The meat and meat products market was ranked 28th out of 50 consumer markets in 2010, but in the overall ranking of goods markets, this market came 17th out of 19. As a result, the Commission committed itself to explore further the consumers’ situation and decision-making in the meat market. The objective of this study is to analyse which aspects of the meat market do not function well for consumers. Therefore, it explores different areas and issues that impact on the functioning of the market for consumers, such as choice, quality, safety, health, sustainability, origin, waste, prices and information, as well as consumer behaviour and decision making. The findings inform general consumer policy, with a particular focus on actions related to information, as well specific policy areas, such as food waste or origin labelling.
For the purpose of this study, the meat market was defined as follows: fresh meat (including frozen meat and meat preparations) and processed meat products covering beef, pork, lamb and poultry, which are available for final customers at the end of the food supply chain (at the retailer). Catering services were not included. The analysis is based on an analytical framework which uses information and data collected via different tools. A consumer survey of 13477 consumers in the 27 EU Member States was executed in order to deliver consumer perceptions of the market and broaden the knowledge of the consumer decision-making process when purchasing meat.
Consumers were asked to indicate the most and least important factors that they take into account when purchasing meat, from a list of 17 possible factors. Based on this data, importance scores were calculated. The scores for the 17 factors add up to 100%, thus the average is 5.9%. The most important factors, above this average, are sensory cues (‘the meat looks fresh’ with 10.2%, ‘the meat looks tasty’ with 8.7% and ‘the meat is displayed hygienically’ with 8.4%), price (‘the price is reasonable’ with 8.1% and ‘the price is affordable’ with 7.9%) and origin (‘the meat is produced in my country’ with 7.9%). Aspects such as traceability or time before reaching use by/best before date are of average importance (6.5% and 5.6% respectively). Specific meat types are relatively less important (‘the meat is organic’, ‘the meat is animal welfare certified’ or ‘the meat is produced according to environmental standards’ with respectively 3.3%, 4.8% and 4.8%).
In addition to the question on the most and least important factors, consumers were also presented with a list of information items that they may look at when buying meat. A large majority of EU consumers look at the use by/best before date (68%), the price (67%) and the price per kilogram (67%). This matches to some extent with the consumer priorities identified above. Other aspects looked at by more than 20% of consumers are the country of origin (48%), the producer (44%), ingredients (32%), origin certifications (26%), animal welfare certifications (22%) and nutritional values (21%). Aspects that consumers look for least often are slaughtered according to religious rites (8%), made from combined meat pieces (12%), environment/climate certifications (12%), GMO-free feed (17%), organic certifications (18%) and meat with nutrition claims (18%). EU12 consumers are more likely to look at the use by/best before date (77% in comparison to 65% of EU15 consumers), the price per kilogram (74% vs 66% in EU15), the price (70% vs 66%) and producer information (56% vs 40%). EU15 consumers are more likely to look at origin certifications (28% vs 19% in EU12), animal welfare certifications (24% vs 14%), organic information (20% vs 11%), nutrition claims (19% vs 15%), GMO free feed information (18% vs 13%), environment or climate certifications (13% vs 6%) and religious slaughter information (10% vs 4% in EU12).
Consumers were asked if they would like to change their purchasing behaviour. 68% say they would like to buy at least one specific type of meat more often, with 41% mentioning organic meat, 40% animal welfare certified meat, 39% origin certified meat (meat with quality certifications referring to its origin) and 38% meat they would choose because of the country of origin.
Consumer Market Study on the Functioning of the
meat market for consumers in the European Union.