US Beef Cuts Gaining in Popularity

US - Beef value cuts, derived from cuts that for decades had been used only for ground beef, have recently gained great popularity in the United States in both the foodservice and retail sectors.
calendar icon 3 October 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The flavor, texture and tenderness of these cuts provide a high-quality dining experience – often at a much lower cost than traditional steaks.

In an effort to extend the profile of beef value cuts beyond the domestic market, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and the Texas Beef Council teamed up last week to promote the quality and affordability of these items to Wal-Mart directors and employees in Mexico. Led by Dr. Anton Mata, beef value cuts seminars were conducted in Monterrey at the Culinary Institute in Nuevo Leon and in Mexico City at Centro Culinario Ambrosia. Dr. Mata is a noted meat scientist who has a long history with beef value cuts, having served as a consultant to the beef industry since 1994. He said participants in the seminars showed great enthusiasm for beef value cuts.

"This was their first exposure to beef value cuts, and they are hungry for knowledge and information."
Dr. Anton Mata

“The Wal-Mart audience was very, very engaged,” Dr. Mata said. “This was their first exposure to beef value cuts, and they are hungry for knowledge and information. So I was very pleased with how engaged they were – a very receptive audience.”

Proper cooking of beef value cuts can sometimes be challenging for retail customers, making it all the more important to provide meat cutters and other personnel with information they can use to educate consumers. Mata noted that Wal-Mart already has a head start on this process, thanks to a program sponsored by USMEF.

“I was very impressed with a program they have, in which actual chefs hired by USMEF are out by the meat case, and they answer questions from consumers,” Dr. Mata said.

During the meat cutting segments of the seminars, Dr. Mata demonstrated how to properly harvest the Flat Iron, Petit Tender, and Ranch Cut steaks from the shoulder clod. From the chuck roll, he showed participants how to obtain the Delmonico, Ranch Cut, and Country Style boneless cuts. He expressed surprise at how quickly those in attendance picked up on these techniques.

“I was impressed with what good meat cutters they (Wal-Mart) have,” Dr. Mata said. “They picked up on the demonstrations really, really well. That was something I was not expecting, but they did their own cutting and did it very, very well.”

The success of the seminars impressed Fabio Gaxiola, Wal-Mart’s meat purchasing director for north Mexico and Rafael Arsnabar, who holds the same responsibilities in central Mexico. They said some of the cuts demonstrated will be included in Wal-Mart’s “cut-of-the-month” promotions at 12 Wal-Mart Supercenter stores in Monterrey and 16 Supercenter stores in Mexico City during November.Wal-Mart is developing a yield analysis to determine which of the beef value cuts to feature in these promotions.

Wal-Mart’s desire to expand its high-quality meat offerings in Mexico was one of the factors that drove USMEF and the Texas Beef Council to make the beef value cuts seminars a funding priority. In Mexico, Wal-Mart’s meat cases currently contain about 20 percent U.S. product. But this ratio could increase if more high-quality cuts can be made available at prices that appeal to Mexican consumers.

In addition to the retail marketing opportunities for beef value cuts in Mexico, Dr. Mata feels these items hold great potential for Mexico’s foodservice sector.

“I think so particularly because middle meats are so expensive to the Mexican consumer,” Dr. Mata explained. “This would be an excellent opportunity, particularly exposing those new cuts to further processors that can take those raw materials and portion them, marinate them, vacuum-pack them and freeze them - and be able to offer U.S. beef at a better value to the foodservice operator.”

The seminars in Monterrey and Mexico Cityalso served as the backdrop for an instructional video, which USMEF plans to use to further promote beef value cuts to retail and foodservice outlets throughout Mexico.

Mexico is currently the largest foreign market for U.S. beef and beef variety meats, importing 240,820 metric tons (531 million pounds) between Jan. 1 and July 31 of this year, at a value of just under $825 million. July exports to Mexico totaled 40,930 metric tons (90.2 million pounds) valued at nearly $147 million – breaking the all-time record for beef exports to Mexico in a single month.

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