Nearly 90% of consumers purchase at least some beef with production claims or premium attributes, and 63% of consumers like to know more about the who, what, where and how behind the food they buy, according to Midan Marketing and Power of Meat data.

Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms has prioritized meeting this growing consumer demand for transparency and claims-based products, said Jim Rogers, the company’s senior vice president of sales.

“We’ve seen a rise in popularity for our USDA Choice beef,” he said. “We’ve had substantial prominence in foodservice, but in recent years we’ve seen a rise in retail demand.”

And even with inflation, Creekstone expects that trend to continue. When grocery budgets are tight, Rogers said, consumers turn to brands they trust.

“Creekstone Farms represents decades of premium craftsmanship and quality, and we offer our retail partners strong name recognition from our foodservice market.”

There are many opportunities for claims-based meats, and consumers have the luxury of picking what’s important to them, he added. While Creekstone has seen a rise in claims such as no antibiotic and no added hormones, almost half of meat consumers associate quality with claims such as USDA Choice beef or USA-raised, according to Midan.

For those consumers, Rogers said, Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef is especially popular.

ABF, grass-fed top list

Demand for meat products that emphasize claims remains “steady” for Cargill Protein North America, said Hilary Gerard, the company’s director of retail marketing.

“Claims-based products accounted for 15% of the fresh meat volume at retail before COVID, and we’re seeing that demand remain flat as we navigate post-pandemic shopping behaviors,” Gerard said. “Across protein, antibiotic-free (ABF) claims continue to drive the most volume, and we’re seeing growth in consumers seeking protein that’s grass-fed.”

Over the past couple of years, consumers have expressed desire to increase their consumption of protein-rich foods, she added.

As a result, Cargill is seeing increased interest from consumers to understand the protein content within a product, which has led the company to highlight the grams of protein in a products like its Certified Ground Beef Chubs and packages of Shady Brook Farms ground turkey.

Safety is another claim near the top of the list for consumers, Gerard said. The “USDA certified” claim, for example, is one that more shoppers are looking for when they buy beef.

Transparency and education continue to be trends evolving in messaging around claims-based meats. But properly educating consumers can be a tall task.

In the case of Creekstone, for instance, many consumers' only interaction with the company’s products is at the retail meat case. Providing point-of-sale materials for its retail partners and ensuring accurate and timely orders is central to that educational mission.

“Retailers face many challenges, from supply chain disruptions to labor shortages, and their time is precious,” Rogers said. “We consider it our responsibility to support retailers every step of the way. We strive to build a relationship with each one of our partners and provide tools like training cards to educate retail staff or developing point-of-sale materials to help drive their sales.”

The meat case and full-service meat counter both serve an important role in showcasing Creekstone Farms beef. Most shoppers rely on the meat case for routine purchases and the full-service counter for special occasions and requests, according to Midan. Supporting retail partners in both avenues, Rogers said, is essential to promote claims-based meats.

Educating consumers and retailers on the meaning of claims in the limited amount of space available on a package of protein is difficult, Gerard said.

Digital solutions are becoming increasingly important to how Cargill tells its claim stories. Many of the company’s protein packages have QR codes to direct shoppers to websites to help educate them on products and their specifications.