CHICAGO — Health and sustainability trends are converging around plant-based cooking, but it’s not just Bubba who still wants to order meat while dining out. Although consumers report a decrease in red meat consumption over the past two years, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report, the majority (69%) eat beef at least once a week, and 47% choose pork. As plant foods continue to move to the center of the plate, operators can appeal to meat eaters by experimenting with new cuts, flavors, cooking techniques and portion sizes.
Keep your meat offerings fresh with these four findings from Technomic’s report.
1. Explore unique cuts
Go beyond the standard steak or pork chop, especially for younger customers: Twenty-five percent of millennials say they now choose cuts of beef they didn’t eat a year ago, and 32% say the same for pork. With nose-to-tail cooking growing in popularity, foodservice operators have more access to cuts such as pork collar and pork skirt steak. On the beef side, chuck steak, shank and petit tenderloins are gaining fans. And chefs are doing more with beef and pork trim and scraps in an effort to reduce waste and boost the protein in grain and veggie dishes.
2. Offer more variety
Burgers and steaks still lead when it comes to consumers’ preferred beef preps, but they’re calling for a greater variety than simply grilled beef. The report mentions ethnic dishes, such as Mexican fajitas and enchiladas, Japanese beef teriyaki and Middle Eastern gyros. As for pork, consumers prefer grilled, barbecued and smoked preparations, and they want to see more pork belly and ribs on menus.
3. Move away from the center of the plate
Entrees are not the only way to attract meat eaters: Forty-two percent of consumers show interest in side dishes with beef and 30% in those with pork. Appetizers are not as popular a platform for these red meats—only 14% of respondents show a preference for pork and beef starters. Dedicated carnivores, however, are more likely to order beef and pork appetizers, and with the trend toward menuing smaller portions of red meat, this mealpart can be a good vehicle for innovation. Think Asian dumplings or brisket street tacos, for example.
4. Pay attention to sourcing
Animal welfare is important to today’s consumers, with roughly half saying it’s important that meat is sourced from cattle and pigs that have been treated humanely. Hormone-free and antibiotic-free meat is also a priority. While quality and taste are the leading drivers behind beef and pork orders in restaurants (43% and 37%, respectively), operators who market sustainability and ethical sourcing can spur purchase, especially among women and younger diners.