Selling beef: the next generation

May 11, 2012

The Beef Checkoff Program is interested in how best to market beef to the next generation. Their recent study of “Millennials” —the generation born between 1980 and 2000 —found that this up-andcoming consumer group values new experiences but lacks key knowledge about beef.

The study—“Millennials and Beef 2011”—examined the values and interests regarding food and beef of this generation. The group is of particular interest to the Beef Checkoff Program as the older half of the generation are beginning to have families.

The younger half of the generation (current 22-to 12-year-olds) are in prime opinion-forming times of their lives, with the older members of that range leaving home and making their own choices about food, diet and cooking for the first time.

Key findings the study uncovered include the fact Millennials like beef, but consciously eat less of it than their parents. They are more likely to seek out new and novel food experiences, such as eating out at nice restaurants and cooking far more ethic dishes than their parents. Issues such as the living conditions of the cattle and the beef’s relative “localness” have greater impact on Millennials’ beef choices than prior generations’. This group also gathers a lot of information which influence their meat choices online and social media has big sway with them.

Lack of knowledge on cut selection and preparation is one of the largest barriers to Millennials choosing beef for home-cooked meals. Millennials widely recognize their lacking knowledge and seek out information, however.

In the survey which made up the quantitative part of the study, 60 percent reported seeking information on how to cook unfamiliar cuts, and 24 percent sought butchercounter information such as advice from the butcher on cut selection or pamphlets. This is an area on which the beef industry and its advocates can capitalize.

By reaching out to this younger generation where they “live”—social media— beef industry members and advocates can help consumers and the industry at the same time. If your ranch has a website, or you use popular social networks, here are some things you can do:

Share recipes—The Beef Checkoff Program’s study showed that Millenials are very hungry for beef recipes with 65 percent saying they are interested in “sophisticated” recipes suitable for serving dinner guests. As mentioned earlier, Millennials enjoy ethic food, so if you have specific recipes which hail from an ancestral heritage be sure to share those too!

Even more—80 percent—of surveyed Millennials reported wanting quick, easy beef recipes. These can be particularly important considering another of the study’s finds; nearly half of Millennials who are parents say they have difficulty cooking beef for their children.

Recipes that are clear, or have very detailed descriptions or personal advice regarding uncommon or complex procedures, would be especially valuable. While the study reports Millennials are more willing than their parents to splurge on expensive cuts for special occasions, inexperience with cooking beef can lead to dishes which don’t turn out. This makes beef a riskier venture than other proteins.

Your favorite cut—Along with sharing recipes, sharing your favorite cut and why you like it can help younger consumers branch out into new things. Nonground, non-steak cuts are less familiar to Millennials than to their parents. Despite their aforementioned interest in new food experiences, the aforementioned risk associated with buying beef and lack of knowledge on cooking makes Millennials less likely to try unfamiliar cuts.

Are you a fan of unusual or more “traditional” cuts? Tell people about that. Do you love ox tail? Why? How does one cook it? This kind of information could arm experience-seeking Millennials with enough curiosity-sparking understanding to branch out in their meatbuying behavior.

Be social—Even though the study found Millennials use and rely on information spread through social media, be social offline too. If you encounter a 20-something pondering over the meat case looking perplexed at the grocery store, offer your advice as someone working in the beef industry.

A 2009 study from which the Beef Checkoff’s study drew background information indicated Millennials are interested in getting a lot of perspectives from diverse sources without much regard for the channel through which that information came. As a rancher, feeder, vet or wherever you fall in the beef industry, your opinion will likely be listened to and appreciated. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor