Canada Beef Market Intelligence Update: Global survey pinpoints beef consumer priorities

A recent online survey found that price was the most important factor for beef consumers in Canada.

An online survey commissioned by Canada Beef revealed beef consumers share common priorities across nearly all borders when buying fresh beef or selecting a beef brand. 

Consumers in the nine countries surveyed most commonly cited product freshness, quality certification or grade, price and product origin as top considerations when purchasing fresh beef. While selecting a beef brand, consumers deemed food safety protocols, price, the quality grade of the beef and how the cattle are raised as the most important factors.  

The Canada Beef Global Beef Quality Perceptions Survey involved 8,000 adults, consisting of 1,000 consumers in each of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, China, Japan, South Korea and Italy, plus 500 consumers each in Mexico and Vietnam. The attitudinal survey contained both open-ended and closed questions; the former to capture unprompted and likely the most authentic consumer perspectives in these top markets for Canadian beef, the latter to rank a prepared list of beef characteristics by importance when selecting a branded product. Fieldwork took place between February 19 and March 5, 2021. 

The result is an in-depth breakdown of factors unique to each market as well as factors that are common across them all, said Michael Young, Canada Beef president. 

“The survey results deftly captured consumer attitudes that mirror current market access issues in some countries, and revealed areas of opportunity in others. This information will be instrumental to Canada Beef as it deploys its strategic marketing of the Canadian beef brand,” Young said. 

For example, when purchasing a fresh (not processed) beef product, freshness is the most important factor for consumers in Mexico (52 per cent), followed by China (35 per cent) and South Korea (35 per cent). In Vietnam, consumer preference for quality certification or grade (30 per cent) competed with freshness (29 per cent). Price was the most important factor for consumers in Canada (30 per cent), the U.S. (26 per cent), Great Britain (25 per cent) and Japan (18 per cent). In Italy, consumers placed the most importance on where the beef product comes from (28 per cent).  

Other factors cited by consumers in response to the fresh beef question included colour/redness, expiration date/good packaging, taste, safe, and healthy/sanitary conditions/clean, local and amount of fat/percentage of fat. 

Survey respondents were asked if they had any concerns related to how beef cattle were raised that may influence their purchasing decisions. Consumers in South Korea, Vietnam and China were more likely to express concerns about how cattle are raised as being important when purchasing beef. The majority of consumers in all remaining countries reported having no prominent concerns.  

The most common considerations cited in this area of open-ended questioning included how the animals are treated (i.e. animal welfare), hormones/pesticides/antibiotics-free, how cattle are fed, and safe and healthy production (i.e. sanitary conditions). 

Viewed as a market snapshot, animal welfare was the most commonly cited concern in the U.S. (15 per cent), South Korea (14 per cent), Great Britain (13 per cent), Mexico (12 per cent) and Canada (11 per cent). In Italy, consumers are most likely to mention hormones/pesticides/antibiotics-free (14 per cent), followed by animal welfare (12 per cent). Safe and healthy production is considered the greatest concern in China (15 per cent), followed by hormones/pesticides/ antibiotics-free (13 per cent). In Vietnam, consumers are nearly equally as likely to cite how the cattle are fed (12 per cent), safe and healthy production (10 per cent), where it comes from (nine per cent) and organic production (nine per cent).  

There was some overlap in responses to the question regarding the most important characteristics when selecting a brand of beef to purchase. Following the top four priorities mentioned earlier, cattle raised without the use of antibiotics and added hormones (particularly in China, Italy and Vietnam), was cited ahead of animal health and welfare standards and environmental sustainability standards. 

Information about the farmers who raised the cattle, the breed of cattle, and that the beef is from cattle fed grain for at least 100 days before going to market was viewed as less important. Italy, Mexico, Vietnam and China placed the highest importance on these areas of all the countries surveyed.  

Except for price, consumers in Japan generally place less importance on most factors when selecting a beef brand. 

Survey results for countries with a sample size of n=1000 are accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points and n=500 +/- 5.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had all adults over the age of 18 been polled.

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