I'm a child of the ’80s and ’90s. In fact, I’m a member of the “Millennial Generation,” those folks born between 1980-2000. Born in 1987 (I imagine one day soon enough I won’t necessarily be so forward with the year I was born), the barn radio played the tunes of George Strait, Reba, Garth Brooks, Little Texas, Travis Tritt and John Michael Montgomery. Government recommendations for low-fat foods were really starting to escalate back then, with margarine replacing butter, and beef getting replaced with skinless chicken breasts. Colored stirrup jeans were all the rage, and my bangs were styled with lots of volume to match the hairstyles of some of my favorite characters on the “Saved By the Bell” television show.
As I grew up a kid of the ’90s, our parents, the Baby Boomers, earned the reputation of being extremely career-oriented and having a hard work ethic. With both parents working in full-time jobs, that meant kids my age were left to their own devices after school, resulting in a huge surge of convenience meals and frozen dinners. Quite on trend, the age of cooking from scratch was over.
A new beef checkoff study is evaluating Millennials, which consists of 80 million people in the U.S., or one-fourth of the population. By understanding how my generation grew up, we can understand how to meet their adult needs as well. The checkoff study revealed that “this generation really enjoys beef, but they also have some beef issues, many of which relate to consumer education.”
Think about it. Many Millennials, because their parents were working outside of the home -- a trend that was a non-issue with the previous generation of stay-at-home moms -- never learned to cook or prepare meals like Grandma did. Everything was open, microwave and eat. Now, as adults, Millennials have a strong desire to prepare those home-cooked meals for their blossoming families the old-fashioned way. However, those skills skipped a generation and the lessons were lost.
I’ll never forget a few years ago when I was still in college, one of my cousins -- just a few months younger than me -- announced at Christmas that she was dating a pescatarian (someone who eats exclusively fish). She loved the beef her mom prepared when she came home from college, but handling and preparing red meat wasn’t a skill she’d been taught. In essence, because she didn’t know how, she was giving it up completely.
The checkoff study revealed that my cousin isn’t the only one who is a little bit confused, intimidated or frustrated about how to select, purchase and prepare beef. Couple that with the sticker shock of beef products in the meat case, and we have some issues to address.
According to the study, “Millennials in general know very little about shopping for and cooking beef – which is a primary deterrent to purchasing it. They acknowledge beef benefits, like building muscle and helping maintain energy, but lack nutritional facts to understand how beef, especially in terms of an appropriate number of servings, fits in a healthy diet and active lifestyle.”
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The study says: “Millennials see food as an adventure, a route to diverse cultural and social experiences. They want beef to be part of these experiences. However, 54% say it’s hard to know what cuts to choose in the meat case. Millennials are also far less adept than any other generation when it comes to cooking beef. More than half (56%) of Millennials report disappointment in the results of a beef meal they’ve prepared, compared to only 31% of Boomers.
“On a positive note, Millennials are knowledge seekers. The study says a majority (75%) of Millenials want information about steaks and how to prepare and cook them, and 55% want information on preparing and serving beef to their children. In addition, Millennials tend to buy the same cuts rather than diversify their choices, but 50% say they’d buy more beef if they knew more about the different cuts. You can read the entire findings from the study here.”
After reviewing the information, I was most concerned about one key point -- Millennial parents are limiting their children’s consumption of beef because chicken is perceived as easier to prepare, and kids like its fun presentations in strips and nuggets. Millennial parents also believe other meats are more heart-healthy than red meat, and they don’t think beef is convenient to prepare for children.
According to the checkoff study, however, these findings are an opportunity to reach my generation through education to show them that beef is an affordable, convenient, versatile protein source their kids will love for the taste, and their parents will love for its nutritional profile.
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As Millennials start to have families and make food choices for their children, they are in turn, influencing the thoughts and perceptions of the next generation. Here lies a great chance to educate these Millennials, who simply want to know how to prepare healthy, tasty meals for their families. Certainly, addressing this need and educating this generation could be a challenge, but I think it’s great that checkoff studies like this one are identifying the challenges we face, so we, in turn, can take action.
So, who are today’s Millennials? They are in high school and college. They are getting married, starting families and establishing themselves in new careers. They are in the formative years where they decide what kind of lives they want to lead, and how they are going to get there. And, they represent one quarter of the nation’s population, which means they control considerable purchasing power.
It's time to engage these folks, and the first place I plan to start is online, where many Millennials like myself spend a lot of time. So, log in to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account and post a favorite beef recipe or a photo of a steak coming off the grill. This could spark some meaningful conversations that will influence the purchasing decisions at the meat case for many.
Are you a Millennial? If so, do you relate to these findings? Have you seen the confusion and apprehension this generation has about beef and cooking? If so, how do you think we can address it?
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