USMEF partnered with one of the leading HRI meat distributors in Poland to hold a series of U.S U.S. beef master classes for Polish chefs, foodservice buyers and restaurant owners. The classes, held in Gdynia, Krakow and Warsaw, were funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.
A video from the class in Warsaw can be viewed here.
“It was the first initiative for USMEF in Poland in several years and an important one to re-introduce U.S. beef to the market,” said Yuri Barutkin, USMEF representative in the region. “Although Poland is traditionally a pork eating country, it has recently seen a rising level of interest in specialty meats in general and high-quality beef in particular. With this in mind, it was important to reintroduce U.S. beef with educational master classes in order to capitalize on this growing interest. Poland is a country of almost 40 million people with a growing economy, and a market no one can afford to ignore.”
Barutkin and USMEF Technical Services Manager Cheyenne McEndaffer conducted the classes, which focused on alternative cuts of U.S. beef.
“The purpose of the master classes is to bring in chefs who already work with beef but may not be familiar with U.S. beef, and to highlight cuts that they have probably never worked with before,” explained McEndaffer. “The ultimate goal is to help our importers and distributors move the lesser-known or lesser-valued cuts within the market. There is generally no problem selling higher-end middle meats, obviously at a premium, but we’d like to see some of these other cuts, like from the chuck and the round, find new homes and new value opportunities.”
Assisted by well-known Polish chefs, USMEF helped re-acquaint the Polish foodservice industry to the flavor or U.S. beef. One way this was accomplished was by preparing and sharing classic U.S. beef ribeye.
“But we also took close looks at other cuts that offer value to them at a cheaper price,” said McEndaffer. “These would be cuts from the chuck, sirloin or round. We not only emphasized the cooking attributes of these cuts but also showed them how to break down the bigger cuts like the chuck roll.”
USMEF also provided a thorough overview of U.S. production practices and the competitive advantages and attributes of U.S. beef.
Elkopol, the Polish meat distributor that partnered with USMEF for the classes, collected feedback from participants on alternative cuts. This information will help Elkopol adjust its buying patterns and better utilize alternative cuts in Poland and across Europe, according to Maria Wozniak, import manager for Elkopol.
“We saw lots of interest in these alternative cuts among chefs – in fact, Chef Gregorz Kazubski, president of the Polish Chef Association, followed the masterclasses by preparing steaks during our internal trainings for retail,” said Wozniak. “We hope this is going to help create new openings for U.S. beef in the Polish HRI market.”
The effort to increase U.S. beef exports to Poland does not come without challenges and restrictions. The country is a member of the European Union, which means any U.S. beef exported there must come from cattle enrolled in the Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) program. This gives added importance to the promotion of alternative cuts, so that exporters can derive as much value as possible from NHTC cattle and importers can move lesser known cuts more easily within the EU market.
U.S. beef master classes and similar events in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece are being planned for later this year and into 2018.
“Even with challenges and limited resources, USMEF remains keen on developing new markets in Europe,” said Barutkin. “The U.S. beef master classes help spread the word and give decision-makers an opportunity to see and taste the difference and the advantages of U.S. beef over the competition.”