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After years of rising prices and strains on supply, beef is on the affordable side once again. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the number of cattle placed into feedlots in April 2016 was up by 7.5 percent from a year earlier, which will lead to increased beef production in four to six months. The USDA is also predicting beef prices will drop as much as 2 percent this year, with annual production increasing for the first time in six years.
The past four years of higher beef prices brought chicken sandwich and pulled pork innovations to America’s tables, but now beef is back on the front burner for menu R&D. Starbucks recently added a fajita-like, Southwest-style steak sandwich wrap to its food lineup. Applebee’s has invested millions in a plan to add wood-fired grills in all of its restaurants. And Shake Shack, which has been making big news for its chicken sandwiches, is refocusing on burgers with a bacon-burger special.
As grilling season shifts into high gear, burger joints and steakhouses will be competing with backyard barbecues, but grocerants can grab an advantage by offering premium sides and salads as well as pre-made marinades and rubs. Some supermarkets even fire up grills outside the store, offering samples of store-branded burgers and pre-seasoned steak cuts.
For the vegetarian crowd who still crave a good juicy burger, Beyond Meat, a Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company devoted to building better meat-free protein products, just launched its most beef-like product yet. The burger, said to “bleed” beet juice to mimic real beef burgers, premiered in limited supplies at a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colo. The patties were merchandised next to the real beef and sold out in an hour, proving that blood runs deep in consumer appeal.
- Texas-style ribs and brisket added to barbecue programs
- Specials on sides and prepared salads to entice home grillers
- Grill-ready, store-made veggie burgers for the meat-free crowd