Consumer Trends

Consumers' health perceptions about beef are changing

The nutrition police and plant-based advocates have pushed people away from eating beef. But times they are a changing.
Consumers now see beef as a healthy source of protein, a change in attitude from the recent past. | Photo: Shutterstock

Beef has gotten a bad rap over the last few years. Steaks and burgers are high in cholesterol. Raising cattle leaves a large carbon footprint. And beef prices have gone through the roof.

But despite these perceived drawbacks, beef consumption has gone up, according to Technomic’s 2024 Center of the Plate: Beef and Pork Consumer Trend Report.

Each week, nearly 70% of consumers eat beef, and 32% of consumers are frequently purchasing  beef at foodservice locations, found the report. That number has grown since 2022.

What’s motivating these beef eaters? The insatiable demand for protein.

When Technomic asked consumers to name reasons for increasing beef consumption frequency within the last year, 45% of those surveyed said “to add more protein to my diet.”  And 26% responded “I’m trying to eat healthier and consider beef to be healthy.”

Restaurants are a driver, too; 28% said “restaurants are now offering more beef dishes that I like.”

Price aside, beef retains its reputation as a high-quality protein source. While 31% of consumers are also cooking beef more often at home, they seek “showpiece” cuts when dining out. Operators can leverage that opportunity to feature a beef- or steak-centered dish that highlights the restaurant’s or chef’s expertise.

And while a ribeye or porterhouse prepared by a talented kitchen staff at a high-end steakhouse may be out of reach for many consumers, operators are finding ways to target every price point. They’re sourcing less expensive cuts—which often are leaner, too—and tenderizing them with flavorful marinades and accompanying them with signature sauces. Or they’re serving smaller (and healthier) portions, fanning sliced steak out on the plate and pairing it with another protein, like chicken, pork or seafood.

Customers seem ready to eat more beef and restaurants need to be ready to feed them.

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