Author’s note: This was piece originally debuted on Working Ranch Magazine‘s podcast.
The new decade came at us storming out of the gate. 2020 was a year full of disruptive, groundbreaking events and issues surpassing anyone’s crystal ball. Nonetheless, a look back at the trends and shifting tides can give us a sense of what is likely to be carried into the 2021 beef industry arena.
A growing alternative meats market
It doesn’t matter how much better you think (or know) your authentic beef is, the “alternative” plant-based meat market will continue to grow. An estimated 56% of produce consumers intend purchase even more plant-based foods and beverages, according to ADM. This isn’t hard to believe, considering the Plant-based Protein Market – Global Outlook and Forecast 2020-2025 estimates a compound annual growth rate of this industry by 8%. Not to mention, funding for new plant proteins is backed by names like Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio and even notable packers including Tyson and Cargill.
Calls to action
Politics aside, 2020 was the year the American people wanted action and disruption of social norms. No longer are you expected to have an opinion and keep it at that. People, many of them consumers, are demanding action to improve whatever issue you claim to care about. Expect to be asked what you, your company and industry are doing to protect the environment, improve animal welfare, human rights and more.
More direct-to-consumer and unconventional beef markets
With the abrupt disruption of the meat supply chain due to COVID, many consumers were left wary about food security. Coupled with a push to patronize small businesses, consumers were inclined to explore local meat shops and producers. While closed restaurants dented the boxed beef market, it revived at home meal kits. Many such companies capitalize on certain niches, keeping the “know and support your local farmer/rancher” ideology alive and well.
Volatile beef consumption
The pandemic was a wildcard for global and domestic beef consumption. With many folks out of work, beef was the first protein they shied away from in favor of pork and chicken. However, more cooking at home also meant a lot of people were in search of fast and easy meals, sparking a growth in easy prep cuts like ribeyes and chucks. Consumer reports were all over the chart reflecting these and other factors. This year’s trends will depend heavily on how the still pandemic-stricken and politically divided economy continues to fluctuate.
Worker’s rights activism
Human rights are front and center on the national stage. Jobs protected and kept by their “essential workers” became both blessing and curse. Last year highlighted the importance of the blue-collar workforce; yet was a point of contention regarding the protection and fair treatment of workers. Treatment of workers in the American packing sector, many of the migrants, was brought to public attention by the likes of The Washington Post, Human Rights Watch, The Guardian and NPR to name a few. Coupled with heated ongoing immigration politics, it’s fair to say we can expect increased activism and awareness moving forward.