FooDS December 2013

The December edition of the Food Demand Survey (FooDS) is now up.

A few observations from the survey:

  • Willingness-to-pay (WTP) for chicken products was down in December.  In fact, WTP for chicken breast was at the lowest level since the survey started back in May.
  • WTP for steak only declined 4.3%, but was also at the lowest level seen since FooDS started.
  • The only meat product to witnessed increased WTP was hamburger.
  • Stated concern for all 17 food issues we track fell in December relative to November.  
  • This month, consumers heard less in the news about Salmonella and E coli and more about GMOs and farm animal welfare.
  • In a ranking of seven food challenges, the largest increase in December was "loosing weight".

As in the past, we added several ad hoc questions.  Given my recent visit to BPI, I was curious to learn more about consumers' perceptions of lean fine textured beef (LFTB), a product that has been called "pink slime" by some media outlets (I should note that these questions were added of my own volition, not at the request of BPI).  We asked "Which of the following do you believe is true or false about lean finely textured ground beef (otherwise known as "pink slime")?"  Here is what we found:


Most consumers correctly indicated that LFTB lowers the price of lean ground beef.  however, they also got quite a few facts wrong, and the results underscore the misconceptions people have about the product, some of which have been fostered by media outlets.  For example, more than half the participants thought LFTB led to illnesses, was used in dog food, and is unsafe to eat.  Only 25.59% thought beef is the only ingredient (so much for the effectiveness of the "beef is beef" campaign), and more than three-quarters disagreed that LFTB improved the taste of beef.  

We also asked a subsequent question, where respondents ranked the desirability of different hypothetical ground beef options that varied by price, LFTB content, fat content, and taste.  Analysis of this data suggests taste is the most important factor but that people were WTP substantive premiums to avoid LFTB.  That said, people also stated a preference for leaner ground beef.  Overall, the results imply that some the consumers' dislike of LFTB can be offset by: 1) better taste, 2) lower price, or 3) some combination of lower fat content and lower price or better taste.