Ethical meat an opportunity in ready meals?
Younger generations prioritize animal welfare
While consumers across age groups are increasingly concerned about animal welfare, younger generations are particularly passionate about the issue. Millennials and iGens show a willingness to apply more rigorous moral standards to their food choices than older generations, driving interest in ‘virtuous’ diets. Prepared meal brands would be best served marketing higher welfare products to this demographic, particularly as they already show strong interest in ethical meals.
Ethical ready meals are few and far between
Despite increased scrutiny around animal welfare, relatively few prepared meal brands have embraced ethically raised meat. In the 12 months to September 2018, just 3% of prepared meal launches globally had an ethical animal claim, up only slightly from 2013-14 according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). This is a missed opportunity for a category in which meat is an important component of recipes and interest in ethical options already exists. Brands hoping to appeal to consumers with more virtuous eating habits have instead introduced meat-free recipes, with vegan and vegetarian meals becoming more prevalent across markets. Despite concerns over animal welfare, many consumers find it hard to completely abstain from meat, highlighting untapped opportunities in the category for brands to incorporate meat with higher welfare standards.
Animal welfare concepts to explore
Slow-growth chicken breeds have emerged as an ethical alternative to battery chickens in the US. Slow-growth chickens take about 25% longer to reach slaughter weight, and can stand up and move around unlike their fast-growing cousins, who spend their final days floor-bound because they have put on weight so quickly.
Pasture-raised meat has emerged as a trend in many markets, with consumers attracted to its natural and ethical credentials. Pasture-raised ensures that grazing animals are fed in ethical conditions, exploring natural environments as nature intended. Some producers even detail the time spent on pasture, such as six months or a year.
Demand for ‘heritage meat’ has also grown, particularly in high-end restaurants, where its complex flavor is preferred. Heritage meat refers to animals reared slowly and ethically by farmers preserving the breeds native to their region. The concept is set apart from industrial agriculture, with a focus on organic, sustainable farms.
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