Market Insights - Fall 2023

Published: November 15, 2023


At National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, the Market Research team monitors consumer sentiment and economic trends and collaborates with other NCBA teams and external stakeholders to provide valuable and informative insights to benefit the beef industry. This Market Insights report highlights current industry trends and insights and their potential impact on the beef industry, with an emphasis on domestic consumers.



rank beef as the top protein that is good for social gatherings and special occassions1


consider if the meal is a good value for the money when choosing a meal with protein when dining at home1


report a positive eating experience when enjoying beef at home or at a restaurant1



  • Historically, the final months of the calendar year result in an increase in overall consumer spending, including dollars spent on beef. 
  • Consumer debt is increasing, and savings are declining, which may draw some consumers away from beef in the future.  
  • Currently, although fewer pounds of beef are being sold, higher prices are helping balance the overall sales value.  
  • Consumer sensitivity to price will determine how long this continues and if the holiday season bump in beef sales comes to fruition.

Thanks to the numerous holidays at the end of the calendar year, demand for most goods and services often increases during the 4th quarter compared to the 3rd quarter.2 In fact, consumer spending on goods and services has increased from the 3rd quarter to the 4th quarter every year since 2000 (except for 2008).2 Consumer spending as a whole has been on an upward trajectory, with increases every quarter since the 3rd quarter of 2020, and, as of the date of this publication, consumer spending is up 6% in the 3rd quarter of 2023 compared to the 3rd quarter of 2022.2 However, inflation rates have also reached historic highs over the past few years and consumers are drawing from personal savings and relying on credit cards to make ends meet.2,3 This combination of consistently high prices and a shaky financial situation for consumers has economic experts and consumers alike wondering what the future may hold. 

As Figure 1 shows, retail beef inflation rates have been on the rise through most of 2023 and increased by 7.0% from September 2022 to September 2023.3 Part of the reason why beef prices continue to be elevated may be explained by simple supply and demand. Beef has been experiencing decreasing supplies over the past year or so, but demand has remained steady.4 When lower supplies are combined with steady demand, prices tend to increase.4 However, the rising price of beef relative to other substitute proteins (chicken and pork) may draw some consumer dollars away from beef in the future.

Figure 1

Inflation rates for beef, chicken, and pork (percent change vs. one year ago)

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, Not Seasonally Adjusted, October 2023 Release

As Figure 2 shows, beef has still been performing well from a retail sales perspective, with $8.4 billion of fresh beef products sold in the 3rd quarter of 2023 – the second-highest quarterly dollar sales figure since the second quarter of 2022.5 Although the volume sold has declined over the past few quarters, higher prices per pound of beef help maintain the overall sales value.5 It is also worth noting that in the final quarters of 2022 and 2021, beef dollar sales increased even though similar economic headwinds existed.2,3,5 This suggests some resiliency in consumers' demand for beef, even in the face of economic challenges. However, increasing credit card debts and depleted savings accounts could counteract resilient consumer spending habits and even seasonal bumps in demand.  If current consumer demand for beef remains steady, history may repeat itself with increased beef sales through the holiday season - but only time will tell. 

Figure 2

Beef Retail Sales from Q4-2020 to Q3-2023

SOURCE: NielsenIQ, Discover, Retail Beef Sales, 2020 – 2023.

Understanding consumer’s perspectives and considerations can help promote beef consumption. The next section of this article provides consumer insights and recommendations for encouraging consumers to choose beef when deciding what to prepare for social gatherings at home this holiday season. 



  • Consumer survey data indicate value for the money is a key consideration for meals at home.,1,8 
  • Highlighting budget-friendly and convenient recipe ideas, with photos of the cooking process, may encourage consumers to choose beef this holiday season.

With the economic headwinds mentioned in the previous section in mind, it is important to be aware of priorities for consumers this holiday season. As the holidays approach, families and social groups across the country are preparing for festive gatherings and delicious holiday meals, while also watching their household budgets.
For many consumers, social gatherings and special occasions wouldn't be complete without beef on the menu. In 2023, 53% of consumers rank beef above chicken, pork, or meat alternatives when asked which protein is good for social gatherings and special occasions.1 However, as a potential counterbalance to this enthusiasm for beef at social gatherings – 57% of consumers indicate they are spending more on groceries compared to six months ago and are making behavior adjustments to save money including dining out less and looking for deals and coupons.8   

This suggests an opportunity to meet consumers where they will be eating – at home. Survey data indicate that consumers have a satisfying experience eating beef (91%) and they are open to ideas for new ways to utilize beef when cooking at home.1 Additionally, value for the money is a key consideration, with 83% considering this when choosing a meal with protein to eat at home.1

In addition to being open to new ways to utilize beef and being budget-conscious, consumer survey data show that 60% of younger individuals (18-44 years old) are already utilizing recipes at least weekly.8 Although printed or written recipes from family and friends are the most popular source across all generations, these tech-savvy consumers are more likely to utilize online sources like Google or various social media sites for recipe inspiration than their older counterparts.8 This presents an opportunity to reach young and middle-aged consumers within their normal routines and ensure beef is a key part of holiday meals. 

To encourage consumers to choose beef this holiday season, consider three key focuses:  

  1. Offer quick and easy meal ideas using beef: Convenience is a key consideration for many households, especially when cooking at home.1  
  2.  Healthy recipe ideas: No need to wait for the New Year to be health-conscious. Beef is a "good" or "excellent" source of 10 essential nutrients including protein, iron, and zinc.7  
  3.  Ideas for how to use ground beef: Budget-friendly, quick to cook, and versatile - ground beef is great for a variety of dishes. Visit for inspiration.


  1. Consumer Beef Tracker. 2023. Survey conducted and analyzed by National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.  
  2.  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Personal Consumption Expenditures, October 2023. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 
  3. Consumer Price Index, Not Seasonally Adjusted, October 2023. 
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, October 2023. 
  5. NielsenIQ, Discover, Retail Fresh Beef Sales, Data ending 09/30/2023.  
  6. State of the Consumer Survey. 2023. Survey conducted and analyzed by National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.  
  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodDataCentral SR# 13364, 2019.  
  8. Recipe Insights Survey. 2023. Survey conducted and analyzed by National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.