data from the Department of Agriculture indicates that the average person’s meat consumption has risen each year since 2015 to about 220 pounds annually in 2018. Consumers are eating beef because it has an irreplaceable taste and texture. Overall, meat substitutes only represent a fraction of pounds sold, registering at 0.1 percent share in 2018, while ground beef represented 50 percent 1.
In an effort to compare beef with the substitutes, the Beef Checkoff has done a side-by-side assessment of each product’s ingredients. “You look at the ingredients on meat substitute products and it’s a list with up to 22 different ingredients,” says Greg Hanes, CEO of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. “And here’s the ingredient list for beef: beef. You have one ingredient.”
A recent study gauging consumer acceptance of meat substitutes surveyed nearly 32,000 Americans and only 27 percent of those surveyed believe the substitutes are healthy and eco-friendly 2. Still, more restaurants and stores are offering meat substitutes on their menus and shelves.
The Beef Checkoff is actively working to ensure beef remains at the consumer forefront by dispelling misconceptions about the supposed health benefits of meat substitutes. The iconic Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. brand, funded by the Beef Checkoff, has reached consumers more than one billion times since relaunching two years ago. And, the brand’s informative digital marketing campaigns are as effective as they are drool-worthy.
The checkoff’s “Nicely Done, beef.” campaign highlights beef’s greatest assets including its great taste, nutrient content, benefits over meat substitutes and the dedicated producers who raise beef. Delivered through a consistent theme, a few messages from the campaign include, “Nicely done, beef. You prove that meat substitutes are just that. Substitutes.” And, “Nicely done, beef. You build strong muscles. No protein shake required.”
Here are a few other examples of how the Checkoff shares beef’s story with the consumer:
- The Right Way: This campaign introduces consumers to the Beef Quality Assurance program, a Beef Checkoff-funded, voluntary program ensuring the safe, high-quality production of U.S. beef within stringent animal care standards.
- Chuck Knows Beef: Powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, Chuck can serve up recipes and answer a variety of beef-related questions from nutrition, cutting and cooking information to how beef is raised. Chuck can be accessed at ChuckKnowsBeef.com, through Amazon Alexa, or on Google Home smart devices.
At the end of the day, consumers still favor beef, and beef has certainly earned its spot at the dinner table. The Beef Checkoff and its continued consumer marketing efforts are working to make sure it stays there.
- Alternative Proteins at Foodservice Study, Technomic, October 2018.
- How Popular is Fake Meat In America? Greg Henderson. January 28, 2020.
The Beef Checkoff program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.