What Do Consumers Want? Emerging Trends in Meat and Poultry

Gone are the days when chicken breast, hamburgers, and pork chops were the only meats on the menu. Today’s consumers, particularly the younger ones, want an adventure with every meal. Study after study has found that Millennials actively seek out innovative products in both grocery stores and restaurants. The good news for processors and retailers is that these exploratory eaters are willing to pay more for new and interesting foods.

Let’s look at some of the trends steering the meat and poultry market in new directions.

New cuts of meat

Shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut — these are not your standard cuts of beef, but they’re the ones making the biggest waves right now. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 culinary forecast, new cuts of meat is the hottest trend on restaurant menus this year.

Game meats

The popularity of game meats is on the rise, and not just among hunters. Bison, boar, elk, and venison are becoming mainstream. Technomic’s 2017 Burger Consumer Trend Report found that 30% of consumers are interested in trying exotic burgers. At least one piece of evidence backs this up — for two Octobers in a row, Arby’s has released a venison sandwich, available for one day only. They sold out immediately.

Meat snacks

Thanks to their protein content and convenience, meat snacks are the fastest-growing segment of savory snacks on the market, outpacing even potato chips. This growth is expected to continue to the tune of a CAGR of 9% over the next 5 years. Unlike many other food trends, this one is being fueled by Baby Boomers — Nielsen found that members of this generation are 10% more likely to buy meat snacks than the average shopper.

Natural and organic products

Demand for natural and organic products is reaching far beyond the produce aisle. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic meat and poultry increased 17% in 2016 to reach $991 million. Much of that was chicken — that year, U.S. producers sold $750 million of organic chickens, a 78% increase over 2015.

While the term natural has no official definition, the natural meats category typically includes products like grass-fed beef. This market is still very small, with labeled grass-fed beef comprising just 1% of the U.S. beef market. However, it’s doubling every year.

Lab-grown and meatless meats

Finally, although the trend is still in its infancy, there’s no denying that alternative meat products are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Lab-grown meats may hit the shelves by the end of this year, and this baseball season, the meatless Impossible Burger will be on the menu in at least two Major League Baseball stadiums.


Americans are predicted to eat a record amount of meat this year. But with the growing foodie culture, that meat won’t all be traditional types of chicken, beef, and pork. Processors that respond to new market trends with innovative products will find themselves best able to respond to the needs of consumers.

Working on new products? Visit one of our solution centers to learn how Unitherm can help you gain a competitive advantage in this new age of adventurous eating.

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