U.S. consumers report that their chicken consumption remains high, although 2017 levels have moderated and returned to those seen a couple of years ago, according to new research presented this week at the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit.
In recalling behavior during the two weeks leading up to the survey, 84% of consumers said they ate a chicken meal or snack purchased from a supermarket, and 67% ate a chicken meal or snack from a foodservice establishment. The supermarket and foodservice establishment consumption numbers decreased 3.4% and 6.9%, respectively, and are now at parity with those seen in 2015.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects Americans will eat close to 92 lb. of chicken per person this year, breaking last year’s record of 91 lb.,” National Chicken Council (NCC) senior vice president of communications Tom Super said. “Although consumers’ self-reported consumption is down slightly in the survey, the data show that chicken is still top of mind for consumers.”
Although consumption for the past two-week period decreased somewhat, consumers’ taste for chicken shows no signs of waning. In the next 12 months, 21% of consumers anticipate eating more chicken from the supermarket, and 13% anticipate eating more from a foodservice establishment. Respondents with the highest consumption levels tended to skew younger, to be more ethnically diverse and to live in larger households.
As part of the survey, consumers were asked to rank various factors on satisfaction and in order of importance. Regardless of purchase channel, the importance of freshness, taste and price rose to the top. Consumers surveyed were satisfied with freshness and taste; however, satisfaction with price at supermarkets was somewhat lower.
Overall, the survey showed that the majority of consumers purchase uncooked or precooked chicken at the supermarket to prepare or reheat at home. While Gen X and Baby Boomers are more likely to purchase uncooked chicken to cook at home, Millennials are twice as likely as their older counterparts to buy precooked chicken and eat it in the store.
When it comes to reasons why consumers purchase chicken over other types of meat, healthiness, versatility and convenience top the list, the survey showed.
When asked, 69% of consumers said they are extremely or very concerned about food safety, while 57% and 55%, respectively, are concerned about hormone/steroid use and antibiotic use. Although still low, concern is growing about the time it takes to raise a chicken, with 26% of respondents this year saying they are extremely or very concerned versus 19% last year.
Consumers are being exposed to media coverage relative to the care of chickens, NCC noted. Nearly three-quarters said they have seen articles in the past year, and most of those would characterize the tone of the coverage as neutral or negative.
Consumers also consider themselves knowledgeable about the care of chickens, yet most have incorrect perceptions, NCC said. In an exercise where they were asked to identify statements about the care and raising of chickens as true or false, the majority answered incorrectly for most statements.
The survey of 1,013 adults was commissioned by NCC and conducted online June 5-8, 2017, by ORC International. Funding was provided by Elanco and WATT Global Media.