Note: This is the third 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.
Restaurants Give Consumers More Beef Dining Options
Fast food companies have also made moves improve beef quality. Arby’s has grown in sales volume by 25% in the past five years, largely due to rebranding efforts focusing on innovation and bringing additional menu items into its restaurants.
Beef is still a focus for Arby’s with 130 million pounds sold per year, and the restaurant chain has more than 3,300 locations globally. Arby’s current growth came from tapping into what the company was from the start, says Jim Taylor, Arby’s chief marketing officer.
“Arby’s was focused on the quality of the food. The abundance of meat in the sandwich, how delicious it was and making a connection with people,” Taylor says.
For the majority of more than 50 years in business, Arby’s has mostly focused on their roast beef products. Consumers only actively search out roast beef about 4% of the time when they choose to dine at a quick service restaurant.
“In the end what built the Arby’s brand were big, meaty sandwiches,” Taylor says. “The core of the sandwich, and the most important ingredient, is the meat.”
Pork, chicken, turkey and fish sandwiches have also been added to the menu over the past few years. Arby’s wanted to be known for more than roast beef, but has still wanted to keep beef as a focal point.
There are currently four types of beef that can be enjoyed at Arby’s including: roast beef, corned beef, brisket and USDA Choice top round Angus steak.
“We want people to have fun with food and explore. We want to be the place where you break your routine. Everybody loves burgers, but you get into a routine,” Taylor says.
McDonald’s, the largest quick service buyer of beef in the world, has put a focus on creating a quality eating experience by adding fresh beef to its menu in the U.S.
For the past few years McDonald’s has experimented with fresh beef Quarter Pounder patties in several test markets, says Mike Brems, McDonald’s U.S. sourcing manager for beef. After a soft rollout in the spring, all Quarter Pounders in the continental U.S. starting on May 1 came from fresh beef.
“It’s a pretty dramatic change for McDonald’s. It’s one of the larger projects we’ve had over the last 15 to 20 years,” Brems says.
There have been adjustments made at the supplier side, and restaurant crews have been trained in the different preparation from the traditional frozen patty.
“From a Quarter Pounder perspective, since its fresh beef we are not importing any raw materials for those burgers, so all of the raw materials are coming from North America,” Brems says.
The change to fresh beef Quarter Pounders should continue to increase the amount of beef purchased domestically by McDonald’s, especially as more consumers show a preference for the burgers.
“We’ve seen a substantial increase in customer satisfaction. I think people are getting a hotter, juicier burger when they order it,” Brems says. “Overall it’s been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re very happy with the results.”
Part one and two of the series can be found below: