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Looking for beef info online

IN an era when consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips, where do they turn for recommendations on meat purchasing?

That's the question assistant professor of consumer economics Kuo-Liang "Matt" Chang and a team of South Dakota State University researchers sought to answer when trying to determine the best way to use social media to encourage beef consumption. The research was supported by a grant from the South Dakota Beef Industry Council.

In addition to Chang, the research team included assistant professor of economics Lisa Elliott, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications Rocky Dailey and extension field specialist Shannon Sand in Rapid City, S.D.

Social media platforms provide a wealth of quantitative analytics, including the number of people who visited the site, what they viewed and their demographics, according to Briana Burgers, nutrition assistant and director of online communications for the South Dakota Beef Industry Council.

"We want to know what information our consumers want to see from us," Burgers said. "This study gives us the qualitative data we need."

Recipes, nutrition info

Based on an online survey filled out by 126 South Dakota residents — most of whom were ages 24-45 — websites are the number-one source of nutrition information and recipes, followed by family and friends, according to Chang.

The third most popular place the respondents turn for recipes is magazines, followed by social media, he said.

However, for nutrition information, social media takes a back seat to health professionals, magazines and television, in that order.

In looking at consumers' nutritional knowledge, Chang found that more than half of respondents identified beef as containing more iron than other meats, but only 25% knew that a chicken thigh has more fat than a steak.

Shopping decisions

Nearly 45% of respondents had shopped for groceries based on information posted on social media, according to Chang. Although only 27% shopped for meat online, about 77% said they are willing to try new products based on their friends' suggestions on social media.

More than 80% of the respondents used Facebook, while just over 50% visited Pinterest, and Twitter came in third, Chang said, noting that the beef council maintains a presence on all three.

"This suggests that the beef council can take increasing advantage of the great marketing opportunities on these platforms," he said.

In addition, Burgers said she also writes a blog in which she tries to connect with Millennials and provides easy, convenient and nutritious recipes with how-to photos.

Consumers viewed nutrition and health as top priorities when purchasing both beef and poultry, while 55% felt that price was important when purchasing beef and 58% when buying chicken. This difference is not statistically significant, though, Chang pointed out.

Approximately 37% of the respondents buy their beef at a chain store, such as Hy-Vee or Walmart, while 33% purchase half or a quarter of their beef from a friend or family member, according to Chang.


When faced with higher beef prices, South Dakota consumers purchase less meat in general, rather than selecting less-expensive alternatives such as chicken, Chang explained. However, midwesterners consume 10% more beef than the rest of the nation.

"One type of meat does not necessarily compete with the other," Chang said.

Consumers will purchase a variety of meats that complement, rather than substitute for, one another.

To complete the study, Chang will interview 25 respondents to find out how the beef council can draw visitors to its website and to tailor its social media messages to their needs.

taken from Feedstuffs


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