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Millennials eye the meat case

Prime Cuts from the September 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Consider these numbers. The millennial generation in the U.S., those born between 1980 and 2000, are 80 million strong. By 2020, spending power of older millennial parents will hit US$1.4 trillion a year. The numbers for Canada are much smaller but equally important. This is the generation that must be the North American beef industry’s target market for beef promotion and education.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Beef Board has got millennials firmly in its sights. It recently outlined some fascinating details about what this generation thinks about food and how they shop. My three children are all millennials and I agree with everything the board says. One thing I would add is that some millennials, especially if they are in the information technology industry, are making enough money to buy beef every day of the week. This generation presumably eats a lot of hamburgers, as they remain a staple of Americans’ diets. Fifty-seven per cent of consumers eat burgers each week, says a new report.

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Beef’s great taste is the No. 1 reason that millennials and other consumers eat beef, says the board. The most limiting factors to increased beef consumption are health reasons, limiting cholesterol or fat and “other meats seem healthier.” But 45 per cent say they are extremely or very likely to add one more beef meal per week once they discover that beef is nutrient rich, that many lean cuts are available and that lean beef compares favourably to chicken, says the board. My take is that the industry’s challenge is to maintain beef’s great flavour without adding fat inside or outside a cut.

Millennials trust what they can see but also the advice of foodies and health professionals, says the board. They also want to dig online and find out what their friends and other sources tell them. They love great food, since they grew up in the era of food shows on TV, and beef is included in their definition of craveable, wonderful food. They want hints, tips, knowledge about choosing a great steak, anything that can help them maximize their enjoyment of beef, says the board. They care about where their food comes from and how it serves their families’ needs. They want their beef to be safe, nutritious, flavourful, tender, convenient, easy to prepare and raised with care for the animals and environment. They want lots of choices and information that will set a good example for their children, says the board.

When millennials want to celebrate by getting out to the grill, they choose beef more often than any other protein, says the board. On an everyday basis however, they make decisions about what to fix for supper at 4 p.m. or later and often make decisions while in the grocery store. They choose ground beef for family meals most often but want information to expand their choices to new and different cuts and uses. Millennials shop at various retail stores but they love Trader Joe’s, Costco, farmers’ markets, and food trucks. Millennials overwhelmingly get their information about beef and beef production through online and social-media channels.

Millennials are also more racially diverse, finding their niche in the world, asking more questions about their food and increasing their food spending, says the board. They get their information overwhelmingly through social media, including food bloggers, dietitians, foodies and other influencers. About 83 per cent of them sleep with their cellphone right next to their bed. More than 90 per cent of millennials eat beef at least monthly, and 35 per cent have more than three servings of beef a week. The future of the beef industry lies with this generation.

About the author

Contributor

A North American view of the meat industry. Steve Kay is publisher and editor of Cattle Buyers Weekly.

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