A group of six meat industry sales representatives from the Caribbean nations of Aruba, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, St. Maarten and Trinidad and Tobago visited Colorado last week for a firsthand look at production, processing and merchandising practices in the U.S. beef, pork and lamb industries. Funding support was provided through national and state corn and soybean checkoff programs.
Chef Jay McCarthy (left) and USMEF Caribbean representative Elizabeth Wunderlich (center, standing) conduct a culinary demonstration for Caribbean sales representatives
USMEF’s primary objectives in hosting these meat industry representatives were to introduce them to a wider range of cuts that will satisfy their customers’ needs in a cost-effective manner and to provide them with detailed information that will enhance their ability to communicate face-to-face with their chef customers on the positive attributes of non-traditional, high-quality U.S. red meat products.
Tuesday’s activities began at USMEF headquarters in Denver where Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing and communications, and Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president for international programs, discussed key issues in the production and marketing of U.S. red meat. They also addressed meat supply concerns that have escalated due to this summer’s severe drought and the resulting supply crunch for forage and feedgrains.
“I am very interested in the market trends we discussed here,” said Dermot Troy of Island Supply, which serves hotel and restaurant clients in the Cayman Islands and is looking to expand into retail. “Chefs are very concerned right now with how the drought is going to impact supplies. We’re really interested in finding additional cuts that we can get into these chefs’ hands so they can maintain the quality of their menus.”
Troy said Island Supply has a very positive history with U.S. beef, and he is looking for ways to expand that relationship. He also expressed an interest in U.S. lamb, and said that especially in times of high costs, U.S. pork may offer strong menu alternatives for his clients.
“We are highly U.S.-based when it comes to beef, working with a wide variety of cuts,” he said. “We handle a lot of New Zealand lamb right now, but it’s possible that we could import more lamb from the United States. I am also really looking to learn a lot more about U.S. pork, which could allow me to bring new offerings to my chefs – something that our competitors may not be able to deliver.”
The next stop was the Meat Science Department at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where the group attended a “Meat 101” carcass breakdown session with Dr. Dale Woerner. Before returning to Denver, the group enjoyed a tour of Sylvan Dale Ranch near Loveland, Colo. On Wednesday the team toured the JBS beef and lamb processing plants in Greeley. They also visited a Five Rivers Cattle Feeding feedlot operation near Kersey, Colo.
Thursday’s activities in Denver included a retail visit to Tony’s Meats for an up-close view of merchandising techniques for high-end retail cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Jay Harvey of Lombardi Brothers provided the team with a detailed presentation on portion control, explaining how to effectively sell this concept to chefs and foodservice professionals.
The group concluded its Colorado tour Thursday afternoon with an extensive educational session conducted by chef Jay McCarthy called, “How to Sell Beef to Chefs.” Chef McCarthy demonstrated how underutilized beef cuts can add quality and variety to menus of restaurants and catering operations at very economical prices.
Joy Elcock, who began her sales position with Continental Foods in Barbados in January, said the tour provided her with knowledge that would improve sales by helping her to better address customers’ needs.
“Being relatively new to this position, the knowledge I have gained here will definitely help me sell U.S. meat products more effectively and efficiently,” she explained. “Continental Foods primarily serves hotels and restaurants, but we have been broadening our business to include catering companies and other vendors. My experience here will allow me to introduce them to more cuts and to explain the quality these products will deliver.”
Through June, U.S. beef exports to the Caribbean were down 20 percent from a year ago in volume (10,986 metric tons or 24.2 million pounds) but 9 percent higher in value ($63.1 million). Pork exports were 5 percent lower in volume (16,556 metric tons or 36.5 million pounds) and steady in value ($41.3 million). Lamb exports to the Caribbean have had a difficult year, falling 52 percent in volume (654 metric tons or 1.4 million pounds and 18 percent in value ($2.6 million). (All totals include both muscle cuts and variety meat.)