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Meat and poultry hold their own, despite new trends and alternatives

Total sales of meat, poultry and meat substitutes to near $100 billion in 2021, says Packaged Facts report

Despite the growth of vegetarian and vegan diets and the development of plant-based protein alternatives, meat and poultry products remain U.S. consumer favorites, with Packaged Facts forecasting that total retail sales of meat, poultry, and meat substitutes will be just shy of $100 billion in 2021.

A recent report from Packaged Facts, Meat & Poultry: U.S. Retail Market Trends & Opportunities, notes that due to its higher price point, meat will dominate dollar sales despite still trailing poultry in per capita consumption volume. Meat substitutes will account for less than $2 billion of the projected total.

Yet despite meat's popularity and projected growth, it is not an industry without its fair share of scrutiny, said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

"Meat continues to evolve and be reevaluated by consumers in the wake of years of consciousness-raising on several topics, including humane animal treatment, meat processing and nutrition," said Sprinkle.

The report predicts that in the years ahead, consumers will be mindful of their meat consumption, whether for economic, caloric, dietary or ecological reasons. “For those who seek out sustainable meat and poultry, specialty products like grass-fed or local beef, heritage poultry and even wild boar will be on point,” according to the report. “Consumers will look to meat professionals to connect them with these products, explain the product benefits and educate on how these products are best prepared and served.”

Further, the report stated, consumers minding their pocketbook will take cues from how cultures around the world make less-expensive cuts like brisket taste great. Likewise, retail sales of meat will also receive a boost from growth in consumption of pork, which is expected to maintain its low cost advantage over beef. In addition, many previously overlooked cuts of pork (such as pork shoulder) are experiencing a resurgence in popularity both at retail and in restaurants.  Meanwhile, retail sales of poultry are expected to increase over the ensuing five years, supported by poultry's cost advantages relative to many types of meat. A further advantage for chicken: health authorities such as the American Heart Association continue to encourage consumption of poultry and seafood as alternatives to red meat.

Meat snacks also continue to succeed: With convenience and portability a trend across the food and beverage industry, consumers seeking high-protein meat snacks will find a plethora of meat jerky, meat snack bars and meat sticks available, as well as crunchy cracklings from high-quality pork, plus plant- and nut-based meat substitutes.

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