The first time I had the chance to partake of an array of value-added, fully precooked, heat-and-eat CAB products was at a trade show back at the turn of the century when they were already winning beef industry awards as best new products. It sure was a taste treat, and became a regular part of the CAB Annual Conference as the Taste Drive.

New products come from further processors!

Anyway, the Beef Checkoff-funded initiative to develop new products from the underutilized chuck and round evolved into today’s Beef Innovations Group (BIG), which has done much to show the way to added value.  How do they do it? None of the taste drives or microwaveable delights would exist today were it not for the efforts of “further processors,” those companies that buy primal cuts and add value by specific cutting methods and/or marinades, spice rubs, cookery, smoking and grinding. ETC. They keep thinking up new, delicious ideas!

One of my favorite snacks is the Gary West steak strip, so good I have seen convention goers enjoying them with breakfast coffee—but I prefer a colder beverage later in the day and out in the wilds. Anybody who’s had a Usinger’s all-beef frankfurter knows why it caused a near panic when it sold out at the 2002 Winter Olympics and we had to help channel more beef to the Wisconsin further processor on short notice.

The value-added products (VAP) division at CAB has one of the most consistent, upward sales growth trends within our company that has done pretty well overall with six consecutive record years. All of that comes from the genius of licensed partners who are further processors.

VAP Director Brett Erickson compares the annual CAB Taste Drive to a producer’s annual bull sale as a telling moment. This year it featured 140 lots, er, VAP items from 17 different processors as 600 enjoyed and evaluated.

“A year’s worth of work, time, energy and dollars for three hours of controlled chaos–all with the hope that the retailer, foodservice distributors, international folks, producers and processors walk away saying, ‘Wow, that was a great Taste Drive!’ The proof comes when processors tell Brett’s team about directly linked sales. “That’s like when a seedstock producer gets a call from his customer about what a great job the bull did and how the calves topped the market. That’s what keeps them coming back.”

Several leading partners focus on the ground beef side, and one of the best, with the most volume is the award-winning Holten Meats of Sauget, Ill.

Jim Holten aims for the best in safety & quality

 Led by founder Jim Holten, the company’s highest priority is food safety, and buying exclusively CAB two-piece chucks for grinding takes the worry away on the quality side. More than 10 million pounds per year goes into CAB grinds such as the leading Thick-N-Juicy brand burgers, but also their popular 2-oz. sliders.

“We discovered sliders by accident,” Jim said in the 2009 article, Quality in, quality out. He noted Holten cooked and served small burger pieces on toothpicks at institutional food shows. The company’s Jim Bedwell suggested in 1997 making patties on a 2-ounce (oz.) sausage plate so product could be sampled on small buns. “Soon, we were getting requests for the sliders as products. We began selling the little burgers. The slider ‘craze’ originated with our company.”

Whether it’s the next craze or a better way to add value with an old favorite, you can bet the array of partners in the further processing business will keep finding new pathways that bring in more consumers and add black ink to your bottom line.

Till next time, let’s keep targeting the brand and building tomorrow together,


Beef’s a Trip Archives:

Day 1: Starting at day one

Day 2: Who are these people?

Day 3: Stockholders

Day 4: The cowherd’s purpose

Day 5: Deciding to care

Day 6: Quality focus doesn’t have to skip the middleman

Day 7: Stocking for quality

Day 8: SOLD!

Day 9: What have you done today?

Day 10: Working together to make ‘em better

Day 11: Keep on truckin’

Day 12: Packers want quality

Day 13: The target

Day 14: Packers up close & personal

Day 15: It’s not all about the beef

Day 16: Further processors

Day 17: From here to there–and a lot more

Day 18: He’s on your team

Day 19: Beyond prices, grocery stores uncovered

Day 20: Getting quality in the carts