Pondering fresh meat’s future

Normally, when I go grocery shopping, I approach the whole experience a bit like a military mission – with focus, list in hand and plan in mind to get in and out as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Several weeks ago, I was a bit less rushed than usual at the supermarket, so I had a bit of time to slow down and observe what was going on around me. What I noticed intrigued me and stuck in my mind over the next few visits.

The store (in Guelph, Ontario to give this post some context) was generally busy, but especially so at the deli counter – and suspiciously not so at the meat counter and in front of the self serve meat cases. People, I noticed, were lined up to buy processed meats but weren’t exactly falling over themselves to get to the fresh meat – even though some of the deals, especially on pork, were pretty attractive.

I noticed similar behaviour on the part of consumers on subsequent store visits as well. Now Guelph is a university town, so there are also a lot of student grocery shoppers – and the majority of them do not seem to be filling their shopping baskets with fresh meat either.

Now, I admit, this is anecdotal evidence at best, but it does make me wonder what this might mean to the future of fresh meat at the retail level. If there really are fewer consumers buying it, what is the reason for that behaviour? Is it cost? Is it convenience? Or is preparing meat just scary to many people because they don’t really know what to do with it anymore? Granted, steaks and burgers are pretty simple – but there are many more cuts at the meat counter than just steaks and burgers.

I have been a committed meat eater all of my life, and even when I was a student and living on my own, I always had fresh meat in my diet. But I can’t help but wonder if future consumers will say the same thing or whether our meat consumption patterns are undergoing some gradual but perhaps ultimately definitive changes.

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