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Meet Your New Boss: Millennials View on Beef

Don’t discount the taste appeal of a juicy burger or steak. Millennials don’t.

That’s the message from John Lundeen, senior executive director of market research for the Beef Checkoff Program. He’s the industry’s lead tracker of food trends.

His research is critical because the beef industry has a lot at stake in the ongoing food debate. As young consumers (and others) ratchet up their demands for healthy foods, beef often gets a bum health rap – undeservedly – compared with poultry.

Among his projects is an online group called the Millennial Listening Panel. Several hundred millennials (under age 35) across the country participate through social media and other outlets to share their views about food – beef, in particular.

To date, the research foretells a positive outcome. Successful Farming magazine recently asked Lundeen to share insights about the echo boomers – kids and grandkids of baby boomers.

SF: What is different about millennials?

Lundeen: For one, they use a range of online technology, so we can be very flexible in the research design. Skype interviews, bulletin boards, posting of pictures and videos – the toolbox that we can use is very flexible. And it can happen fast.   

One month, our focus may be on nutrition, and we might use Skype interviews because we want to dig deep on sources of information, personal viewpoints, and motivations. Then, we can turn around and query millennials on food service subjects in the next round. They may post pictures from a restaurant visit and react to our questions.  

One of the great things that has surfaced from this is the interest in millennials from the grocery and restaurant segments of the industry.   

SF: Will beef continue to find a frequent spot on the dinner plates of millennials and their kids? 

Lundeen: Yes. I like to point out that the millennial generation is not to be feared; they’re not that much different from other subgroups of consumers. With our range of tools (including a nonmillennial panel), we can look at things like weekly consumption frequency and even daily diaries of meals. Millennials have subtle differences, but they mimic the general population in many ways when it comes to eating beef. There was some concern that they will approach beef differently. One very practical point for beef producers from our research is that millennials like the taste of beef, and many of them love beef, even among the most outspoken members. 

SF: Are you seeing any changes in recent years?

Lundeen: There is more inquisitiveness about how food is raised. We note, however, that this is not just true of millennials. A subgroup of consumers who crosses age groups are just very inquisitive. 

We’ve seen a slow migration towards ground beef consumption in all classes. Among millennials with kids, 48% say ground beef is their dominant meat cut. 

They are definitely preparing and eating more ethnic dishes than before.  

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SF: What should beef producers do as a result of shifting consumer trends?

Lundeen: We may need to change the way we communicate with consumers, and an online approach using social media is woven into that shift. Millennials expect to find answers online. 

This generation grew up with diverse foods, so we need to think about beef in that context – ethnic recipes, for example.   

We launched the Millennial Listening Panel because several of our industry committees saw what was happening and wanted to know more about them and what influenced them when it came to beef. 

I often hear beef producers ask about our beef promotion programs and how they fit the millennial generation. I think that is really good. 

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