I recently participated in a panel discussion about African swine fever (ASF) and how it might affect prices of animal feed worldwide. It might have been because I was asking such questions in my previous blogs, but I definitely do not have the answers.

Nevertheless, one participant – not from our industry – asked a very simple question: “Why do we expect consumers to pay more for pork when they can buy chicken, especially since pork nowadays tastes like chicken?”

Having been in the U.S. when the “Pork - the other white meat” campaign was being heavily promoted, I could not but laugh and agree. In our efforts to make pork cheap, both to produce and to sell as meat, we have leaned (pun intended) toward lean meat efficiency as our guideline. By removing the special pork taste (some comes from fat, many say), we have created a situation where we can enjoy equally tasty chicken meat without paying a premium price. It becomes even harder when we blame pork (and beef) fat as unhealthy (poison is a notion of quantity, not of active compound), convincing consumers that only lean meat is their only option. Yes, it is cheaper to produce lean meat – we learn that at college – but in the race toward lower price, there can be only one winner, and it is definitely not pork (or beef).

So, now that ASF is going to raise the price of pork meat, will consumers accept that or go for equally tasty chicken? And, if chicken – sorry, poultry – people are rubbing their hands in rightful anticipation, let me remind them that we are all together in this one. After all, some meat packers already invest in non-meat “meat” technology that will “taste like chicken,” only cheaper. Time to wake up and reclaim taste in our products or we will be eating toothpaste from a tube and call it dinner before we realize it.

View our continuing coverage of the African swine fever outbreak.