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Meat Sales Surge Amid Growing Number Of Covid-19 Cases

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The week ending March 8 saw a fast acceleration of meat sales in dollars, units and volume, according to information from Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics, and Chris DuBois, SVP of protein practice with data insights firm IRI. As the number of school closures, social distancing guidelines and other Covid-19 related measures significantly sharpened the subsequent week, sales surged along with it. Thanks to the “heroic efforts” of everyone in the meat and poultry industry, the supply kept flowing, Roerink and DuBois said. Retailers restocked their meat cases again and again as shoppers across the country stocked up on meat and poultry to feed their families.

Meat department sales without deli meat were up 76.9 percent over the week ending March 15, versus the comparable week in 2019, according to IRI, and deli meat sales advanced 40.4 percent. Whether fresh beef, chicken, pork, turkey or lamb, smoked meats or deli meats, shoppers were in the market for it all. Thirteen weeks prior to March 15, IRI found the highest growth for fresh beef, at +3.7 percent and the lowest for fresh lamb, at +0.1 percent. Twelve weeks prior, beef growth jumped +9.8 percent and lamb +4.6 percent. During the week of March 15, turkey registered the highest growth nearly doubling dollar sales, at +96.1 percent and lamb increased sales by more than 50 percent as well. Beef and chicken, by far the largest categories, increased sales by $376 million and $183 million, respectively.

Volume sales for the week of March 15 were up 68.7 percent, made possible by processing plants ramping up capacity and distributors diverting supply from foodservice to food retail. Amid the growing number of Covid-19 cases across the country, shoppers started preparing for prolonged stays at home, working from home and restaurant closures.

At Winn-Dixie, Mike Freeman grabbed the last few packages of ground beef and moved on to ground turkey and lamb. He said, “normally I don’t freeze any meat and prefer to just buy it fresh every few days. But it can’t hurt to have a little extra.”

After asking him if he typically buys ground turkey and lamb, he answered, “no, not really. I’ve tried ground turkey a time or two but I’ve never cooked lamb before. It looks just like ground beef or bison, so how hard can it be. And it’s simply slim pickings.”

Growth drivers

In absolute dollars, the five biggest winners for the week of March 15 were ground beef (+$179.1 million), chicken breasts (+$89.5 million), pork loin (+$36.9 million), chuck ($36.3 million) and ribeyes (+$31.6 million), according to IRI. The top 10 items were closed out by beef round and short loin, ground turkey, recipe-ready beef and chicken wings.


According to IRI, ground continued to be big, regardless of species, given its versatile and easy-to-prepare nature.

Ground beef increased 99.7 percent; ground turkey, +87.3 percent; ground chicken, +88.3 percent; ground pork, +69.9 percent; and ground lamb, +53.2 percent.


A Detailed Look by Area

Sales surged across all proteins and offerings.


IRI Total US |
Multi-outlet channels
$ gains latest 12 weeks ending 3/15/2020 $ gains latest 4 weeks ending 3/15/2020 $ gains latest week ending


Size in $
(weekly sales for 03/15/2020)
Fresh beef +9.8% +23.4% +73.1% $890.6M
Fresh chicken +7.4% +19.8% +76.5% $422.1M
Fresh pork +7.4% +22.6% +89.2% $186.5M
Deli meat +4.5% +11.4% +40.4% $155.1M
Fresh turkey +8.9% +24.4% +96.1% $64.0M
Smoked ham +15.7% +26.6% +116.7% $36.1M
Random weight other meat +3.1% +11.7% +60.3% $28.5M
Fresh lamb +4.6% +14.4% +54.5% $11.3M
Smoked pork +7.6% +14.0% +67.6% $10.2M
Random weight sausage +1.8% +16.9% +72.0% $7.7M
Smoked turkey +11.9% +26.1% +94.8% $4.4M
Fresh exotic +13.4% +37.3% +130.9% $3.1M

Source: IRI, Total US, MULO, weeks ending March 15, 2020


Fresh beef closed in on $900 million in sales for the week of March 15, gaining $376 million over the comparable week in 2019 (+73.1 percent), according to IRI. Sales had been ramping up from +9.8 percent over the longer 12-week view to +23.4 percent over the latest four weeks. Beef volume was up +59.2 percent. Ground beef, that makes up more than 40 percent of the beef category, gained big the week of March 15, at +99.7 percent—adding $179 million in new dollars. Chuck and ribeyes were the second and third largest in terms of absolute dollar gains. Smaller sellers with robust growth were flank/plate (+102.3 percent), sirloin (+100.2 percent), ribs (+94.0 percent) and brisket/shank (+89.1 percent).

Fresh chicken gained just under $183 million, or +76.5 percent over the week of March 15, according to IRI. Volume sales accelerated along with it, +72.0 percent. Generating half of total chicken sales, chicken breasts sold an extra $89.5 million, or +73.5 percent. Chicken thighs  gained more than $20 million (+76.9 percent) and chicken legs increased more than $12 million, +79.7 percent.

Fresh pork sales quickly accelerated as well, up 89.2 percent or $87.9 million for the week ending March 15, according to IRI. Making up just over 45 percent of pork sales, pork loin added $36.9 million in new dollars, or +77.2 percent. Pork ribs were the second-biggest winner in absolute dollars, up $17.6 million or +112.4 percent, followed by pork shoulder blade, up $12.0 million, or +117.0 percent. Smoked pork and ham sales, too, increased significantly over the latest week, at +67.6 percent and +116.7 percent, respectively.

Deli meat generated more than $155 million in sales the week of March 15, which was up +40.4 percent over the comparable week in 2019, according to IRI. Deli turkey increased sales by $16.6 million or +43.9 percent and deli ham generated an additional $33 million in sales, up +48.0 percent.

The subsequent week, March 16-22, saw both an increase in the number of school/office/restaurant closures, social distancing guidelines and other Covid-19 related measures, and a rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S.

Sales updates will be provided weekly, every Tuesday.

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