FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE: Study highlights challenges, opportunites facing beef industry in building sales and market share

Posted: Mar. 13, 2013 2:15 pm Updated: Apr. 11, 2013 11:15 am


U.S. meat consumption is down, and beef consumption in particular has lost ground because of price.

The 2013 Power of Meat study, published by the American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute with funding from Cryovac, illustrates the challenges and opportunities the beef industry faces in building sales and market share.

According to the survey results, consumers on average prepare 5.1 home-cooked dinners each week, with 3.6 of those including a portion of meat or poultry, down from 4.1 meals last year. Respondents, on average, eat 0.9 dinners out each week and order out or carry home the remaining dinner. The report does not cover the contents of the restaurant or home-delivery meals.

The number of consumers reporting they include meat in at least one dinner per week, at 93 percent, was down just one percentage point from 2012 and has held steadily at 93 or 94 percent since 2009. But just 69 percent report including meat in dinners at least three times per week, compared with 74 percent last year, and 18 percent include a meat item six times per week compared with 23 percent in 2012.

Much of the decline occurred in beef, which is not surprising since beef has experienced larger price increases than pork or poultry in recent years. The report shows retail beef prices increased by 7.4 percent over the past year, and pound sales of beef dropped by 6.3 percent. In contrast, pork prices increased by 0.8 percent and pound sales of pork declined by just 0.3 percent. Chicken prices increased by 4.4 percent, but chicken remains the lowest-priced meat available, and pound sales increased by just under 1 percent.

Within the beef category, the report notes many consumers are "trading down" to lower-priced products such as ground beef instead of steak or 80 percent lean ground beef instead of 90 percent lean. Some consumers in higher income groups meanwhile increasingly trade up to higher-priced meat items as their financial outlook improves.

Shoppers in the low end of the income scale, with household incomes of $15,000 to $25,000 per year, include meat items in an average of 3.4 dinners per week. That number increases with every step up in household income, with those earning more than $150,000 including meat items in 4.3 dinners per week.


Replacing soybean meal

Canola, cottonseed and sunflower products can replace soybean meal in diets fed to pigs, but they contain less protein and energy.

To determine if it makes economic sense to use them, producers need to know the concentrations and digestibility of the nutrients they contain. To help them make the decision, University of Illinois researchers examined amino acid digestibility for these products.

"Soybean is by far the biggest oilseed crop in the world," said Hans Stein, professor of animal sciences. "But canola, cottonseed and sunflowers are grown in areas where soybeans can't grow. When the oil is taken out of the seed, meal is left over, as with soybean meal."

Digestibility of amino acids in canola, cottonseed and sunflower meal was lower than that of soybean meal. The main reason for their reduced digestibility was that these products have higher fiber content than does soybean meal. All of them except for the dehulled sunflower meal included hulls, but the soybean meal did not.

Among the alternative meals, sunflower had the greatest values for digestibility of crude protein and the most amino acids. In cottonseed meal, values for most amino acids were the same as, or greater than, those in canola seeds or canola meal.

Stein added that sunflower meal and canola meal need to be significantly less expensive than soybean meal before they are an economical alternative.

The study, "Amino acid digestibility in canola, cottonseed and sunflower products fed to finishing pigs," is available online at


-- Compiled by Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Deborah Gertz Husar.