WEST LAFAYETTE, IN. — Purdue University’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability (CDFAS) announced on Aug. 23 that it’s offering a meat sentiment dashboard to track mentions of meat and meat alternatives in social media and online news.

Interested users can look at meat sentiment and volume of #Meat mentions in all 50 states or the entire country going back to April 2020.

“The general perception is more positive than what the average person might guess,” said Nicole Olynk Widmar, professor and associate head of agricultural economics at Purdue. “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, shoppers may have been unhappy with meat availability. Meat was available, but not always exactly what shoppers wanted, when and where they wanted it.”

The dashboard displays color-coded sentiment in gradient ranges from dark green for 100% positive to dark red for 100% negative. An example given was Indiana on social media between April 2020 and July 2022 where poultry had a net sentiment of 49.30, followed by beef at 39.72 and pork at 37.30. 

Plant-based meat alternatives, meanwhile, rated a barely positive net sentiment at 3.20. 

“Perception is going to reflect a few key headlines that may or may not have correctly reflected the state of the industry,” Widmar added. “This dashboard gives you a chance to look more holistically across the different products.”

The dashboard also showed that posts nationwide during the same period had poultry at 3 million posts and pork at 2 million posts, with both having a net sentiment of 32. Plant-based meat alternatives had a net sentiment of 26 over 387,000 posts.

Widmar noted that individual companies in various industries have a profit motive to privately collect and analyze data relevant to the demand for their own products.

However, she said that when it comes to big data and agriculture it’s not being used as well as it could be.

The dashboard is a collaboration between Widmar and Jayson Lusk, the head and distinguished professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue, who leads the CDFAS. They conceived the meat dashboard idea after several meat supply chain disruptions spurred news headlines of a broken US food system during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Widmar and Lusk serve as co-authors of the dashboard, along with CFDAS postdoctoral research associate Jinho Jung and research data analyst and visualization specialist Annapurni Subramaniam.