As most of us plan to sit down to a big meal this Thanksgiving, the centerpiece of the table is more than likely a juicy, golden turkey. But have you ever given much thought to where that turkey came from before it ended up on your plate? If so, you’re not alone. More than two thirds (68%) of Americans are interested in knowing where their poultry comes from, and 62% are interested in knowing how their poultry was raised.

While interest in locally-sourced food is not a new concept, interest in knowing more about poultry processing likely stems from recent category safety concerns over salmonella. Just under two thirds of consumers (63%) are concerned about how safe poultry products are to eat. Over the last few years, salmonella outbreaks have been fairly common among large poultry processors, including Foster Farms, perhaps influencing 74% of those who buy poultry to agree some companies and brands of poultry are more trustworthy than others.

Following an outbreak that sickened more than 600 people over more than a year, Foster Farms announced it lowered levels of salmonella and invested $75 million to do so.

Ingredients also are top-of-mind for consumers when buying poultry; more than half (55%) indicate all natural poultry with no artificial ingredients is important. Additionally, 41% indicate hormone- or antibiotic-free poultry is important, including 44% of women who are more likely to indicate this is an important factor to them. Claims such as natural and hormone-free can be applied to virtually any type of poultry, especially because it is illegal for poultry to contain hormones. According to the USDA FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service), because hormones are not allowed when raising poultry, “the claim ‘no hormones added’ cannot be used…unless it is followed by a statement that says, ‘Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.’” Additionally, most fresh poultry is natural, that is, it’s free of artificial ingredients and is minimally processed. There is opportunity to educate consumers about poultry claims to help them better understand labeling regulations and the meaning of the most common poultry labels.

To gain consumer trust, processors must remain transparent about the treatment of their poultry, and may want to promote product origin. Increased communication from poultry processors on the proper storage and handling of poultry may help alleviate consumer concerns about how safe poultry is to eat.

Amanda Topper is an analyst specializing in the food industry. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks.

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