Traceability and Transparency – Table Stakes for Tomorrow’s Consumers

July 29, 2021

Traceability and Transparency – Table Stakes for Tomorrow’s Consumers

by  

Maggie O'Quinn


Reading Time: 2 minutes

When it comes to trends at the meat case and what topics consumers are talking about, there’s an influencer I’m starting to recognize – Walmart®. They weren’t the first corporation to commit to becoming greener and they don’t have the loftiest sustainability goals but their massive sway and buying power makes sustainability an issue consumers and suppliers are focused on. We are seeing it happen again around the topics of traceability and transparency. When Walmart partnered with McClaren Farms to create their own beef supply chain, they made traceability and transparency tomorrow’s table stakes for consumers and other retailers are taking notice.

Transparency is the easier part of this puzzle for the industry and consumers to understand. Over 60% of consumers say they like to know where their food comes from and more than half of shoppers believe transparency around how and where the animal was raised and processed is important.1 The segment of meat consumers who base their purchase decisions around transparency is smaller, but far from insignificant. From the Midan Marketing Meat Consumer Segmentation research, Protein Progressives are the younger, more Flexitarian-leaning consumer who really value transparency in the supply chain. They make up 20% of meat consumers today.2 It’s important to remember that these consumers are some of the most likely to leave meat behind in favor of alternatives if we don’t address their concerns.

Ultimate transparency comes in the form of traceability – the ability to trace a product from its final form as meat back through the supply chain to learn details about the animal’s life. Right now, the industry hasn’t reached a consensus on how we do this. Third-party verification audits are popular, both in the U.S. and abroad. Blockchain is also a traceability method that is hot right now and has even been adopted by industry giant JBS.

NIAA graphic

More important than how we trace the meat, though, is the story we are telling consumers. Today, Walmart shoppers (in select Southeast states) can pick up a package of McClaren Farms beef and scan a QR code to be taken to a website with the full story on how the ranch’s cattle are raised. In my mind, this is a near perfect execution. The one change I would make would be to add a virtual reality (VR) component – let the consumer completely immerse themselves in the experience of being in the pasture or hog barn, in the chicken coop, even on the production line with us.

Every day, it is our job to give consumers permission to continue to enjoy our product. And that means listening in on issues like traceability and transparency that only a small segment of consumers is vocal about right now. Because while it may be 20% of consumers today, more of tomorrow’s consumers will expect their meat to come with assurances about who, where and how this meat was made, as well as the animal it comes from.

Throughout the year, Midan Marketing will continue to bring insights from the perspective of the consumer on some of today’s most discussed topics in the meat industry.

1 Anne-Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics LLC, The Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Report sponsored by Sealed Air Food Care Division/Cryovac® and Published by Food Marketing Institute Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education.

2 Midan Marketing, Meat Consumer Segmentation 2.1, September 2020.

This content originally published in the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s members-only newsletter Paradigm.

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