The beef and pork industries are making extra efforts to hawk their products. For the beef industry, this makes sense: their two-year old effort to create "Masters of Beef Advocacy" is meant to reverse losses in market share driven in part by negative perceptions of their products (i.e. beef is fatty and leads to heart attacks, high cholesterol, etc.). This great Wall Street Journal chart, using USDA data on per capita meat consumption, shows clearly that the beef industry started losing ground in the mid-1970s, just as these sort of health concerns emerged:
For the pork industry, on the other hand, believing that a new slogan—in particular, one as vague as "Pork: Be Inspired"—will change the fate of products that have been consumed at more or less the same rate for decades seems foolish.
This new slogan replaces the more aspirational "Pork: The Other White Meat," which didn't do much for pork sales, apparently, but at least made sense. According to the USDA figures, the real success story is chicken.
What's interesting here is the divergent role the federal government has played in promoting pork and chicken. As Grist's Tom Philpott writes, "The marketing wizards behind this campaign are funded by the NPB [National Pork Board], which is a federally-mandated entity that's one of several so-called USDA "Check-off programs" responsible for marketing, some might say hyping, various agricultural products like pork, milk, cheese, and beef." The money comes from the industry, but the mandate comes from the government. The USDA data in the chart above indicate, however, that the government's boosterism is not, in this case, doing much good.
The federal government had a much more efficient method for promoting the growth of the chicken industry: it bought chicken. Before the 1920s, chickens were too valuable as egg producers to regularly feature on the dinner table, but by the time World War II had started, chicken farming had become its own industry. Chicken was cheap, and so the government bought it to feed soldiers and encouraged consumers to buy it in order to free up beef and pork supplies.
After that initial boost, the chicken industry's growth depended--and still depends--on its inclusion in prepared and fast foods. If the USDA really wanted to promote pork sales, its marketing campaign should probably be focused on convincing consumers that pork wiener schnitzel is basically equivalent to chicken tenders and pushing WalMart to ensure that both are available in its frozen food section.
But, of course, what the USDA should actually be doing is convincing Americans to eat less pork, milk, cheese and beef and marketing initiatives like Meatless Monday. In the absence of those sort of efforts, those who'd rather be inspired by kale than bacon might want to check this list of yummy-looking recipes from Food52.
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