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Health concerns remain a deterrent to beef consumption, Technomic said.

CHICAGO – Health concerns and higher costs are carving into consumption of beef and pork. More than a fifth of beef eaters reported ordering less of the red meat in restaurants than in the year before due to rising prices, according to research from Technomic, Inc.

The majority of meat eaters choose beef (91 percent) or pork (66 percent) as a center-of-the-plate option at least weekly. The most preferred beef dinners are steak, pasta with beef, and roast beef or pot roast. Popular pork dishes include barbecue, pizza topped with pork, and pork ribs.

To justify higher price points, restaurant operators may convey a premium quality by including flavorful spices, glazes, marinades, sauces and condiments in beef or pork entrees. The leading flavors at top restaurant chains, according to Technomic, include onion, butter and garlic for beef dishes, and barbecue, sweet and garlic for pork entrees.

“Smaller portions and ‘value’ cuts prepared with unique seasonings, spices, sauces and condiments may help cut costs and spur consumer interest in these proteins,” said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic.

Cost aside, health remains the top deterrent to eating beef and pork, Technomic reported.

“Communicating nutritional content and utilizing health-halo descriptors can help address negative health perceptions and may boost incremental sales, particularly among younger consumers,” Weikel said.

Such descriptors as “lean” and “organic” may boost health and taste perceptions for beef and pork. Sixty-five percent of consumers find menu items described as “natural” to be healthier, and 44 percent deem it tastier. An item described as “lean” is perceived as more healthful by 84 percent of consumers and better-tasting by 43 percent.

Social responsibility also has become a priority for many carnivorous customers. At least 40 percent place high importance on humane animal treatment and country-of-origin labels for beef and pork, Technomic said. Further, more than a third of consumers said they would pay more for beef or pork that is hormone- and steroid-free and domestically raised.