Battling Pork’s Perception Problems

Earlier this month at the Minnesota Pork Congress, a panel of everyday consumers shared their perceptions and opinions on all things food. From confusion about CRISPR gene-editing technology (with one panelist stating it “sounds like an intense oven”) to questions about GMOs (“I don’t really know what it actually means, I just know some people say it’s bad”), the five panelists shared their complex and often contradictory beliefs about food.

The panel personified a key finding from our Dinner At Home In America report research: reputations – particularly for food – are complicated and often factually incorrect. This is particularly true for pork, where some negative (and deeply false) beliefs are entrenched in the minds of consumers.

At the National Pork Board, we’re constantly thinking about how we can best work with retailers and packers to change consumers’ perceptions about pork. It starts with getting to the truth about our favorite protein, and determining how might we as an industry work together to debunk key myths.

Consumers lack awareness of the basic health benefits of pork.

FACT: Only 11 percent of diners consider fresh pork one of the best sources of protein, only six percent say it’s healthier than most other meats and a measly five percent say it has many health benefits.

OUR TAKE: We can help overcome this perception barrier on-pack and in-store. Large font stickers and call-outs on-pack highlighting pork as an excellent source of vitamins and minerals – or even juxtaposing the high protein per-serving of pork against other meats – could help shoppers quickly understand the varied health benefits of pork.

More people are concerned about under cooking pork than other meats, and this results in overcooking pork.

FACT: 17% of diners are concerned about under cooking fresh pork in general, compared to nine percent for fresh beef. This applies to single-serve and large-size pork cuts alike:

  • 23% of diners are concerned about under cooking chops
  • 20% are concerned about under cooking roast
  • 19% are concerned about under cooking the tenderloin

However, 69% of diners are overcompensating and cooking their pork to medium-well or well-done, and only 45% achieve their desired results “very consistently” when cooking pork (vs. 62% for chicken).

OUR TAKE: We wondered whether new information can influence how consumers cook their pork, and tested messaging to see if we could shake-up old habits. The bottom line? Messaging that pork should be cooked to a medium temperature with a moist and slightly rosy center persuades 54% of consumers to try cooking pork at a lower temperature.

Shoppers are influenced by their perceptions of animal living conditions.

FACT: Consumers’ dietary philosophies tend to center around fresh, less-processed products with fewer harmful ingredients more so than their worries about animal treatment. Still, more than a third of consumers claim that their meat philosophy includes worries about how animals are raised.

OUR TAKE: Consumers care about where their meat comes from, and the conditions animals are raised in. The industry needs to do a better job of telling pork’s farm-to-table story, whether through on-pack labeling or through joint marketing efforts between packers, producers and retailers.

Fewer households keep pork on-hand than fresh beef or fresh chicken.

FACT: Ten percent of diners say they usually keep pork on-hand, compared to 18% for fresh beef and 21% for fresh chicken. But, being on-hand is vital for fresh meat usage: 62% of in-home dinner occasions where fresh meat was served include that meat because it was on hand in the fridge or freezer.

OUR TAKE: Our research supports the premise that simple, versatile meal solutions drive on-hand pork consumption. We need to show how fresh pork excels in health, cooking ease and sustainability to move the needle in keeping pork on-hand. Sales and circulars are also critical for fresh pork sales, with 33% of shoppers buying pork chops because of sales and circulars, while only 27% bought chicken breasts and 21% bought ground beef. In short, people are already going to buy chicken and beef, regardless of whether it’s featured in promotion. But featuring pork will increase incremental sales at the meat case.

 

Caring for Pigs, Raising Sustainable Pork!

As consumers continue to express interest in what’s in their food and how it’s raised, telling pork’s sustainability story will be increasingly important for our industry.

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