The South African consumer market is characterised by socio-economic and cultural diversity. Food expenditure patterns, behaviour and preferences differ significantly between the various socio-economic sub-groups. Packaging information, including red meat classification information, could be an important tangible resource used by consumers to gauge product quality. The first objective of the research reported in this paper is to investigate the red meat knowledge, usage and perceptions regarding beef and sheep meat classification and related quality parameters among South African consumers. Consumer perceptions of red meat classification were extracted from a comprehensive consumer survey among stratified representative samples of South African low-, middle- and high-income consumers (n = 165, n = 171 and n = 249). The paper also briefly reports on an in-store ‘observational’ research project that was conducted to develop an understanding of the communication of carcass classification to consumers through fresh red meat product labels at independent butchers and large retailers across South Africa (n = 60). Low-income consumers had very limited understanding and gave little attention to red meat classification. Even though middle-class and wealthy consumers also have a limited understanding of red meat classification, about half of these consumers check for a classification mark. Red meat classification was not mentioned by consumers as a major concern regarding red meat, but related aspects were important such as quality, fattiness, tenderness, juiciness, taste, freshness, smell and appearance. Purchase considerations for beef and mutton/lamb focussed largely on safety, appearance, price and eating quality. Labelling information observed at retail outlets gave very little attention to classification. There is a definite need for consumer education relating to the red meat classification system and for the development of an appropriate front-of-pack labelling system to communicate red meat classification.