This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Minding the Gap: An Examination of Susceptibility to Misinformation About Beef Among Generation Z and Millennials




Hiltbrand, Karen

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Animal Sciences


Every minute, 500 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube (Ceci, 2023). The constant flood of new content creates an environment that fosters misinformation, specifically about animal agriculture and the beef industry(Van Eenennaam & Werth 2021). Misinformation creates a challenge because consumers buying habits and perceptions control the market (Schiffman & Wisenbilt, 2019). Decisions result from consumers' perceptions, and money is spent based on those beliefs (Schiffman & Wisenbilt, 2019). These studies evaluated the gap in understanding animal agriculture and young consumers' susceptibility to being affected by false information about the beef industry. Segments of YouTube videos differing in the correctness of ag information and a Food Familiarity Index (FFI) were used as tools. In the first phase of this mixed-methods study 15 Next Generation (NG) consumers were shown two different YouTube video clips about focused aspects of animal agriculture, one being categorized by an expert panel as misinformation and one communicating accurate, research-based information. The level of trust among participants was gauged using the continuous response measurement (CRM) instrument to identify critical moments of trust and distrust. It was found that the lower the consumers' knowledge of the food industry, the more likely they would trust misinformation (p < 0.05) and become misinformed. The content generated from the focus group was analyzed, and the themes revealed included: sources, confusion, distrust, and solutions. In the second phase, another mixed-methods study involving 209 NG consumers also watched the video segments. Participants recruited by the survey distributor platform Prolific completed pre- and post-surveys located on Qualtrics. The group means revealed greater (p < .05) trust in the video clip, including misinformation. Results show diminished opportunity to revert consumers' perceptions about the beef after they have engaged in misinformation.