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There has been a steady decline in beef consumption in Ireland for over a decade, although 1997 data show that this decline has been reversed. A cognitive representation of perceived meat quality based on prior to purchase considerations, point of purchase considerations and consumption stage considerations was used as a conceptual framework to investigate which quality factors have influenced the decline of beef consumption in Ireland. A representative sample of Irish beef consumers was surveyed in 1997. After measuring the determinants of perceived beef quality, an attribute level factor analysis was used to examine inter-dependence between the variables. In all, seven factors, accounting for 58 per cent of the variance, were derived. Discriminant analysis found that two of the factors, safety and meat status, differentiated significantly between those who had maintained and those who had reduced beef consumption.