This past weekend, I traveled one state over to experience the largest indoor farm show in the United States. Pennsylvania Farm Show is a combination of exhibits representing different sectors of agriculture and commodity groups. As National Beef Ambassadors, we worked in the “Today’s Agriculture display” barn which was an interactive barn with livestock where farm show attendees were able to look at farm animals which consisted of a beef cow and calf, dairy cow and calf, pigs representing three stages of their life, ducks, turkeys, and chickens. The target audience of this building was the millennial generation, and although we interacted with an array of individuals and answered questions such as what we feed our cattle and different food by-products Pennsylvania farms utilize, such as candy meal and pasta, we also had the opportunity to interview two ladies representing the millennial generation and learn about their perceptions and questions that most concerned them with the beef industry.
Connecting to the millennial audience
As we compiled our questions and answers, we felt that the responses best fit under the categories of background of the beef industry, consumer questions, cooking with beef and social media interactions.
Q: What is your background in agricultural and the beef industry?
Sarah: Her parents are from Los Angeles and New York City, so they had no previous understanding of agriculture and commodity groups. Although this was the cause, once in Pennsylvania, she connected with friends in 4-H and began taking rabbits to the county fair. She then became interested in pigs and beef cattle and exhibited a market steer twice, and throughout the process of caring for and showing her steers, she learned about the beef industry along the way.
Rachel: Our second millennial grew up in a small town in New Hampshire where there was no crop or livestock industry, but rather forestry wood production. With neighbors that had horses, she soon became interested in studying Equine in college, but had never came in contact with beef cattle until she decided to major in media and communications in college so she had the opportunity to connect with all commodity groups.
Consumer Questions about the Beef Industry:
Q: What preconceived ideas do you have about the beef industry?
S: The belief that all beef comes from feedlot farms and that there are not many family farms left.
R: The term “family farms” to her means one to two cows per family. With this, she had never connected family farms on a larger scale, totaling around 40 cow/calves as the average size.
Q: As a consumer, what would you like to see changed in regards to the beef industry?
Both interviewees said that they would like to see more education and interaction with beef producers and advocates towards consumers. Including ways of being proactive as an industry to inform consumers where there beef comes from such as T.V. commercials to showcase the family farms in the industry as well as ways of interactive learning between producers and consumers. This will allow consumers to become more aware of where their food comes from and have a chance to ask about the “buzz” words in the industry, such as organic, and get answers from actual producers or beef advocates.
Talking to consumers about the different feeds cattle eat
Q: Do you include beef in your daily diet?
S: Beef is a very nutritious protein and because of this, Sarah enjoys cooking beef. When shopping for beef though, she only buys beef that is on sale because it is more affordable.
R: Beef is a great red meat that supplies energy to the body, and because of this fact, Rachel includes beef in her daily diet. However, she feels she lacks education on how to cook in general and cooks ground beef for herself frequently because it is easy to prepare, and as a college student, more affordable to purchase. As a consumer of beef, she also commented that she would be willing to learn more about beef and ways to cook this protein.
Q: What role do social media play in your knowledge about beef?
S: Social media is very effective in my life because I am able to choose cuts of beef that people have posted about or taken a picture of to include in a post that they have had success cooking.
R: Media is such a fast way to transfer knowledge and you can connect with multitudes of people is the reason Rachel finds herself using social media outlets. She also finds that people can draw others in when they post recipes or pictures of the beef they cook.
Throughout this interview and surveys taken at the farm show, we found that millennials are most concerned about the beef they eat and understanding the safety of the beef industry. With research done by the beef community, we are able to understand and work towards a more transparent industry keeping the lines of communication between producer and consumer open.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary stopping by to talk about the beef community