Spend more than five minutes on any marketing-related website these days, and you will be encouraged — no, ordered — to “connect with Millennials” if you have any hope of succeeding in your chosen business venture.

There’s a reason for that directive: According to U.S. Census data, by 2025 Millennials — the cohort of people born in the 1980s and 1990s — will comprise the majority of the work force. So if you’re running a business and need to hire workers, or if you’re looking to capitalize on the fastest growing segment of the marketplace, you need to connect with these young people.

Making that “connection” with Millennials depends on understanding the mindset of the 20- and 30-somethings poised to take over the business sector and to become the arbiters of our cultural sensibilities, like it or not. Most marketing gurus identify three relevant aspects of this Millennial generation:

  • They’re self-absorbed. The signature artifact of Millennials, the single most definitive symbol of their lifestyle, is the selfie. Their online accounts are loaded with them, and while feeling that you’re the center of the universes isn’t limited to this generation of young people, the digital and online technology to indulge that feeling of self-importance is new and different. (Want a shorthand way to identify a Millennial writer/reporter/blogger? Just scroll to the end of their post, and you’ll see the ubiquitous “Follow me on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram” postscript).
  • They’re culturally diverse. One of the most surprising statistics that define this generation is the fact that fully 20% of the young people (under 30) in the United States are of Hispanic origin, many of whom are bilingual. Millennials are not only more racially diverse but more culturally tolerant, which is a good thing.
  • They’re committed to causes. A majority of Millennials are drawn to causes, like social justice and eco-activism, and those are also good things.

However, the flip side of that last coin is a hyper-sensitivity to anything that doesn’t resonate with an idealistic worldview, aka, political (and cultural) correctness taken to extremes.

And that’s not a good thing for anyone in animal agriculture.

Relevant and real

Animal-related issues are high on the list of causes about which many Millennials are passionate, but it’s often based on unrealistic perceptions that are seemingly disconnected from the realities of not only agriculture, food production and human nutrition but from Nature itself.

Here’s a great example of that.

Ask any Millennial about their short list of seminal influences, and without question, they’ll reference the Harry Potter phenomenon, the books and film series that not only sparked a global “are as meaningful to that generation as peace and love were to Baby Boomers decades earlier.

A blogger on the website Ecorazzi.com (says all you need to know about Millennial interests) noted that she is “a proud part of what a lot of us call The Harry Potter Generation.” Why? Because “the franchise explored not only good and evil, but racism, genocide, absolute power and nods towards gay rights and the AIDS crisis.”

True enough.

However, the piece quickly descends into territory that’s as far removed from reality as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry itself.

She wrote, “Upon my most recent re-read as a committed vegan, I’ve started to ask myself: How do animals fit into the Wizarding World?”

I’d be willing to bet my entire paycheck (such as it is) that there’s not a single person alive over 50 who’s ever asked that question of themselves or another human being.

But to Millennials, that’s an existential dilemma worthy of deep discussion, and as bizarre as that dialog tends to develop, it does provide insight into the Millennial consciousness marketers continue to urge upon older (not necessarily wiser) adults interested in connecting with and/or doing business with the 75 million members of this unique generation.

“There’s the same kind of speciesism in Harry’s world, as there is in ours,” the blogger wrote, noting the “human intelligence of animals” in the series: “Snakes are able to communicate with wizards through a special language called parseltongue [and] spiders learn to communicate in the common tongue with humans. In fact, most magical creatures Harry comes across in the book can at the very least understand human communication.”

Yeah, the operative word being “magical.”

Those “animals” aren’t real, our young Potter lover.

Nevertheless, the perceived offense here is that J.K Rowling didn’t conform to a strict worldview that all animals, fictional or otherwise, are sentient and insightful and equal to us, even in linguistic abilities.

“Despite the fact that fantastic beasts tend to match humans in language and intelligence, what’s everyone’s favorite treat at Hogwarts?” the blogger wrote, and you know what the answer is: “Meat!”

That four-letter word, that “food that shall not be named.”

Or consumed.

It’s easy to dismiss her entire thought process as ridiculous or irrelevant as pondering the lifestyles of hippogriffs or house elves.

But to many people of the Millennial Generation, to eat or not to eat meat is as an important ethical concern worthy of discussion and debate.

Maybe not as compelling as agonizing over why a wizard’s wand must contain a unicorn’s hairs or the heartstring of a dragon, but important nonetheless. □

Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator