European consumer knowledge and understanding of the meat market is low, which is contributing to a low Market Performance Index (MPI) compared to other goods markets, according to an EU report.
A Market Performance Index (MPI) is calculated based on indicators including comparability, trust, problems and complaints, switching behaviour and expectations and in 2010 the meat market was ranked 17th out of 19 goods markets, suggesting that the market does not currently function well for consumers.
As a result the European Commission carried out research to establish the problems in the market and what can be done to improve the situation for consumers.
A consumer survey of 13477 people in the 27 EU Member States was conducted and revealed that sensory factors such as ‘fresh’ and ‘tasty’ meat were the most important, with price also key, while specific welfare and environmental indicators - such as organic or high welfare - were voted least important.
When it came to the information looked for when buying meat, the use by/best before date (68%) and price (67%) were considered most important, while types of slaughter (eg halal/kosher), environmental certifications and GM-free feed claims were the least looked for information.
17% of respondents to the consumer survey said they eat meat every day, while 26% said they eat meat 4 to 6 times a week. On average, respondents ate meat 190 days a year, which equates to roughly every other day. However, 32% of EU consumers said they would like to buy meat less often, with health mentioned as the most frequent reason (54%), followed by price (34%).
In addition, 66% of consumers said they would like to buy specific types of meat more often, with organic (44%), animal welfare certified meat (40%) and meat of a particular country-of-origin (38%) the most common. When asked why they do not already buy these meat types more often, the most frequent answer was ‘it is too expensive’.
Prices were found to diverge widely across the EU, but the differences were in line with differences in comparable consumer prices. However, the report concluded that overall consumer satisfaction with the price of meat was low.
Waste was also found to be a problem, with nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers admitting they had thrown away edible meat in the past month, on average 3.5 times. The majority of these consumers said that they lost on average of 9€ per month as a result of this wastage.
The report recommended that increasing provision of information to European consumers about aspects including health should be a “key priority”, and suggested that information and consumer education campaigns be undertaken.
“Based on the findings of the study, it can be concluded that consumers are making only limited efforts to inform themselves about aspects of meat and meat products which could help them make more informed purchase choices. Accordingly, consumers’ knowledge and understanding of the meat market is low,” it said.
“The availability of specific meat types varies widely across Member States and purchase channels, and the lack of availability of specific meat types in certain cases seems to constrain consumer choice. It can also be noted that some consumers are aware of sustainability issues in the market for meat, but that this does not always affect their behaviour, as health, price and safety considerations are more important factors.”
It also recommended that consumers should be educated further about storage and preparation issues to reduce meat waste.
Performance by country
The five best scoring countries in the meat and meat products market were the UK (103.8), Finland (103.5), Malta (103.1), Ireland (102.6) and Slovenia (102.1), while Germany had the most significant upward movement in the ranking since the last report (from position 16 to 6).
The five lowest scoring countries for the meat and meat products market were Bulgaria (86.9), Romania (91.9), Poland (94.3), Lithuania (94.6) and Slovakia (94.9).