The July 2015 Consumer Beef Index – The Millennials Have Arrived

by John Lundeen, Senior Executive Director, Market Research, NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff


Three years ago the Beef Checkoff’s communication focus shifted to the millennial generation, with a very targeted interest in millennial parents. Millennial parents are of special interest to not only the checkoff’s communication efforts, but also to the grocery and foodservice industry – parents very simply spend more on food. Parents are also the gateway to the food choices for a new generation represented by their children. 

This article will focus on key research insights about millennials, and how beef stacks up. Analysis will primarily be from the July, 2015 fielding of the Consumer Beef Index, but key insights from other checkoff market research will also be incorporated. 


The checkoff-funded Consumer Beef Index (CBI) is a semi-annual online survey begun in 2007 which is designed to identify and track key consumer perceptions of beef and to spotlight key consumption trends. One-thousand forty-seven respondents completed the July 2015 online study. The sample is national in scope, and is tested for balance with national norms, including gender, ethnicity, region of the country and age (ages 13 to 68 were included in the sample). A very small minority of consumers with absolutely no food decision making authority, either at-home or in restaurants, are excluded. 


Most importantly, millennials are strong beef consumers. They also have strong positive perceptions of beef.  As they become parents, their in-home use of beef shifts to ground beef (most likely driven by busy family lives and the need to watch budgets more carefully).  Even though they are budget sensitive, the price of beef does not intimidate. Additionally, although other generations have joined millennials online, the level of involvement, as indicated by the number of social media sites with which they are engaged is much higher than other generations.

Millennials are Becoming Strong Beef Consumers

Let’s start with the basics – do millennials eat beef? The Consumer Beef Index covers three generations of consumers … Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.  A look at the percentage of millennials that eat beef at least monthly shows that they mimic the number for consumers overall, with 91 percent reporting at least monthly beef consumption.

Let’s take this to a higher level, and look at the percentage of millennials that eat beef at least three or more times a week, a group classified as heavy beef users. 

Across the entire sample, which captures three generations of consumers, 30 percent of consumers can be qualified as heavy beef users. Millennials overall are close to the norm for the percentage that qualify this way. But as millennials become parents, beef usage escalates, with 37 percent qualifying as heavy beef users.

Most likely that leads you to two questions that impact beef consumption. One, when will millennials decide to become parents, since that seems to increase beef consumption? Two, how do millennial parents compare to parents of other generations, for average weekly beef servings? Will this generation help drive beef consumption moving forward? 


Positive Perceptions of Beef

Millennials really like beef. The industry has been tracking overall perceptions about beef since 2007 using a question about whether the positives of beef outweigh the negatives in the consumer’s mind, or the negatives outweigh the positives. Millennials track quite closely to other generations in responding to this question, with 78 percent noting that the positives of beef either strongly or somewhat outweigh the negatives. The reader should note that since 2007, there has been a slow rise from 70 percent positive perceptions of beef.

Young Millennial Parents and Ground Beef

Historically we have seen a pattern, with ground beef being the beef product of choice for younger Americans, and steaks becoming a more frequent choice as you pass by the 30 year age mark.  Millennial parents are following this pattern, with important implications for their interest in recipes and cooking knowledge.  As millennials become new parents, knowledge of ground beef, and recipes that focus on ground beef, will be of special interest. Add to this the diversity of this generation, and you see another culinary trend of interest… ethnic food choices.   

Other checkoff funded studies have documented how much older millennials love the social aspects of grilling, which marries up well with future steak consumption. As millennials move towards this phase of their life, the industry will need to be ready to help with training on how to cook a great steak.  

Millennial parents get information online, and recipes are one of the primary areas of interest. When presented with a list of popular music/food and fitness sites, millennials were much more likely to have accounts or be very familiar with the sites. The arrows in the chart above note a statistical difference from the population at large. What is noteworthy is how commonly you see greater use of online resources by millennial parents. The differences are notable… for example 45 percent note being very familiar with versus 26 percent of the total population sampled. But that pattern is duplicated for every site noted in the chart. 


Multiple benefits exist in focusing on millennials. They are the largest generation of consumers in America, ever. Their relative youth means they can be beef consumers for many decades. They are having kids, and are thus a gateway to a future generation of consumers. Family budget pressures will force more economical ground beef decisions, but if they follow historical patterns, steak will become a sought after desire as they move further into their thirties. Communication is different with this generation as evidenced by the number of online sites visited. 

We once talked about millennials as the generation whose impact was “coming.” Guess what, millennials have arrived.

Additional Resources:

  • Consumer Beef Index, March, 2015 
  • Ypulse 
  • Source: The NPD Group/National Eating Trends. Data for Two Years Ending August 2014. "Disclosed with permission of The NPD Group solely for the purpose for which it is being provided by NCBA (a contractor to the Beef Checkoff).  The reproduction, dissemination, or use of this information for any other purpose is strictly prohibited without NPD’s prior written consent.”


Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Research Findings, Spring 2016

March 26, 2016