Considering that fresh meat and poultry serve as points of differentiation among food retailers, building up these departments is an important way that supermarkets and other retail food formats compete. The importance of meat departments for stores’ revenue and differentiation is a key reason why supermarkets are emphasizing private-label meats.
In the past, before food shopping in Western countries became centralized in supermarkets and supercenters, butcher shops were common in cities and towns nationwide. As these shops slowly went out of business and the quartering of animals became systematized in massive slaughterhouses, butchers’ skills lost their value, and the trade all but disappeared. With the rise of foodie and locavore movements, however, the role of butcher has returned to the food landscape, although it will remain a small, specialty area for the foreseeable future.
Within the U.S. market, the number of farmers’ markets has grown 250% between 1994 and 2010 to reach 6,132, according to USDA figures, and many of these markets sell local meats. The most common meats sold through this channel are beef and chicken, but an assortment of other meats can also be found, depending on the region. For example, in the Midwest, farmers’ markets will often carry a variety of duck, goat, ostrich and venison cuts. In the Southwest, emu is common, while in the West, buffalo and elk are local favorites.