The Beef Innovations Group, the product development organization sponsored by The Beef Checkoff, has announced developments in new products and new cuts that will promote beef consumption. It has been active in developing new cuts in the chuck roll, but one of the biggest challenges has been getting a major processor to change operations and begin cutting and selling the new products, according to the Group.

In March, Tyson Fresh Meats began selling the four-piece chuck roll combo pack. The combo pack has the chuck eye roll (which can be further cut into Delmonico steaks, America’s Beef roast and Country-Style ribs), the serratus ventralis (Denver Cut), the Splenius (Sierra Cut) and the rhomboideus which is generally cut up into stew meat. These cuts were all identified through the checkoff-funded Muscle Profiling Study. Having Tyson Fresh Meats on board processing the new cuts is a big win for the beef industry and consumers alike, the Group says. The cuts are flavorful, trimmed of visible fat, and they offer a variety of merchandising applications which gives the retailer and the foodservice operator more flexibility.

Additionally, the Group has noted that many recent studies showing consumers are more time-crunched than ever and have less time to prepare and eat meals. Recent work by the Beef Innovations Group and industry experts led to the development of two product platforms that will drive new product commercialization efforts in 2009. Sales opportunities exist across both platforms for new beef products as a breakfast item, a convenient, on-the-go solution or a snack/appetizer or “fourth meal.”

The Bread Carrier platform utilizes doughs, wraps, bakeable coatings, etc., as a carrier of steak, shredded beef, hamburgers, and other beef products. The focus will be items that beef owns because of its equity or products that do not lend themselves to other proteins. The Steak/Burger Extension platform works to expand the presence of steak, steak products, and hamburgers in the channels by increasing the number of applications or use either through stand-alone products or as ingredients in manufactured products. By working with manufacturers, foodservice operators, retailers and food scientists, the Beef Innovations Group expects to launch two to four new products by the fall of 2009.

Source: Beef Innovations Group

Settlements reached in Gold'n Plump lawsuits

A federal magistrate judge has given final approval to settlements of two religious discrimination cases against Gold'n Plump Poultry Inc. AP reports that the company will add a paid break to the second half of each shift to accommodate Muslims who want to pray during the work day.

The processor will pay $215,000 to 128 Somali-American Muslims who claimed religious discrimination, including discharge and discipline. It will pay an additional $150,000 to 28 others who refused to sign forms stating that they would not refuse to handle pork products if their were referred to work at the company's facilities in Cold Spring, Minn., and Arcadia, Wis.

Source: Associated Press

Restaurant Performance Index stays below 100

Restaurant industry performance remained soft in February, as the National Restaurant Association’s comprehensive index of restaurant activity stood below 100 for the 16th consecutive month. The Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 97.5 in February, up 0.1 percent from its January level.

“Although the index registered its second consecutive monthly gain, each of the RPI’s eight indicators stood below 100 in February, which signifies continued contraction,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Information Services for the NRA. “A majority of restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales and customer traffic levels in February, and their outlook for sales growth in the months ahead remains uncertain.”

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 96.6 in February – up 0.1 percent from January and the second consecutive monthly improvement. Despite the recent gains, February marked the 18th consecutive month below 100, which signifies contraction in the current situation indicators.

Restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales for the ninth consecutive month in February. Twenty-nine percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between February 2008 and February 2009, down from 31 percent who reported a sales gain in January. Fifty-six percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in February, up slightly from 55 who reported negative sales in January.

Restaurant operators also reported negative customer traffic levels in February, with results on par with the January performance. Twenty-two percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in customer traffic between February 2008 and February 2009, matching the proportion who reported similarly in January. Fifty-nine percent of operators reported a traffic decline in February, also unchanged from January.

Capital spending activity in the restaurant industry also slowed along with sales and traffic in recent months. Thirty-five percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, compared to the 34 percent levels reported by operators in the previous two months.

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 98.5 in February – up 0.2 percent from January and its third consecutive monthly gain. However, February still represented the 16th consecutive month in which the Expectations Index stood below 100.

Restaurant operators remain uncertain about sales growth in coming months. Twenty-five percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), down slightly from 26 percent who reported similarly last month. Forty-one percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, compared to 42 percent who reported similarly last month.

Restaurant operators are slightly more optimistic about the direction of the economy, though pessimists still outnumber optimists. Twenty-two percent of operators expect economic conditions to improve in six months, up from 18 percent who reported similarly last month and the highest level in six months. However, 36 percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to worsen in six months, up from 34 percent who reported similarly last month.

Source: National Restaurant Association

Johnsonville to use social network to promote grilling

Johnsonville Sausage Co. has hired the Santa Monica, Calif.-based branded-entertainment production company Matrixx Pictures to ensure consumers add its bratwurst and Italian sausages to their grilling rotation.

Van Vandegrift, the executive producer at Matrixx, said that in coming weeks Matrixx will launch an online social-networking initiative featuring user-generated videos of “grilling enthusiasts who are reaching out to other people” and attract more consumers to the summer tradition of grilling.

Source:, The Morning Cup