Baby Boomers have different perceptions about buying meat than younger generations.  Based on a recent white paper, Generational Shifts, boomers believe that meat should be “kept on hand”. 

Since 2017, U.S. consumers spend more money in foodservice establishments such as restaurants, schools and gas stations than in retail grocery stores.  Choices about what to eat are expanding into animal production methods as we balance our diets and develop sustainable food systems.  A lot of discussion is spent defining what a healthy diet looks like, and where our food comes from. Information can be overwhelming as we read labels, and decipher how one product differs from another as we vote with our dollars to choose products that fit into personal value systems.

This week we have seen empty meat cases in the grocery stores as people are stocking up for coronavirus quarantines.  Will we reflect for generations to come, like the Great Depression, on how this pandemic changed us?

My Dad told colorful stories of life on the farm during the Depression.  Most of the stories always seemed to have a happy ending, as families and neighbors took care of each other and did what they could to make the best of what they had.  “We always felt sorry for the people living in big cities,” my Dad would say, “because they didn’t have enough to eat.”  Dad’s family didn’t have money or lights or indoor bathrooms like people who lived in town, but they raised most of their own food — eggs, chickens, milk and beef, vegetables from the garden, and fruit from the orchard. 

It’s 2020 and we see grocery store meat counters emptied as people scramble to stock up and hunker down for numerous days of quarantine.  Less than 2% of us are now connected with agriculture as opposed to 40% in the 1930’s.  Today the U.S. has plenty of food available, but an empty meat case as a result of consumers stocking up for more stay-at-home meals is something we have never seen.

Consumers are making choices about what to have on hand, and purchasing priorities are being tested.  Typical patterns of consumption are shifting and social distancing recommendations are forcing change like never imagined.   What will become the new norms?

  • Will we cook more meals at home?  Good way to control ingredients and portion sizes
  • Will we keep more staples on hand for emergencies?   Buy when on sale for best price; convenient
  • Will we be more aware of food waste?    Leftovers become plan-overs
  • Will we remember that beef is a compact, nutritional powerhouse with minimal calories?    Better for me
  • Will this bring our generations to a deeper understanding of risk and give us new lenses to understand how to best build a more sustainable and prosperous food supply?

People will always need to eat.  I wonder what kind of stories we will pass along to the next generation….