also modifying their practices, tailoring their fresh
meat cases to feature brands that are fully transparent about nutrition, animal welfare, food safety and
their impact on the environment.
CATERING TO THE SOPHISTICATED
One of these featured brands is McKenzie Country
Classics, based in Burlington, Vt. McKenzie has
been focusing heavily on its clean-label, antibiotic-free meat line with last year’s launch of an uncured
Antibiotic-Free Cob Smoked Bacon, and this year’s
introduction of its Antibiotic Free Natural American
Angus Uncured Beef Frank as a park of its McKenzie
Natural Artisan Deli line.
“The growth of the never any antibiotics line
is still our biggest opportunity outside the state of
Vermont,” says Greg Rouille, sales director at McKenzie, which is focusing heavily on never-ever antibiotic products. The company is among
a growing number of hot dog brands that offer uncured versions of
their beef franks. “Many are not all-natural or antibiotic-free, though
McKenzie American Angus Uncured Franks are both,” notes Rouille.
While McKenzie has been successful with its antibiotic-free offer-
ings, consumer demands extend beyond the use of antibiotics. “Ten
years ago, one of the key issues was antibiotic and hormone growth pro-
motants,” says Mel Coleman, VP of retail at Niman Ranch. “Although
that is still very important, animal welfare has taken center stage in pur-
chasing decisions for the modern customer.”
Now farmers are using science-based practices that include proper
nutrition, modern barns and disease prevention to keep animals healthy
so they do not need medicine in the first place. Though antibiotics are
still used if necessary, with veterinary oversight, to treat sick animals or
prevent illness, according to Smithfield’s Brier. “It is unethical to with-
hold treatment,” he adds.
Niman Ranch, based in Northglenn, Colo., last year became the largest company in the Western Hemisphere to be Certified Humane by the
Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), a non-profit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter.
It’s no secret that Millennials are changing the way food is produced
and consumed. Studies have found that many feel the products they
purchase must somehow touch their lives, whether through the way
they were raised and produced or with their call outs and attributes,
according to Michael Uetz, principal at Midan Marketing.
The Chicago-based meat marketing consultancy once again spearheaded the industry’s most recent “The Power of Meat 2017” survey,
results of which found that shoppers’ increasing demand for transparency with meat and poultry ingredients and production practices has
fueled double-digit growth for organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free,
grass-fed and other special attributes.
“We have noticed an increase in customer sophistication and demand
for transparency of both how and where meat was raised,” says Randy
Strauss, owner and president at Strauss Brands, based in Franklin, Wis.
“Customers are taking it upon themselves to research where their meat
comes from as there is a growing awareness of the amount of imported
meats on grocers’ shelves. In today’s environment, any retailer who isn’t
offering a quality grass-fed beef program is essentially letting sales walk
out the door.”
HEALTHY PROTEIN PREFERENCES
Animal welfare is not today’s meat consumers’ only concern. As consumer health and wellness trends continue to grow, both retailers and
suppliers are drawing attention to the nutritional value of meat to combat the rising popularity of “healthy” meat-alternatives.
Farmers have made pork one of the leanest, nutrient-rich protein
choices available, according to Smithfield’s Brier, which the USDA confirmed in a study that showed pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless
chicken breast. Pork tenderloin and pork sirloin roast have also been
certified by the American Heart Association as heart-healthy foods.
Similarly, the National Turkey Federation (NTF), based in
Washington, D.C., has been working closely with supermarket reg-
istered dietitians on behalf of turkey farmers and brands to recom-
mend turkey as a healthy protein choice. “Ground turkey has expanded
noticeably over the past five years, from chorizo and Italian-seasoning
to ground turkey in patties, sausages, meatballs and more,” says Keith
Williams, NTF’s VP of marketing and communications. “The ample
lean meat on a turkey means generous cuts in turkey wings, necks and
drumsticks, as well as cutlets, chops and tenderloins.”
However, industry experts say today’s consumers are seemingly less
interested in avoiding cholesterol, calories and fat, instead focusing
on other healthful attributes. Shoppers are becoming more interested
in natural, pure foods with less fillers and ingredients, according to
John Gladney, marketing manager at Kodak, Tenn.-based Swaggerty’s