One of the biggest trends in all-natural meats and the industry overall is the growing importance of animal welfare when it comes to purchasing decisions. In fact, according to the 2023 Power of Meat report, 49% of consumers make an effort to buy from companies that care about animal welfare.

“Consumers are savvier when it comes to reading labels, they demand transparency in the foods they buy and they make an effort to purchase claim-based meats from brands that care about animal welfare,” said J.D. Enrici, vice president sales and marketing at Golden, Colo.-based Coleman Natural Foods. “Specifically, 36% of consumers want to know that the meats they purchase are antibiotic-free/no antibiotics ever and have no added hormones.”

Additionally, according to Midan Marketing’s Meat Consumer Segmentation research, 46% of consumers say they look for meat that is all-natural, while 52% say they look for meat with no added hormones and 51% say they want no added antibiotics.

Lori Dunn, vice president of retail sales for Thomas Foods International USA, noted that natural and organic claims are up in almost every category based on the Cryovac Brand’s recent National Meat Case study.

“Consumers perceive natural and organic meat as healthier for them and more sustainable than conventional meat,” she said. “They are also looking for more specific claims, such as no added hormones, no antibiotics ever, humanely raised or pasture raised.”

When it comes to purchase influences by claims, the 2023 Power of Meat study states that natural is a priority to 34% of consumers, but less so than other common claims such as product of the USA, no added hormones or antibiotics, and humanely or locally raised.

For instance, Jim Rogers, senior vice president of sales at Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms, has noticed consumers starting to gravitate toward more descriptive terms than just all-natural. Therefore, retailers today need to provide meat products with more specific claims and a variety of claims.

So, in 2024, many industry experts expect retailers to carry products that are not only all-natural, but also support other key production claims.

Jeff Tripician, president and CEO of Grass Fed Foods, noted that due to the higher price points for these items, the company is seeing smaller weight packages for grinds, and blends that incorporate less expensive ingredients.

“We have steady year-over-year growth in sales and we attribute that to consumers demanding higher quality meat products that are still affordable and accessible to most families,” he said. “They know it’s healthier for them and they believe that if they are going to eat meat at all, they need to choose the best quality they can afford. So, that leads them to healthier, leaner proteins like bison and to grass fed beef.”

This article is an excerpt from the March 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire All-natural Meat feature and more in the digital edition here.