Local meat preferred, but price most important

While many consumers will pay more for Canadian product, 
most are not willing to pay a big premium for specialty meat

EDMONTON — Canadians show their loyalty when buying meat, a new survey reports.

People will pay more for fresh meat of Canadian origin and will select packages labelled with country of origin over generic or product from the United States, the study found.

“People were more willing to pick a package with an origin not stated than a package they know is from the U.S.,” said Barry Davis of Leger, Research Intelligence Group.

The information was gathered in an online survey of 1,609 Canadian consumers comprising all ages and regions of the country. It was the third online poll commissioned by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency since 2010.

Those surveyed this time agreed certain attributes are worthwhile, but drew the line at how much they were willing to pay for organic, local or antibiotic-free products.

People said they would pay 10 percent more for meat labelled as added hormone- or antibiotic-free, but they expressed greater reluctance to select organic products because of the higher price.

“Regardless of the type of meat, most people found the price differential to be too expensive for them to choose that,” Davis said at Futurefare, the annual meeting for ALMA held in Edmonton Oct. 13.

He added that organic wasn’t seen as a bad thing and there were some people willing to pay more.

The survey also found that Canadians expect to eat about the same amount or more bison and chicken, but less lamb, pork and beef. Most consumers believe fish and chicken are the healthiest.

When ranking their choices, chicken topped the list as a family favourite and considered versatile, nutritious and easy to prepare.

Nutrition was near the bottom of the list of reasons for selecting beef.

Pork was also chosen because of family preference and easy preparation.

The study also revealed changes in where and how Canadians shop.

Consumers are buying from a greater number of retailers than before and new players have appeared in the meat business.

Mass merchandisers experienced the greatest percentage growth in fresh meat sales. Costco has made the most significant gains in fresh meat sales. Walmart has also increased its meat business since the 2012 survey.

“They have quadrupled the number of their shoppers in four years,” Davis said.

Consumers often cite price as a primary reason for their choices, but a number of other factors such as quality, convenience, cleanliness and having preferred package sizes and cuts of meat were also mentioned.

Flyers remain a major motivator of purchases, reaching consumers at home before they decide where to shop and what to buy. More people are also checking grocery store websites for features.

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