Note: This is the second part in a three part series on Beef's Quality Chain from the September 2018 magazine issue of Drovers.
Beef quality starts with the cow-calf producer and moves in a cycle that includes many facets such as stockers, backgrounders and feedlots. Those stages are important, but there are a number of steps in the food chain where quality can be affected. Packers, grocers and restaurants all have a role to play in beef quality and how a consumer will enjoy their beef eating experience.
Grocers Helping Consumers with Tasty Experiences
Changes to better identify quality beef have been welcomed at the retail level where consumers want a consistent, tender and tasty product.
The summer is when beef sales typically pick up at the retail level, particularly for middle meats, says Kris Staaf, director of public affairs at Albertsons/Safeway’s Denver division.
Albertsons/Safeway stores have a lot of competition for protein. Seafood houses a large selection, and chicken is popular with customers because of it’s price.
“Our customers are looking for flexibility and variety,” Staaf says. But when grilling season starts, the protein preference moves noticeably in one direction. “During the summer we see a lot of customers doing a lot of barbecuing with beef.”
Communicating how to properly prepare a cut of beef is one of the key factors in consumers enjoying their eating experience, says Cathy East, vice president of meat procurement at Albertsons/Safeway. Butchers at the meat counter play an important role in aiding consumers with their purchasing decisions, according to Staaf and East.
“Not only is the butcher the person who needs to be the one processing meat in the back, but they all need to be out front talking about the benefits and what the attributes are for beef. Not just the price point, but what makes it different and how they can fix it, prepare it and all those types of concerns,” East says.
All Albertsons/Safeway butchers are required to go through a food safety, food quality, monitoring and country of origin labeling training. The grocer has also started a program called Hometown Butcher.
“Some of that Hometown Butcher is understanding the cuts of meat, how to market them to the consumers, what the different cuts do and how to cook them. It is more than just meat cutting,” East says.
Staaf says buying beef cuts can sometimes be intimidating to consumers who aren’t familiar with how to cook them. This is where the butcher helps ease those apprehensions.
“Having that one-on-one customer interaction, I think, is really important, especially for the comfort level if you’re going to make an investment in a nice steak,” Staaf adds.
The next part of the Beef’s Quality Chain will run on Oct. 3 focusing on restaurants.
Part one of the series can be found below: