Pink slime survey: Consumers need information
Consumers are aware, concerned and highly turned off by LFTB
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The firestorm over lean finely texture beef -- labeled "pink slime" in the media -- caught the beef industry flat-footed in the spring of 2012, with one manufacturer filing for bankruptcy, another shuttering three plants and another drastically cutting production.
"It is critical for the meat industry to be prepared to respond quickly and appropriately to issues when they break," said Julie Murphy, market research manager for Midan Marketing, a marketing firm focused on the meat industry.
To do that, the industry needs a real-time snapshot of the current consumer mindset, she said during a webinar on Midan's website.
To get that snapshot, Midan analyzed Internet searches on the topic and conducted an online survey of 455 consumers, a nationally representative sample of fresh meat-eaters in October, about six months after the height of the LFTB hype.
Midan found consumers are very aware, very concerned and highly turned off by LFTB, Murphy said.
The survey also found that Internet searches were hot at the height of media coverage but declined substantially soon after. It also found that only 28 percent of respondents had heard of LFTB, while 81 percent had heard of pink slime.
Able to choose more than one outlet as to where respondents heard of the issue, 74 percent said TV, 54 percent said online and 41 percent said from newspapers.
The survey found consumers were knowledgeable on the issue. Asking an unaided question as to what LFTB/pink slime is, the top answers were terms like processed, ground-up parts, scraps, and trimmings at 27 percent and "a filler" at 18 percent. About 14 percent didn't know.
While the media may not have gotten all the facts correct, they certainly helped most consumers generally understand what it is, Murphy said.
"What's unfortunate, though, is that in these responses, there was very little mention of it being 100 percent beef," she said.
What's really alarming, after all the education industry has provided on the topic, 42 percent of respondents still don't think it's beef and 55 percent think it's unsafe," she said.
Initial reaction to LFTB showed 55 percent of respondents thought it was gross and disgusting, no surprise considering the pink slime label and unappealing images shown on TV and on the web, she said.
Asking respondents if they were concerned by the product, 68 percent said they were and 36 percent said they were very concerned. Yet when asked if their retailer still sells ground meat that contains LFTB, 61 percent said they didn't know, 33 percent said no and 6 percent said yes, Murphy said.
"The majority weren't concerned enough to ask their butcher about it," she said.
Surveying those with concerns, the top reasons for concern were: health effects at 18 percent; not real meat at 12 percent; seems unhealthy at 11 percent; and the name sounded bad and they felt deceived, each at 9 percent.
The survey then asked those concerned what concerned them the most out of a list of six options. The use of ammonia in the process was the top concern at 27 percent. Interestingly, only 7 percent said ammonia in an unaided question, Murphy said.
Midan then offered respondents some factual statements about LFTB and asked them to respond as to whether the statement was believable or unbelievable. They found:
* 69 percent believed it has been used for the last 35 years.
* 74 percent believed it had been used in as much as 70 percent of ground beef.
* 47 percent did not believe that without LFTB, an additional 1.5 million head of cattle annually would be needed to have enough ground beef.
* 52 percent did not believe the statement that LFTB gives people access to lean, safe and affordable ground beef and that having to raise more cattle would be a poor use of resources.
"This is clearly an indication they don't understand our country's supply issue and don't understand the need for LFTB," Murphy said.
Consumer behavior in response to pink slime media reports
38 percent -- nothing out of the ordinary
34 percent -- sought more information
33 percent -- checked to see if their retailer used it
14 percent -- switched to organic/natural beef
8 percent -- switched to a retailer that didn't use it
8 percent -- stopped buying ground beef
2 percent -- stopped buying cuts like steak or roast
* Respondents were able to choose multiple options
SOURCE Midan Marketing