New research shows Iowans prefer real meat

More research confirming Iowans have a strong affinity for meat and dairy products with more than 9 in 10 (99 percent) saying their households eat meat, eggs or dairy at least weekly. Additionally, the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® finds only a minority of Iowa grocery shoppers would be likely to buy imitation meat over the real thing, even if presented the opportunity. 

The 6th annual survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll, among 502 Iowans ages 20 to 60, with primary or shared household grocery shopping responsibilities, shows which choices and issues may be motivating them to make their food purchasing decisions. 

Although plant-based imitation meat options have grown over the years, 94 percent of shoppers still feel real meat is a healthy option, compared to 74 percent who say the same of plant-based imitation meat. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of Iowa grocery shoppers say they would not be likely to buy plant-based imitation meat over real meat and two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents don’t think plant-based imitation meat should be able to use “meat” on its label. After learning more information about the benefits of animal protein in the human diet, three-quarters (72 percent) of grocery shoppers say they are likely to eat even more meat, eggs, and dairy.

That news comes as no surprise to Iowa State University food scientist, Ruth MacDonald, RD, PhD.

“Animal protein continues to be important because it is a high-quality or ‘complete’ protein containing all the essential amino acids," says MacDonald, chair of the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. "Pork, for example, contains one of the highest amounts of protein per serving and provides needed minerals like selenium, zinc, and iron and vitamins B12, B6, thiamin and niacin,”

The strong consumption of Iowa meat, milk and eggs has remained consistent over the last six years of the survey.  More than 8 in 10 grocery shoppers say their households eat beef (86 percent), chicken (83 percent), or eggs (84 percent) at least weekly, 6 in 10 (59 percent) eat pork at least weekly, and more than 9 in 10 (97 percent) consume dairy – cheese (93 percent), milk (87 percent), or yogurt (58 percent) at least weekly.  

The survey also indicates that a small minority of shoppers showing an interest in imitation meat is due to perceived environmental impact. Among those likely to purchase plant-based imitation meat, only a third (34 percent) say this is due to environmental impact. Dr. Frank Mitloehner, an animal science professor at UC Davis, challenges the misinformation about the carbon footprint of livestock in the United States.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which looks at emissions for the U.S. across all sectors of society including transportation, power production and use, and agriculture, 30 percent of all greenhouse gases are due to electricity production and use, followed by transportation at about 27 percent, and animal agriculture at less than 4 percent,” says Mitloehner. “So all of livestock in the United States accounts for 4 percent.” Additionally, the National Academies of Sciences found that eliminating all livestock in the U.S. would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percent.

The survey also shows more than 9 in 10 (92 percent) of Iowa grocery shoppers continue to place trust in Iowa farmers. Nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) are confident that Iowa farmers care for their animals responsibly. More than three-quarters (78 percent) say they are confident that Iowa farmers care for the environment responsibly, and 71 percent say they are confident that Iowa farmers are taking on the challenge of improving water quality.

When it comes to GMO's, the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index® again shows positive sentiment towards GMOs with nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) saying they will continue to eat food they normally do knowing it contains GMOs. Large majorities of Iowa grocery shoppers say certain GMO benefits would influence their decision to purchase GMO foods: produce food with better nutritional value (74 percent), help feed more people around the world (72 percent), use less herbicide and other pesticides (71 percent), produce food that is scientifically proven over 20 years to be as safe as food produced from conventional and organic crops (66 percent), produce food with better texture or flavor (64 percent), produce better yields to make more efficient use of land (63 percent), and produce food with longer shelf life, to reduce food waste (60 percent).