Interpretive Summary: Consumer preferences for beef with improved nutrient profile
By: Anne Wallace
Beef is high in protein and several essential vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron and zinc. Despite being nutrient dense, however, consumer doubt in the healthfulness of beef, particularly in relation to its fat content, persists. The authors of this December 2019 study published in the Journal of Animal Science evaluated consumer knowledge about iron, fatty acids (FAs) and their willingness to pay for beef with an improved nutrient profile.
A survey was conducted and found that the majority of consumers could not correctly sort FA types (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fat) into “healthy” or “unhealthy” categories. When educated about FAs prior to taking the survey, however, over 90% of consumers were able to currently sort them and became more willing to pay a higher premium for a steak with an improved nutrient profile (decreased saturated fat, increased polyunsaturated fat, increased iron). Questions about what consumers thought were the most important attributes of beef identified grade, taste, and appearance as the most important, and least important were brand, breed, and organic.
The second part of this study included a taste-panel auction. Consistent with the survey results, taste, appearance, and grade were ranked the most important attributes of beef, with the least important being breed, organic, and brand. However, consumer willingness to pay for beef with an improved nutrient profile was found to be less pronounced than it was in the survey, which the authors state was an expected result when going from a hypothetical (survey) to real (auction) scenario.
Overall, this study suggests that education about beef nutrition, particularly FAs, may potentially influence consumer purchasing preference and willingness to pay. Education may also help beef marketing and sales by empowering consumers to make more informed choices based on the content listed in nutrition labels.