A majority of consumers blame pandemic-related disruptions for the sharp rise in meat prices that has taken place over the past two years, according to a new Purdue University survey.

The monthly Consumer Food Insights Report said 51% of survey respondents blamed shutdowns for the higher meat prices while only 8% cited concentration in the meatpacking industry, an issue the Biden administration has spotlighted.

Some 39% attributed the price increases to labor shortages, a key factor cited by processors. Meat prices have increased by 13.6% over the past 12 months, helping fuel a 7.4% increase in overall supermarket prices, according to the latest Consumer Price Index

The survey also evaluated consumers’ reasons for purchasing the foods that they do.

Some 32% said they often or always check how their food was produced or avoid GMO ingredients. About 34% often or always check for the origin of the food they buy. By comparison, 51% often or always check nutrition labels and 71% check use-by or sell-by dates.

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“We are taking the pulse of consumers to help guide farmers and retailers along the food supply chain as we all adapt to changing circumstances,” said Purdue economist Jayson Lusk, who leads the university’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability.

“Consumers significantly influence the direction of food and agricultural systems, and we need a timely way to track trends in what people are buying and eating, and how this is affected by events like inflation, climate change and COVID-19,” he said.

About 1,200 consumers responded to the online survey conducted Jan. 18-20 by the market research firm Dynata.

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