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What was on the Chopping Block for Easter 2022?

April 25, 2022 | Letters

Author: Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics

Way back in 2014 we first reported on holiday meat choices, focusing on the Thanksgiving turkey. We’ve continued talking turkey ever since, including revisiting our turkey supply in 2021. In January 2021 we reflected on the 2020 holiday season from a meat proteins standpoint — that season saw supply chain strains during COVID-19 that persisted more for some cuts of meats than for others.

We already agreed that 2019 normal is never coming back, acknowledging it’s time to live in 2022, knock it off with the ‘return to normal’ and start planning for the future. Now having arrived at the spring of 2022, supply chain strains persist in some areas while others appear to be finding their footing for a less strained future. In a non-scientific, certainly not representative, and entirely ‘just for fun’ poll immediately before Easter, I asked what was being served. With an admittedly very small sample size, pork or Easter ham was the clear winner. We know turkey is the star of the table at Thanksgiving, and at least in my certainly biased and admittedly too-tiny Twitter following, the Easter ham still reigns supreme for this particular holiday.

Perhaps more interesting in terms of overall consumer behavior, although again with a ‘just for fun’ and very small sample size, 85% of responses indicated that they were not changing their Easter meal plans from their ‘usual’ in past years due to prices, availability or other reasons.

We’ve examined the changes in relative prices for beef cuts during the pandemic-era and lamented the fact that to make more chicken wings one would need to make more actual chickens. Certainly we have seen relative prices of meat products do some interesting, and dare we say, unprecedented things as restaurant closures alongside retail food shopping increases alongside cooking at home alongside school closures all put pressure on meat protein supply chains. Back in 2020 we had some stern words about consumers under duress and then argued that our learned behaviors during the pandemic were likely to be stickier than we might want to admit.

In total, Consumer Corner shared over 20 pieces about Consumer Behaviors During COVID-19. Now, although I am certainly not drawing any conclusions off of a Twitter poll and will continue to invest in representative samples to analyze before coming to any real answers … I am increasingly wondering which behaviors will be sticky (i.e. stockpiling toilet paper?) and which spending and consuming behaviors we may be more resistant to change (i.e. holiday meals and traditions). Certainly, the how, when and who associated with our tightly held holiday traditions would be more resistant to adaptation in the long term. So, even though we adapted our holidays in 2020, maybe those holidays were more resilient than some of our other consumer behaviors? We’ll find out …