Beef that keeps them coming back

Morgan Marley
Certified Angus Beef, LLC

The mirage above the grills and sizzle in the skillets say they’re hot. People bustle between cooking stations on the blacktop and soon, the savory aroma of cooking meat fills the air. Palm trees sway in the breeze.

Ah, the sights, sounds and smells of “meat clerk” training. For three days, nearly 250 meat clerks from scores of large supermarkets hone their cooking skills at summertime events like these across the country, all to better advise shoppers.

This isn’t what you think of when the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) brand comes to mind, but it’s all part of the win-win relationships CAB forges with partners.

You might get your beef from a home-raised steer or buy retail cuts like most consumers. But if you raise beef cattle, you have to appreciate the expertise it takes for meat department clerks in cities to accurately represent the premium product that starts on your farm or ranch.

Retail meat staff are your sales force, the first resource shoppers approach when they have a question. Supermarket executives know their stores only succeed if customer-facing employees like meat clerks are ready to answer those questions.

Training puts ownership and responsibility in their job and builds a connection to every brand in the case.

“It goes back to that trust and really making a connection with the customer,” as one manager explains.

Meat clerks are the retail staff handling the product after it’s broken down by a meat cutter.

“They might be the one to put it in a tray, over wrap it, put the weigh scale on it and get it out into the front of the store or in the storeroom,” says CAB senior brand manager Barb Burd.

One training in August started with a CAB presentation, followed by a “vendor room” session with 28 brands giving meat clerks a chance to ask questions and sample the different products. That led to hands-on cooking demonstrations.

For three days, the CAB team worked with 20 groups a day for 25 minutes each to teach them how to sear and grill a New York strip steak.

“We may think of neighborhoods with people living in apartments where they can’t grill,” Burd says. But there are many different home cooking resources and, “We want all customers to be able to prepare a great dining experience at home with a great product and do it successfully.”

Searing and grilling classes have been favorite sessions for many clerks, learning from CAB Corporate Chef Peter Rosenberg and taking home much of what they grill.

It’s all part of learning by doing, so they can walk customers through the preparation and cooking process. That creates a trust relationship with customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Training sessions may include several other stations and other brands of meat and seafood, all to help retailers distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

That makes for sustainable growth, retail partners say. Those who participate in such training set themselves a step above competition with an unbranded commodity base. CAB is the brand that fosters understanding at every step from pasture to plate.

Premiums earned at the farm and ranch level support the genetics and management that keep supplying the brand. CAB staff work to help build the base for those premiums, educating all hands and minds along the chain, from chef to retailer, rancher to meat clerk.

Because once people get a taste, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Meat clerk training taking place in a parking lot.