Fresh off the news that St. Lucia has removed cattle age and product restrictions for U.S. beef, USMEF conducted an event focusing specifically on the uses and benefits of bone-in beef for buyers in the hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector, as well as supermarket representatives. Funding support was provided through the USDA Market Access Program and the Beef Checkoff Program.
It was announced in February that export verification (EV) requirements no longer apply in St. Lucia, making all federally inspected establishments eligible to export boneless and bone-in beef to the popular Caribbean vacation spot.
“Having the ability to ship bone-in beef to St. Lucia opens some very exciting opportunities for items such as bone-in prime rib, short ribs, T-bones, Porterhouse steaks and bone-in veal chops – just to name a few,” said Elizabeth Wunderlich, USMEF’s representative in the Caribbean.
With this positive development in mind, several importers – including four key importers who helped get the beef restrictions lifted – were invited to a USMEF-organized showcase featuring bone-in products. Participating importers were allowed to invite customers to the event and exhibit samples of U.S. products such as prime rib roast, flanken-style short ribs, bone-in tenderloin, tomahawk ribeyes and T-bone steaks, which had not been allowed in St. Lucia for more than a decade.
The “Thrilled to the Bone” event turned out to be a valuable showcase for U.S. beef.
“This really helped toward the development of a great partnership between USMEF and these key importers,” Wunderlich said. “Although the event was guaranteed for 40 people, more than 80 showed up – it was a packed house.”
Attendees included representatives of the Caribbean Basin Agricultural Trade Office, which helped with registration and made a presentation, and Dr. Auria King-Cenac, St. Lucia’s chief veterinary officer.
One local company, Quirch Foods, a USMEF member, used the event to introduce their smaller cut and packed subprimals.
“This is a new program in which smaller-weight boxes are offered to customers just wishing to have one or two whole subprimals. Quirch Foods is launching it throughout the Caribbean,” Wunderlich said, adding that USMEF members Meats by Linz and Kansas Packing flew in to be part of the “Thrilled to the Bone” event and also participated in some training exercises as well as showcasing some unique products for the region.
While in St. Lucia, USMEF participated in a tour of the CPJ St. Lucia facility, which brought new insight into the company’s plan to open a cutshop and processing plant on the island. CPJ, an importer and distributor based in Jamaica, has set up shop primarily to handle demand from the area’s three Sandals Resorts locations.
“They will be shipping processed products from Jamaica to CPJ St. Lucia, as well as setting up a cutshop and small processing center,” Wunderlich said. “Their coolers were full of U.S. beef products of high quality, mostly destined for Sandals.”
USMEF also met with some St. Lucia chefs on their plans to serve Texas-style barbeque and worked with St. Lucia’s supermarket sector. Nearly all of the island’s supermarkets are owned by a single company, and since they now are bringing in short loins and short ribs, they needed training on how to handle fresh bone-in product — their meat cutters had never done this before.
“We spent a day examining four area supermarkets,” Wunderlich reported. “Displays and merchandising techniques have greatly improved in recent years, which makes them a more promising venue for high-quality meat products.”