Efforts to promote U.S. beef and educate food buyers in Eastern Europe recently took a giant step forward when USMEF partnered with distribution companies in a U.S. beef “Road Show” – a series of hands-on training sessions for HRI professionals and retail buyers in Latvia and Poland. This innovative approach in the region, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, began with two separate demonstrations by USMEF Chef Jay McCarthy.
In Latvia, the session was open to a very exclusive group of local HRI professionals who are target accounts for Reaton, the major distribution company in the Baltics. The session, conducted in the seaside resort town of Jurmala, attracted 40 participants and highlighted U.S. beef cuts considered most promising for the market.
“Chef McCarthy spoke in great detail about flanks, brisket and striploin and demonstrated to the audience the whole array of U.S. beef cuts available,” said Yuri Barutkin, USMEF representative in Europe. “Hands-on sessions gave these Baltic chefs a great opportunity to ask questions – not only about these cuts but also how to prepare them. There were also questions about margins and profits in working with U.S. beef cuts. In this market, the economics behind cooking with U.S. beef cuts is no less important than production techniques.”
Barutkin added that USMEF’s cooperation with Reaton has inspired the company to give more of its attention to U.S. beef.
A second Road Show session at the Whirlpool Culinary Studio in Warsaw, organized with U.S. beef distributor Elkopol, attracted the top HRI accounts in the region. Potential buyers from several large Polish retail chains joined HRI professionals at learning stations for training on cooking U.S. beef chuck cuts.
“The focus was on introducing portion control cuts that Elkopol wants to launch in the Polish market,” said Barutkin. “Country style ribs, Delmonico steaks, Denver cuts, Sierra cuts and eye of round currently offer the greatest potential. Elkopol has done a fabulous job exploring consumer preferences in the Polish market, and it hopes these cuts will someday be in high demand. USMEF’s role was to highlight the cuts and have prospective buyers taste them.”
The goal in Warsaw was to present the product as it will appear to Polish supermarket customers, Barutkin noted.
“Our idea was to use a ‘layman’s approach,’ using basic spices, basic kitchen utensils and the magic of a perfect flat iron steak,” he said. “Chef McCarthy was there to give sound advice and tips on how to cook that perfect steak with as little trouble as possible.”
USMEF and Elkopol will continue to tweak efforts promoting U.S. beef in Poland, but Barutkin said the potential is very promising.
“Should this Road Show approach work in the Polish market, it will provide a very profitable use for U.S. beef chuck and eye of round across the European Union,” he added. “We hope this project will go beyond Polish borders since there’s interest in other countries in the region as well.”