For many consumers, choosing a meat and poultry dish at a restaurant revolves around "keeping it real." That’s because they seek all-natural choices that reflect their desire to keep human intervention they perceive as negative out of the process, according to a study produced by market research publisher Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.

The report, “Meat, Poultry and Seafood: Restaurant Trends and Opportunities,” reveals that more than six in 10 (60%) restaurant meat and poultry eaters say that "all-natural" is important when selecting meat/poultry dishes at a restaurant. But, these consumers also weigh whether the dish has no hormones, no antibiotics and no preservatives.

"Perhaps more than ever before, consumers want to know about what's in their meat and poultry, how it was raised and where it came from. This need to know taps a breadth of concerns related to food healthfulness and sustainable practices," says David Sprinkle, research director.

Animal welfare and sustainability also play a role in consumers’ decision. In fact, some 45% of restaurant meat and poultry eaters say that "free range" is important when selecting meat/poultry dishes at a restaurant, and 47% cite "sustainability." How an animal is fed—grass or vegetarian, for example—is also relevant. In this respect, consumers are likely weighing the effect of feeding choice on the quality, taste and healthfulness of the dish.

Consumer demand for organic meat and poultry is arguably the most noteworthy trend of all.  Roughly 40% of meat eaters cited organic as important. Organic meat and poultry usage tilts toward three key influential demographic segments—Hispanic, Generation X and higher-income households. Each group is at least 50% more likely to use organic meat and poultry than the overall American population.

Restaurant chains seeking to meet the organic needs of their guests include a motley crew of brands. Packaged Facts suggests that these chains drawing a disproportionate share of organic meat and poultry households should have at least a couple of offerings on the menu to meet potential demand for organic, even if they compete at different price points, and even if they are not known to be trend-forward in this regard.