U.S. cattlemen to girls: beef is cool

What's the deal?
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) of Centennial, Colo. launched the Cool-2B-Real Web site (cool-2B-real.com) in December 2002 in an effort to get girls aged eight to 12 to eat meat, and namely beef.

What’s the deal?

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) of Centennial, Colo. launched the Cool-2B-Real Web site (cool-2B-real.com) in December 2002 in an effort to get girls aged eight to 12 to eat meat, and namely beef.

The site evokes the majesty of Barbie – it’s colourful, quirky and just a little bit eerie. Here are just some of the site’s whimsical insights: ‘Real girls are keepin’ it real by building strong bones and strong minds,’ and ‘Real girls have real friends… Friends who understand, friends who care, and friends who keep you real.’

Woven in amongst these slogans are mini-quizzes on how young girls like to eat their beef (Steak? Tacos? Burgers? Subs?); beef-laden recipes like beef taco and cheese pockets; ‘smart snackin” and ‘keepin’ fit’ tips; and the ‘grillin’ and chillin” interactive game.

In ‘grillin’ and chillin’,’ kids can put away groceries (steaks go in the fridge and macaroni goes in the cupboard!), and then test their hand-eye skill by clicking on various fully cooked floating drumsticks and burgers.

And they’re doing this because…?

For the health of young girls, says Michele Peterson, manager of media relations for the NCBA. Peterson says studies show 60% of girls in this age group aren’t meeting their nutritional requirements for iron and 47% aren’t meeting their needs for zinc.

She notes that preaching to this segment doesn’t work; that’s why they’ve opted for fun, chirpy graphics and messages, with the odd burger icon floating about to convey the nutritional benefits of beef, a prominent member of one of the four major food groups.

How did this come about?

According to Peterson, the creation of Cool-2B-Real developed from a Newsweek article about the phenomenon of ‘Gamma Girls’ – young girls who favour being ‘real’ by making informed decisions about everything from choosing friends to what they eat. Peterson says the NCBA is not targeting vegetarians.

‘Statistics of teen vegetarians are very small,’ says Peterson, who notes that according to the Baltimore, Md.-based Vegetarian Resource Group, only 2% of American teens are vegetarians. ‘It’s not cost-effective to target such a small group,’ says Peterson. ‘Vegetarianism isn’t growing.’

However, a recent study by Northbrook, Ill.-based market research group Teenage Research Unlimited indicates that 25% of teens think vegetarianism is cool. Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says that the teenage segment is the fastest-growing group to turn off meat in the U.S.

The NCBA counters that an online Harris Interactive poll suggests that the number of girls aged eight to 12 who believe that vegetarians are healthier than meat-eaters has declined by 11% in the last two years, and that currently, 33% of girls think that meat-eaters are the healthier folk.

How is the site being promoted?

Peterson says the Web site has had ‘minimal promotion,’ though it’s been linked on Web sites targeted to young girls and has been covered in some tween-targeted publications in the U.S. The site averages 1,800 individual visits per week.

The verdict?

Equate good self-esteem with eating beef, and you’ll have carnivores for life.