Perceptions of the red meat industry are improving, as is knowledge of the industry among consumers in metropolitan Australia, according to Meat & Livestock Australia's (MLA) latest consumer sentiment research.
Conducted annually since 2010 by strategic consultancy firm Pollinate on behalf of MLA, the research measures and tracks consumer sentiment in the community towards the Australian red meat industry.
The research is used to inform the industry's community engagement strategy addressing community concerns, and benchmark the impact of MLA's programs on building community trust in the beef and lamb industry.
MLA Managing Director, Jason Strong, said this year's consumer insights reflected a growing acknowledgement of cattle and sheep producers and the work of the industry among metropolitan consumers.
"Despite an environmentally, socially and economically challenging year, perceptions of the red meat industry are improving - 67 per cent of consumers feel 'good' or 'very good' about the Australian beef industry, and 62pc feel 'good' or 'very good' about the Australian sheep industry," Mr Strong said.
"Consumers are hearing more positive messages about the industry, particularly in relation to industry standards and the positive impact on the Australian economy.
"Within this is a real acknowledgement that producers do a good job and are widely respected."
He said it is very encouraging for the industry, particularly in a year where a number of significant events have impacted the red meat industry across Australia including drought, bushfires and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
"Overall red meat consumption has remained stable. Most red meat eaters have not reduced their consumption, nor are they planning to do so in future, with 62pc of consumers eating about the same amount of red meat compared to a year ago," Mr Strong said.
"The number of consumers in metropolitan Australia who claim to be vegetarian has remained stable since 2016, at 7pc. Interestingly, 39pc of claimed vegetarians still eat meat."
Mr Strong said perceived industry knowledge has increased, with around one in three consumers feeling they have a 'good knowledge and understanding' of the Australian beef and lamb industries.
"However, consumers are less informed about the specifics, highlighting the need for the industry to continue to increase awareness and engagement with community and consumers," he said.
"The research shows that consumers turn to a wide range of information sources, with the internet, industry bodies and health professionals, still important sources of information about the industry."
While one in three consumers use the internet to find information about Australian red meat in relation to its environmental impact and animal welfare credentials, this year has seen consumers increasingly turning to supermarkets and butchers as sources of information about the industry.
"Given strong consumer patronage of supermarkets and butchers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not surprising we are seeing these channels become increasingly important sources of information for consumers," Mr Strong said.
"The research significantly informs the community engagement and marketing activities that MLA undertakes on behalf of the red meat industry, explaining our productions systems and demonstrating that our producers are ethical and responsible custodians of livestock, land and natural resources."