The meat/fish/poultry category accounts for 4% of the market for organic food products in the US, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

In fact, the meat/fish/poultry category comes in last place among the major food categories for organic sales, with produce accounting for 40% of US organic food sales in 2021, followed by dairy and eggs at 13%, beverages at 12%, packaged/prepared foods at 11% bread/grains at 9% and snack foods at 6%.

The meat/fish/poultry category’s sales even trail organic condiments (5%).

Organic meats can leverage the success of organic products in other categories, said Pete Lewis, chief marketing officer for Open Range Beef.

“A natural cross-merchandising opportunity is to create dishes using organic proteins and organic vegetables,” Lewis said.”Organic produce is readily available at most retailers and enjoys even broader consumer adoption.”

In addition, Lewis said there’s a growing range of organic spices, marinades, and other ingredients available at retail that can be a good merchandising fit with organic meats.

Cost challenges clean label

Acosta Group’s recent Clean Label Insights Study finds that 83% of shoppers are already knowledgeable about clean label products or have heard the term.

Although not officially defined, marketers position clean-label products as having as few ingredients as possible, having easy-to-recognize ingredients, and having no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.

"’Cleaner labels’ and ‘no sugar’ are a reflection of the consumer’s desire to shop with their values – they want their products to be unadulterated and preferably not mass-produced,” Lewis said. “Natural and organic proteins fit squarely into this overall approach for consumers making conscientious food choices. Consumers are increasingly learning about regenerative food production and seeking it out. It takes the concept of ‘do no harm’ toward a more holistic ‘do more good’ for both consumers and food producers.”

The Acosta Group study finds the biggest challenge to clean-label purchases is cost, with shoppers finding the products are too expensive or they question the value of the products’ clean-label claims.

Clean-label product purchasers skew younger overall, with Acosta Group market research suggesting that Gen Z and Millennials say they expect to buy more of these products in the future, positioning them as clean label's strongest advocates.

“The continued growth in natural and organic proteins is less so a trend: It reflects the Millennial and Gen Z consumers’ broadly held values and how they approach buying many products, not just proteins,” Lewis said.

Data has shown that consumers who value the attributes of natural and organic protein continue to pay a premium above conventional beef, Lewis said.

“We've also seen additional attributes translate to additional sales as well – our customer Heinen's saw 30% volume sales growth year over year after replacing their existing imported Organic grass-fed program with Spring Lake Ranch, our super-premium Organic, 100% grass-fed product that's born, raised, and harvested in the US – despite a substantively higher shelf price than the previous program.”