Consumers in a recent survey said they have been cutting their consumption of beef and pork from what they were eating two years ago, while their chicken consumption continues to increase.
The survey, conducted by Better Homes and Gardens magazine, indicated there has also been a drop in the number of consumers who say they purchase convenience meat products, from 85.4% in a 1995 survey to 75.1% in the latest one.
The survey target was a fairly narrow one -- a panel of 500 subscribers to Better Homes and Gardens, all of them women. Still, they represent a segment with a lot of buying influence.
In September, the researchers sent a questionnaire on shopping and food issues to the 500 members of Better Homes and Gardens' consumer panel, made up of the magazine's subscribers, and received 426 responses. The median age of the respondents was 47.5, and median income was $58,879, well above the U.S. family household median income of $36,234. Of the panelist, all women, 78% were married, 38% had children under 18, 92% owned their own home, and 39% had some college education.
Better Homes & Gardens asked the panel how many times in the past 10 days they had served various types of meat. For two servings in the past 10 days, the breakdown was beef, named by 31.9%; pork, 18.8%; chicken, 30.3%; turkey, 9.4%; and fish-seafood, 16.4%. The breakdown for three or four servings over 10 days was beef, 27%; pork, 4.7%; chicken, 36.6%; turkey, 2.6%; and fish-seafood, 6.3%. Only chicken, at 12%, had been served five or more times in the past 10 days.
Over half, 50.7%, had not served turkey at all in the past 10 days. And about one-third, 33.1% and 32.9% respectively, had not served pork or fish-seafood.
Asked if those patterns indicated the respondents were serving more, the same, or less of the various meat types than they were two years ago, 8.2% said they were serving more beef; 11.3% more pork; 39.2% more chicken; 14.3% more turkey; and 20.9% more fish-seafood.
More than a third, 38.5%, said they were serving less beef than they were two years ago; 23.5% less pork; 6.3% less chicken; 19.5% less turkey; and 15.3% less fish-seafood.
The percentage purchasing convenience forms of fresh meat overall was 75.1% this year, down from 85.4% in 1995, a drop the magazine's researchers said might reflect recent publicity over meat-safety issues.
Skinless, boneless, ready-to-cook chicken breasts or thighs were by far the most popular convenience meat purchased, with 71.8% of the panelists saying they bought such items in the past month.
Here are the percentages of panelists who had bought other convenience-meat items in the past month: cut-up, ready-to-cook chicken, 39.9%; precut, ready-to-cook strips or cubes of meat or poultry, 18.3%; roasted, ready-to-serve whole chicken, 18.1%; precooked fish or seafood, 11.3%; and ready-to-cook meatloaf or meat patties, 9.2%. Some 9.9% had not purchased any of those products in the past month, and 5.4% said they never purchase such products.
Cost and freshness were the primary reasons consumers gave for not purchasing convenience meats, with 55.9% saying such products were too expensive; 39.2% questioning how long the product had been "sitting around"; 26.5% citing not fresh enough; and 20.9% feeling convenience meats were of poor quality. For convenience foods generally, 22.1% of the respondents said they are using more than they were two years ago, and 60.1% are using about the same -- a total of 82.2%, and an increase from 70.2% using more or the same number of convenience foods than two years earlier in the 1995 survey.
In contrast to their comments about meat consumption, the consumers on the panel reported they are serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, and have boosted their purchases of convenience forms of produce.
Around two-thirds of the panelists said they were serving more fresh produce, while use of canned and frozen produce items has been declining, the survey indicated.
A majority, 66.4%, said they were serving more fresh fruit than they were two years earlier. Two-thirds said they were using about the same amount of canned and frozen fruit as before. But 25.8% said their use of canned fruit was less, and 27% said they were using less frozen fruit.
On the vegetable side, 63.1% said they are using more fresh vegetables than they were two years ago. About 60% were using the same amount of canned and frozen vegetables. But 30.5% are using fewer canned vegetables, and 11.7% are using fewer frozen vegetables.
The panelists were apparently not too keen on new produce items, however. Asked if they had purchased any fruit or vegetable that was new or unfamiliar in the past 10 days, a whopping 90.1% answered no.
About three-fourths, 76.1%, said they buy convenience forms of fresh fruits and vegetables, with salad mixes and precut vegetables most popular.
Here are the percentages of consumers who said they had purchased these convenience produce items in the past month: ready-to-use greens and salad mix, 58.5%; precut fresh vegetables, 50%; fresh-squeezed fruit or vegetable juice, 20%; precut fresh fruit, 19%; and ready-to-use coleslaw mix, 18.5%.
The percentages purchasing salad mixes and precut vegetables were up over the 1995 survey, when 38.1% said they bought salad mixes and 41.5% bought precut vegetables.
The responses about value-added produce were not all positive. On the negative side, 13.1% said they had not purchased any of those items in the past month, and 7.3% said they never purchased convenience produce items.
As with value-added convenience items in the meat case, freshness and cost are the primary obstacles to their purchasing convenience produce items.
Almost two-thirds, 64.3%, said such items are too expensive, while half, 51.4%, complained that they "don't know how long the food has been sitting around."
Another 42% said convenience produce is "not fresh enough," and 35% thought such items "spoil too quickly."
Other reasons consumers gave for not buying convenience produce were poor quality, 27.2%; food loses nutrients when cut, 14.1%, and don't like the taste, 12.2%.
The magazine also asked its panel members if they were using more fresh herbs thanthey were two years ago. About a third, 31.9%, said yes, while another 9.9% said yes and that they did not use fresh herbs at all two years ago.
A desire "to spend more time on things other than cooking" was the reason cited by 63.8% of those who said they are using more convenience foods today.