If there are environmental issues facing the segments of the food industry that cater to Americans' current dietary preferences (see our story above), Wired has a piece about how "a demographic time bomb is about to hit the beef industry."
Here's how the story frames the issue:
"The early 1970s were the real heyday of beef in the US. It was the era of stroganoff, stews, and casseroles, steak lunches and 60-cent hamburgers. It was also the beginning of a long decline for the all-American meat. In 1975, Americans on average ate close to 90 pounds of beef each year. That has now dipped to around 57 pounds, and chicken has assumed beef’s place as the most-consumed meat in the US.
"Falling appetite for beef is good news for the environment. Beef produces 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions of poultry or pig meat and between 20 and 60 times more than many plant-based forms of protein. But to really work out where beef consumption might be headed, you need to look at who exactly is really into eating cows, and that’s where things get interesting.
"Earlier this year a study from Tulane University in New Orleans found that a relatively small number of Americans are responsible for the lion’s share of beef consumption—and those eaters tend to skew older and male."
The study found that "just 12 percent of people surveyed accounted for half of the total beef consumed. People who ate a lot of beef were more likely to be male and aged 50 to 65 - roughly correlating with the baby boomer generation."
- KC's View:
To be clear, the beef industry challenges the Tulane study, arguing that its studies show that "64 percent of Gen Z respondents said they ate beef in the previous week at least once - not far off the 69 percent of boomers and 71 percent of Gen Xers." And as Wired notes, the beef industry certainly "isn’t content with the narrowing demographics of its customers - it has its eyes on creating a whole new generation of beef-eating stalwarts."
But I suspect that the Tulane study is closer to the truth than the vested interests in the beef business would like to admit. The beef industry may have its work cut out for itself as it tries to attract younger generations, which it has to do - the older generation will die, and could create an enormous problem in this segment.
This could be exacerbated by younger folks' environmental concerns - it may not just be diet that they're thinking about as they bypass the meat counter in local supermarkets.
In the end, these are issues that retailers have to think about, as they consider the impact these shifts will have on their sales distributions.