Understanding consumers’ perceptions toward chicken meat safety and quality could provide valuable information to public health educators since it is the most consumed meat. This study explores perceptions of a group of South African consumers on the safety and quality of chicken meat based on intrinsic and extrinsic attributes and identifies related safety risks. Data were collected through a web‐based survey (863 participants). A substantial proportion of consumers considered supermarkets as the most trusted outlets to sell safe and good quality chicken (compared with butcheries, wholesalers, farmers’ markets, street vendors, or “other retailers”). The majority of respondents (53%) most trusted refrigerated chicken to be of good quality compared with 36% trusting frozen chicken or 11% chicken at room temperature. Frozen chicken was considered most safe by 48% of consumers while 43% regarded refrigerated chicken as most safe. At point of purchase and home, smell, use‐by date, sell‐by date, and color were perceived as important attributes when judging chicken safety and quality. Consumers considered the absence of brine use and growth‐promoting hormones in chicken feed as relatively important. The majority of consumers can be classified as highly involved during purchasing. It is essential that consumers apply safe chicken handling practices from point of purchase to consumption, irrespective of the type of retailer, perceived sensory characteristics, and date labels to reduce or eliminate microbial risks. Addressing consumer's knowledge and expectations regarding factors such as growth‐promoting hormones and free range may improve safety and quality perceptions.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION : This study gives insight into perceptions of a group of South African consumers toward safety and quality of chicken meat. Understanding consumers’ perceptions can provide valuable information to public health educators since chicken meat is a common vehicle for Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp., which are human pathogens. Additionally, this information can assist the chicken industry to meet consumer expectations.