Community sentiment research
Australian perceptions about the red meat industry
Project overview and objective
Understanding community sentiment towards the Australian red meat industry is key to informing our investments in community communication and marketing to drive better understanding of red meat production and nutritional benefits for everyday Australians.
MLA has been conducting work with Pollinate market research company each year since 2010. These insights now span a 14-year period, providing us with valuable historical data on trends in trust, attitudes, consumption and purchasing habits of red meat in Australian metropolitan areas.
Positive perceptions of the red meat industry
Our most recent research conducted in 2023 indicates that the majority of Australians feel good about the beef and lamb industry.
Perceptions of the Australian red meat industry are relatively strong, and 28% of metropolitan Australians feel they are knowledgeable of the industry. Interestingly, the insights also show that positive community sentiment is correlated with the community’s understanding of our industry.
The research data highlights that farmers are amongst the most trusted members of the Australian community, alongside doctors and scientists.
Consumers’ knowledge of the industry boosts perceptions
Drilling down into the details of the research, of the 28% of consumers who feel they are knowledgeable about the industry, they also feel more positive towards the production of red meat in Australia, including that cattle and sheep producers:
- care about the environment
- produce livestock in a humane manner
- make a positive contribution to society.
This group also believe it’s important for school children to learn more about how the industry produces beef and lamb.
In addition, around half of the metro Australians involved in the 2023 research were themselves interested in learning more about how beef and lamb is produced.
These insights also reflected the growing impact of MLA’s programs on building community trust in the red meat industry.
With the knowledge that the red meat industry has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30):
- 57% of metro consumers thought more positively about the red meat industry.
Motivation to change their consumption of red meat
The research also asked questions about whether they have changed their red meat consumption. Pleasingly, red meat consumption patterns have remained relatively stable over the past 12 months, with 72% of metropolitan Australians eating the same amount or having increased their consumption of red meat over the past year.
The top reasons people gave for eating more red meat are:
- source of iron
- source of protein
- good nutrition
- improve my health.
On the flip side, the research also indicates that 28% of metropolitan consumers have reduced their red meat consumption over the past year. This level of decline has been relatively consistent since the research commenced, however the reasons provided for eating less red meat have changed over time, with expense now significantly higher than the other three reasons are:
- too expensive
- health concerns
- environmental concerns
- don’t like the taste any more.
Who isn’t eating red meat?
MLA’s consumer sentiment research showed the number of consumers who claim to be vegetarian has remained relatively stable, reducing slightly over the past few years.
The 2023 research indicates that 5% of consumers claim to be vegetarian – a slight decrease compared to last year – and 55% of those who claim to be vegetarian, still eat meat occasionally, so those who are ‘true’ vegetarians or vegans is only around 2% of metro Australians.
Source of information
Not surprising, the internet is the key source of information consumers turn to for information on red meat nutrition, animal welfare and environmental impact and in since 2021, health organisations and industry bodies started playing a bigger role in keeping Australians informed.
Drivers of trust in the red meat industry
In the 2023 research, further analysis was undertaken on trust, with 66% of metropolitan Australians having a strong level of trust in the Australian beef and sheep industry. The top three drivers of trust in the industry were the perceptions that Australian cattle and sheep farmers:
- are ethical and trustworthy with animals humanely raised
- listen, respect and respond to community concerns
- are taking actions to reduce environmental impact improving sustainability.
The results of this research also align with the Agrifutures Community Trust in Rural Industries (CTRI) research looking into trust in the agriculture sector as a whole. The link to this research is also provided below in the downloads section.
The impact of trust on consumption
Analysis of consumption patterns and levels of trust in the industry demonstrates that there is a very strong correlation between levels of trust and levels of consumption. Those consumers who had a high level of trust, were much more likely to consume red meat more frequently than those with lower levels of trust. And this also is true in the reverse, those with lower levels of trust were more likely to be a red meat reducer, with lower frequency of consuming red meat.
The strong link between knowledge, improved perceptions, trust and consumption patterns highlights the importance to our industry of continuing to raise knowledge in our industry, listen and demonstrate action to reduce community concerns around animal welfare and environmental impact, to ultimately maintain trust in the red meat industry and overall red meat consumption in Australia.
How we use the research
MLA uses this annual research to inform the community communication and marketing activities it undertakes on behalf of the red meat industry, an important component of which is demonstrating how Australian red meat producers are ethical and responsible custodians of livestock, land and natural resources.
Our focus is to share with the community that the Australian red meat and livestock industry is an ethical and responsible custodian of livestock, land and natural resources.
Through MLA’s community communications brand, Australian Good Meat, we are able to provide this information to the public in a clear and transparent way through their most trusted channels to have our positive messages heard which will ensure our industry can remain sustainable now, and into the future.
MLA’s main community engagement priorities are:
Community sentiment: Maintain positive community sentiment towards the red meat industry, highlighting care for environment and animal wellbeing, and the role of red meat in a healthy balanced diet.
Tell our positive stories: Showcase producers’ stories to share their knowledge with the community on the journey from paddock to plate.
Red Meat Green Facts: Provide easy to understand facts on the red meat industry to bust myths and build industry knowledge.
School education: Build teachers’ and students’ knowledge through curriculum aligned topics on the red meat industry.
Learn more about MLA’s Community Programs
See link to MLA news article Red meat industry vital to job creation and economy according to consumers