March 2013: Did you know...

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Is ground beef the favorite American meat today? Well, many would say so, and a recent white paper suggested it could amount to 55-60 percent of all foodservice and retail beef sales.

Ground beef offers great taste and cooking flexibility in tacos, spaghetti sauce, casseroles, meatballs or burgers. While its cost has risen greatly in recent years, it still offers a price point competitive with pork and poultry.

But, there is a lot about ground beef sales that you probably did not know. In the past five years, new companies like Five Guys and Smashburger have created a whole new category (premium grinds) that now competes with fast food restaurants and white-tablecloth restaurants for the away-from-home diner. Their ground beef often comes from Prime or Premium Choice carcasses, prepared in ways so different from fast food restaurants as to create a whole new dining experience.

That has changed the price point for this grind category. Low Choice and Select grinds sell at the same price, but premium grinds have sold for 10¢ to 23¢/lb. more. For a brand such as Certified Angus Beef  (CAB) that sells 50 lb. per carcass as premium grinds, it adds up to $12 to each qualified CAB carcass. In the ground beef world, that’s a huge economic impact.

The other part of ground beef sales you likely did not know is how grinding companies are starting to create blends that might include a percentage of ground brisket with ground chuck, ground sirloin and ground round. That’s because grinds from various regions of the carcass have a varying taste profile, creating the ultimate gourmet burger, unmatched for flavor.

Yes, the days when hamburger was hamburger are gone, and the beef industry has benefited greatly with grinds helping to maintain a competitive demand for beef.

Can this growing demand be met? Again, the answer is clearly yes, especially if the price of ground beef stays as strong as it is today. Sure the population of cull cows and bulls has shrunk, but the industry can use more of the fed steer and heifer carcass for grinding. Within the CAB brand, the opportunity to increase current sales from 50 up to 100 lb./carcass is attainable as the premium grind market continues to grow.

Bottom line, all this is a positive for beef demand and the beef producer.

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