SAN ANTONIO – Meat shelves in supermarkets across the United States remain sparse amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The latest data from 210 Analytics and IRI revealed that meat sales skyrocketed with a 91% gain for the week ended March 22 versus a similar week in 2019, and are up 13% from the week ended March 15. 

Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, said meat sales rose along with consumer anxiety levels. IRI data showed that 58% of consumers are feeling extremely concerned about COVID-19, up 38% compared to the week prior. 

Fresh turkey sales were up 126%, exotic meats such as duck and bison were up 123% and pork was up 101%, all more than double the sales of the comparable week in 2019. 

“Bison had been enjoying strong year-over-year growth before the COVID-19 meat sales surge, but product demand has been up 250%-plus over the past three weeks for us,” David Kent, senior vice president of sales at Great Range Brand Bison, told 210 Analytics. “Some retailers have had to ration product, not unlike paper goods and cleaning supplies. Our production teams have answered the call, scheduling extra shifts to meet demand. I think the niche proteins and claims-based proteins benefited in general from stock outs in the big three proteins. What we pulled off together, as the entire meat supply chain, is incredible.” 

Fresh beef sales generated approximately $900 million across the United States, up 95% over 2019. Ground beef was the biggest seller in the meat category followed by short loin, chuck, round and ribs. 

Chicken sales were up 70%, generating approximately $400 million in sales. Chicken breasts, thighs and legs saw the biggest sales numbers in the category. 

Deli meat gained 38% in sales, with deli turkey and ham the most popular choices in the category. 

Roerink said the sales increases are in part due to shoppers’ panic-buying. IRI found that many shoppers are aiming to have two-week supplies of groceries.

But Roerink also noted that there’s a higher everyday need for food as well. With many restaurants closed, families and individuals are cooking for themselves. And with many schools and offices closed around the country, families are eating at home around the clock – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. 

“Consumers are looking to boost their nutritional intake and build their immune systems and from their buying patterns, it certainly appears meat matters during times of crisis,” Roerink said. “These are all drivers of increased everyday demand of the grocery channel versus foodservice.”