- The beef industry is attempting to tap into millennials' childhood memories by relaunching a 25-year-old ad campaign: "Beef: It's What's for Dinner," according to a statement from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The campaign also uses narration that alludes to “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” to educate consumers about how today's farmers and ranchers use technology. Another part of the push is a new website with videos and images of cattle ranches and farms around the country, plus recipes, charts of meat cuts and nutritional information.
- Sponsored by the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the campaign is funded through the Beef Checkoff, the $1 levy on every sold animal, which is targeted for marketing, promotion, research and education purposes.
- Beef consumption had been declining for more than a decade, with Americans eating 15% less of it between 2005 and 2015. However, there was a slight uptick last year to 55.4 pounds per person, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Another slight per-capita increase is forecast this year, rising to 56.6 pounds.
Beef industry boosters believe the timing is right for this rebranding effort since food prices are down — particularly for meat, chicken and eggs — while quality is up. The beef industry is banking on a combination of these factors to help bolster sagging sales and boost profits all along the supply chain.
Whether the campaign will resonate with millennials is another question. They are more adventurous in their eating habits and more willing to try plant-based protein sources. They also like to know where their food comes from and what's in it, so clean labels are big with this demographic, as are healthier food options. According to a survey by Midan Marketing, 22% of millennials ate less meat in 2016 than the year before.
Questions about the beef industry's sustainability and its impact on the environment and climate change are also part of the equation. Such issues, among others, have helped drive popular plant-based innovations such as Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger. Plant-based meat sales topped $606 million in 2016.
A report published in 2015 by NPD Group, Midan Marketing and Meatingplace, a trade publication, found that 70% of consumers who eat meat are substituting a non-meat protein in their meal at least once a week. And of that total, 22% said they are using non-meat proteins more often than the year before — a sign of the growth potential in the category.
Nostalgia sometimes plays a part in culinary choices, but it remains to be seen whether that, plus lower prices and higher quality, will be enough to convince more consumers that beef is still what's for dinner.