According to The Power of Meat 2024 survey, 91% of consumers can be persuaded to spend a little more on meat and poultry for holidays, special occasions, and entertaining.

The all-American summertime tradition of backyard cookouts, firing up the Weber to grill family dinner, and all manner of at-home and dining-out meal occasions from Memorial Day to July Fourth to Labor Day align perfectly with summer grilling season opportunities to align meat and poultry products with good times and treasured memories.

The burger holds an iconic place in America’s list of grilling favorites.

summer grilling foods. bbq chicken and burgers

Brett Erickson, director of prepared and packaged solutions for Certified Angus Beef, said rising beef costs have failed to cool consumer demand for burgers, adding that he expects burger demand to take off as the weather gets warmer and grilling season heats up.

Making mealtime a pastime rather than a chore presents a great way to deepen consumers’ connection with grilled meats.

The National Turkey Federation is again partnering with the Kansas City Barbeque Society to kick off the fifth year of the Turkey Smoke Series. That effort aims to encourage both recreational and professional pitmasters to showcase their grilling skills with turkey on the smoker or grill. The Turkey Smoke Series features a turkey category in select competitive barbeque events across the US in 2024.

Seasonal opportunities for grilling at foodservice

In addition to being America’s summertime backyard entertaining all-stars, grilled meats offer creative avenues for seasonal menu innovation as well.

“The summer grilling season gives our foodservice providers an opportunity to showcase fresh, locally sourced ingredients while adding variety and seasonal appeal to their menus,” said Kevin Lindgren, director of merchandising at New York-based Baldor Specialty Foods. “Many report they will be incorporating local fruits, vegetables, and herbs into their grilled dishes, marketing them as peak season, limited time only, chalkboard specials.”

Lindgren said that while traditional steak and burgers are maintaining their popularity, there’s an uptick in demand for more cost-effective protein options, with foodservice operators asking for more cost-effective center-of-the-plate options like sirloin flap, skirts hanger, and flat irons.

“Value-added proteins, such as pre-marinated or pre-portioned items, are helping ease the burden some restaurants face with labor challenges.” Lindgren said. “Portioning and marinating meats in advance reduces the need for extensive prep work in the kitchen, saving valuable time during peak service hours and stabilizing costs per portion”

The unique sensory value proposition they offer consumers continues to make grilled meats a sought after eating experience despite that fact that consumer are still feeling the pinch of higher food prices.

“Grilling’s great because it enhances the natural flavors and textures of meats, creating a satisfying dining experience that creates an elevated perceived value, even in the face of rising food costs,” Lindgren said. “The most cost-effective center of the plate options are thin meats best prepared on the grill like sirloin flap, skirts hanger, and flat irons. Pairing grilled proteins with a wide range of side dishes and accompaniments, offers consumers customizable meal options that can suit their preferences and their budgets.”

Another trend Lindgren said Baldor is seeing a growing interest in sustainable and ethically raised meats, leading to the featuring of grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and responsibly sourced seafood on menus.