American consumers love eating beef, and more often than not, they’re enjoying that steak at home, according to the latest data from the Beef Checkoff. 

The checkoff published its annual Beef Industry Review and Consumer Insights report earlier this month, with data through 2023, to coordinate with the annual Cattle Industry Convention (CattleCon) in Orlando.

According to the report, 70% of U.S. consumers eat beef at least once a week, ranking second for animal proteins behind chicken, which grabbed an 83% share of consumption. The percentage of consumers eating pork, fish and plant-based meat alternatives weekly came in at 46%, 41% and 25%, respectively.

“Beef’s biggest competitor is not meat alternatives; it’s chicken,” noted Mady Carr Johnson, senior executive director of scientific affairs at the Beef Checkoff. 

About 44% of respondents also said chicken was their first protein choice, compared to 35% for beef and 4% for pork.

Beef tastes great

Despite this, in many other categories, beef was number one for U.S. consumers. About 58% of consumers said beef was the meat that tasted best, compared to 30% for chicken and 6% for pork. 

“This is one area we can really capitalize on,” said Mike Simone, executive director of market research and intelligence at the Beef Checkoff. 

Beef was also first for consumers when asked which meat was the best source of protein. About 52% of respondents answered beef, compared to chicken at 38% and pork at 4%.

Simone noted Americans are eating beef at home more often than at a restaurant. The Beef Checkoff said 73% of meals are cooked at home, and 40% of respondents said they plan to eat at home more in the future. 

More than 75% of non-restaurant beef sales occur at the local grocery store. 

Inflationary pressure

One concern that showed up in the data is the impact of inflation on beef sales. 

The retail price of beef rose more than for any other protein in the post-pandemic era. The per-pound average price of retail steak increased from $6.76 per pound at the end of 2020 to $9.87 per pound by the end of 2023. 

However, the survey showed that consumers didn’t change the price they were willing to pay for steak, going from $8.87 in 2020 to $8.93 at the end of last year. 

This partially explains the dip in total beef purchases in 2023. 

Overall, U.S. consumers bought 2% less meat, of all kinds, in 2023 compared to 2022. 

Beef sales declined more than 3% year-over-year, totaling an estimated 5.3 billion pounds sold in 2023, down from 5.5 billion in 2022. 

Chicken was the only animal protein to gain last year, moving from 5.27 billion pounds sold in 2022 to 5.34 billion pounds in 2023. Pork sales lost almost 5% from 2022 to 2023, going from 2.4 billion pounds sold to 2.3 billion pounds. 

Looking at what type of beef consumers were buying, unsurprisingly, ground beef accounted for more than 50% of all beef sales last year. Steaks accounted for 23%, roasts for 13% and all other cuts also 13%.

Despite the challenges, a majority of those surveyed, 65%, said they plan to maintain or increase their beef purchases. 

The survey showed only 14% plan to purchase less beef this year. Of those who said they plan to buy less beef, the main reason was price. Other concerns included the perception that other meats are healthier and that eating less beef was good for the environment.

Pictured above:  Dan Hanrahan

Key takeaways

Dan Hanrahan, who raises cattle near Cumming and is a member of Madison County Farm Bureau, said the report showed him the value of raising high-quality beef. 

“We’ve built a lot of demand for our product over the years and a lot of that is based on taste and eating experience,” Hanrahan said. “We need to continue these efforts and not take our foot off the gas now.” 

Hanrahan is co-chair of the Beef Checkoff’s Domestic Marketing Committee, which is tasked with finding the best ways to reach new and existing customers and increase beef demand in the U.S. He said the research helps the committee be strategic with how to spend checkoff money. 

“At the checkoff, we’re limited from a funding standpoint,” Hanrahan said. “This report helps us get the right message to the right consumer at the right time.”