A survey of more than 3,000 American consumers shows beef is currently chosen about three times more often than plant-based alternatives. But while the plant-based presence in the market remains small, it is growing.

The study — funded by the Beef Checkoff and conducted by ag economists Glynn Tonsor, Jayson Lusk and Ted Schroeder — found beef has good consumer perceptions on taste, appearance, price, and on nutrition qualifiers such as protein and iron content. Consumers also perceive beef to be better overall for farmers, consumers, and rural communities.

But plant-based alternatives score highest on animal welfare, health and environmental concerns and have better scores than beef for cholesterol, fat and dietary fiber. Consumers of plant-based alternatives are typically younger, have children under the age of 12, have a higher household income, and are Democrats residing in a western state, the study noted.

Since the survey data showed regular meat consumers are not in the key market segment for plant-based alternatives — and vice-versa — marketing should be aimed at “sustaining and promoting core aspects unique to beef” to regular meat consumers. However, if plant-based protein prices decline, the report suggests regular beef eaters “will likely incorporate more plant-based protein in their consumption choices.”

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