For the fresh pork category, 2013 has been a strong year. With competing proteins increasing in price, retailers have been successful in aggressively featuring pork as a value product. 

According to FreshLook Marketing, for the 52 weeks ending July 28, 2013, fresh pork sales increased 1.4 percent in dollar sales and 4.7 percent in volume compared to the same period a year ago. The average price of pork decreased 3.2 percent during this time period. 

In the coming months, hog supplies are expected to remain fairly steady. Retailers are encouraged to continue featuring pork this fall and into winter, offering consumers savings at the meat case, especially in the face of higher prices across the meat case. 

To help retailers and packer/processors boost their pork sales, the National Pork Board focused on several key initiatives in 2013, including new nomenclature for fresh pork cuts, promoting pork’s value position to consumers and educating consumers on a new recommended cooking temperature range. 

The name game

One of the major initiatives for the National Pork Board this year was the introduction of new nomenclature for fresh pork cuts. This was a joint effort with the Beef Checkoff Program that resulted from 18 months of research identifying what, specifically, would help consumers better understand the pork and beef cuts they see every day at the meat case.

The results of the research culminated in changes to the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards (URMIS) nomenclature and the development of new label information and other educational tools - all designed to increase fresh meat sales and reduce consumer confusion. This was the first real revamp of the URMIS system in 40 years, and a real breakthrough for the industry. Consumers will now be able to better understand more of the cuts available in the meat case and how to prepare them. 

Additionally, the research showed that consumers better understand pork loin cuts when labeled with the correct beef terminology. As a result, pork loin cuts can now carry beef terminology that consumers recognize (Ribeye Chop/Porterhouse Chop/T-Bone Chop/New York Chop), allowing retailers to drive value from one end of the pork loin to the other.  

Fresh pork as a value 

Fresh pork was a great value compared to competing proteins last year. In 2013, the average price for beef increased 3.7% compared to a year ago, while the average price for pork decreased 3.2%. The average price of chicken also increased 4.9% during the same time frame. 

In addition to being a value at the meat case, fresh pork is a very versatile product that can be used in many dishes outside of traditional chops and roasts. Pulled pork has become a popular item being used as a base for many meals, including barbeque, salads, pastas and even on pizza. 

There has also been an increase in the popularity of value added pork products. This trend started with flavored tenderloins and has evolved into pre-seasoned loins, chops and shoulder cuts. The popularity of this category has, in a way, redefined “scratch cooking.” Consumers are able to save time in cooking steps, while trying out new flavor profiles and cuts. 

The magic number

The National Pork Board recommends grilling pork chops to an internal temperature between 145°F (medium-rare) and 160°F (medium), followed by a 3-minute rest. This temperature drop is pivotal for the pork industry, which has worked for years to promote this change. The new temperature guidelines make it easier than ever for consumers to create perfectly-cooked pork that is moist and delicious. The success of this effort depends on educating consumers that pork, cooked to 145°F, is recommended. 

To educate consumers on this suggested cooking temperature, the National Pork Board’s “Grill it like a Steak” campaign encourages retailers to spread the word to their consumers so that they have a great eating experience and keep coming back for fresh pork. The campaign includes a meat case sign with cooking temperatures and doneness levels, static clings and on-pack labels.

Today’s consumers look at pork differently than other proteins, and choose pork because of its delicious flavor and versatility. Combined with its attractive price point, pork is the ideal protein to purchase for a variety of family-friendly meals.

Retailers can capitalize on pork’s favorable position by purposefully thinking about pork when developing merchandising plans and ads. Educating consumers with in-store information on the various cuts of fresh pork and how to prepare them, and providing different recipe ideas can help create an easy and efficient shopping experience for consumers, and ultimately increase sales for the meat department.