NPD: Consumers Are Aware of Mad Cow but Still Love Their Steaks

The NPD Group's Food Safety Monitor found that most adults have heard or read something about Mad Cow disease (98%). About three out of four adults knew that a second cow was diagnosed with the disease, but only 22% of adults were very worried about mad cow disease - up 3 percentage points from a month before the recent announcement.

That's is well below the 11 percentage point increase in consumer concern recorded after the first case of Mad Cow discovered in December of 2003, NPD pointed out in a press release issued today.

Prior to the first infected cow being identified in the US, approximately 15% of all adults were very concerned about Mad Cow disease. Right after the 2003 announcement, concern rose to 26%. Perhaps more important is that through both of these announcements, NPD's Food Safety Monitor, which tracks food safety concerns and eating intentions in the U.S., found that people's intentions to eat steak didn't change. The study substantiates similar observations by foodservice distribution executives that were reported in ID Access articles during the past 12 months.

"During the last five years we've been tracking food safety and beef consumption patterns it's clear that there are more pricing and seasonal influences on how much beef people eat, than food safety concerns," said Harry Balzer, vice president of The NPD Group.

Beef is one of the top foods Americans eat at home or at restaurants. About nine out of ten (89%) adults eat steak regularly. After the second confirmed case of mad cow disease NPD's numbers show 64% of adults don't plan on changing their eating habits of steak, while 12% plan to eat less steak in the next 30 days and 13% plan to eat more. These levels have shifted very little over the past five years.

"If there's been any trend, it has been toward more people eating steak during the past 5 years," said Balzer. "This is not to suggest that mad cow disease isn't a serious issue. If we ever see herds of cows with this disease and start having the bovine bonfires seen in Britain a few years ago, then expect a change in consumer behavior, but not with the limited scale seen at this time," said Balzer.


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