Meat Marketing 101:
The Segmentation Of The Industry (Not The Animal)
'If you’re going to sell a meat product, you must understand these definitions:
USDA — All meat sold in the U.S. must conform to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. That’s step one. All beef on the market, from the cheapest to the most expensive, must meet these requirements.
Beef Mark of Quality — The Beef Board funded the “Mark of Quality” to recognize branded product that provides proof of positive consumer sensory results. The meat must be 100 percent beef produced in a USDA-inspected processing facility with a HACCP program, and backed by $5 million worth of product liability insurance. Packaging must include safe handling/cooking instructions, manufacturer contact information and nutrition labeling.
Natural — One of the most misunderstood categories, the only restrictions the USDA imposes is that it be “minimally processed,” with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. What it usually means is meat from cattle raised without added hormones or antibiotics and not fed animal by-products, which is an all-but-outlawed practice, anyway.
Pasture/Grass Fed Meats – Reputedly more flavorful and with a better nutritional profile, producers also claim a food safety advantage. According to www.Eatwild.com, “Switching ruminants from their natural diet of grasses to grains also lowers the nutritional value of their meat and dairy products. Compared with grass-fed meat, grain-fed meat contains more total fat, saturated fat and calories. It also has less vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid.”
Organic Beef — Organic beef sales are growing by double digits — twice as fast as the rest of the organic industry. But growth is from such a small base, most of the big operations lose more product in a day that the Organic people sell in a year. Projected compound annual growth rates for the next five years are in excess of 40 percent. The requirements for “natural” meats are not subject to federal government oversight but organic products are audited by federal government authorized certifiers to assure compliance with the National Organic Program rules.
Organically raised bison is available through many vendors. It’s common enough to find a place in many supermarket fresh meat cases and a few processed meals. Ted’s Montana Grill even built a business on bison.
Two other alternative meats are venison and ostrich. Venison is available farm-raised and “wild harvested.” Like bison, ostrich is another low-fat meat that failed at first, due to some outrageously out-of-line pricing. It’s slowly gaining some respect but it might be years before it’s a serious factor in the meat case.
One of the fastest growing boutique meats is Cabrito. Unless you’re of Latin heritage, you probably call it goat meat. Big in Latin, Arab and eastern European cuisines, its’ slowly outgrowing the ethnic neighborhood stores where it’s been sold for years.'