Meat Department Terms May Confuse Shoppers

ORLANDO, Fla. — A roast by any other name might sell just as well, but separate consumer research efforts by the National Pork Board and Merck Animal Health indicate that the standard terminology used in meat departments could be having a bigger than expected impact on consumer purchases and, ultimately, shopper satisfaction.

For example, when surveying both heavy pork consumers and average pork consumers, NPB found that a majority of both groups believed that “top loin” pork chops were superior to pork loin chops or pork rib chops.

“The top loin pork chop was overwhelmingly thought to be tender, better quality, and what both groups would purchase,” Jarrod Sutton, assistant vice president of channel marketing for the National Pork Board, explained during the “Marketing and Merchandising: Case Studies in Understanding Consumer Choices” session here at the 2012 Annual Meat Conference.

“We dug into this a little bit. Because anyone who knows anything about meat — the darker the color, the more marbling, you guys know the good eating experience that results. But as we get into the nomenclature research, you can quickly find out that consumers thought the top loin chops were the best because they say 'top.' Top's the best, right? This is what consumers are telling us, and it's across the board.”

NPB is on the case, and will be conducting further analysis to assess possible changes to pork cut terminology during the coming year.

Similarly, consumer panels conducted by Merck Animal Health as part of their effort to develop web-based training videos for store-level staff in conjunction with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, revealed that standard terms used to describe beef production might not be optimal.

Surprisingly, consumers tended to prefer the term “farmer” to describe people who raised beef, rather than the more standard “rancher.” And “traditional” beef was preferred to “conventional” beef, when describing beef that wasn't organic.

“It's simple things like that that we don't typically think of as an industry,” Kyle Pfeiffer, account manager for Food Chain Affairs at Merck Animal Health explained in this week's issue of SN.