The U.S. population is growing older as it becomes more ethnically blended.

Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have long been the leading market target. They numbered 76.4 million in 2012 — about 25% of the total population.

The population aged 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. According to USCB, the older population would represent just over one in five U.S. residents by the end of the period, up from one in seven today.

According to beef checkoff-funded research, the marketplace is fractured into three major generational cohorts: baby boomers, generation X (which followed the boomers) and millennials (born 1980-2000). At 80 million, millennials outnumber boomers and are set to carry the mightiest market stick.

That’s why millennials are a research priority for the beef industry.

Checkoff-funded studies in late 2011 and 2012 revealed that, although this generation enjoys beef, some issues hinder their consumption of it.

For one, Wendy Neuman, director of market research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the beef checkoff, says millennials have little experience with shopping for beef, or preparing it once they get it back home. They recognize beef’s nutritional benefits, but don’t necessarily know the appropriate number of servings, or understand how beef fits in a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Millennials view food as a route to diverse cultural and social experiences. But, 54% of them say it’s hard to know which cuts to choose in the meat case. In part, because of their lack of experience preparing beef, 56% reported disappointment in the results when cooking hamburgers (compared to 31% of boomers); and 55% are disappointed when they cook steak (compared to 40% of boomers). Flavor drives the disappointment for burgers. Tenderness is the reason for steak disappointment.

The good news is that millennials are knowledge seekers. In the research, 75% said they wanted information about steaks, and how to prepare and cook them; 55% wanted information on preparing and serving beef to their children.

Millennials tend to buy the same cuts rather than diversify their choices, too. However, 50% said they would buy more beef if they knew more about the different cuts.

One startling find in the 2011 research was that millennial parents are limiting their children’s consumption of beef. Besides being the key consumer group of the future, these millennials will influence the following generation.

The checkoff-funded “Millennial Parent” study last year asked why millennials limit beef in their children’s diets. One reason is they perceive chicken as being easier to prepare. Plus, kids prefer the taste of chicken (including strips and nuggets), and it can be served in a wide variety of ways.

Millennial parents also perceive other meats as more heart-healthy than red meat.