Keeping Pace
Veal and lamb producers seek to bolster volume and sales through innovation.
Trying to move the needle on consumption, whether at home or away from home, the veal and lamb industries are getting increasingly creative in showing people new ways to enjoy those classic proteins.
The veal deal
Such efforts are born, as are most protein innovations, from need. For one thing, with lower beef supplies in the past year causing younger cattle to be diverted, the veal market felt the reverberations in its own supply and price. Per capita consumer consumption of veal, meantime, continues to hover around the 0.5-pound mark.
On a macro scale, a marketing program funded by the veal arm of the Denver-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is spotlighting true veal appeal. In May, the group launched a new advertising campaign with the tagline, “Veal: Explore the Possibilities.”
The first ads were targeted to foodservice professionals, according to Dean Conklin, executive director of NCBA’s veal promotion group. “We’re trying to encourage and challenge chefs to think about veal in a new way, especially with the casual theme segment,” says Conklin, adding that a veal burger is the centerpiece of the ad campaign, along with other concepts like a veal pizza and veal porterhouse.
In addition to the ads, NCBA’s veal team enlisted a menu-development specialist to create veal recipes for use in popular restaurants.
Individual veal producers, for their part, are creating a new category dynamic through a variety of consumer-oriented products. Provimi Foods Corporation, of Seymour, Wis., for instance, recently rolled out a fully cooked osso buco and a veal osso buco-flavored ravioli with saffron pasta. Earlier this year, Provimi announced its Cocina Sabrosita line of veal products for the Hispanic marketplace.
Value-added veal cuts also are where it’s at for Mountain States Rosen, which now offers a line of Cedar Springs microwaveable, precooked products, including veal patties and lamb and veal sausage, among others. Catelli Brothers recently introduced it Italian Bistro series of fully cooked veal entrees, including veal piccata, veal marsala, veal provencale and veal meatballs and, earlier this year, debuted a fully cooked veal stew.
Feeling sheepish
Like veal, per capita consumption of lamb trails that of the big brother proteins like beef, chicken and pork. U.S. consumers eat an average of one pound of lamb of year, according to the most recent figures.
That said, groups like the Denver-based American Lamb Board are focusing efforts on behalf of lamb producers and processors to create excitement about the protein, through various advertising and merchandising programs, materials and events. Earlier this year, the group founded a “Lambassarors” program, through which chefs who frequently use lamb demonstrate its versatility and flavor through recipes and menu ideas.
Lamb processors, for their part, are investing in R&D for both retail and foodservice customers. Last year, veal and lamb company Mountain States Rosen demonstrated its out-of-the-box approach through a new Cedar Springs line of restaurant-style natural, American fully cooked premium lamb, a series that includes lamb meatballs, lamb barbecue ribs, breakfast lamb and veal patty links and roasted red pepper and garlic lamb and veal sausages.
Catelli Brothers also doubles up on innovations for lamb and veal. Among other traditional portions like chops, legs and rack, the company now offers case-ready ground lamb and lamb patties. NP
Annual Lamb and Mutton Forecasts
  2002 20032004200520062007
Production (millions lb.)219199195187197205
Per capita consumption (retail lb.)1.21.21.11.11.1 1.1
Imports (millions lb.)162168181180183184
*Per capita meat consumption data are revised, incorporating a new population series from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis based on the 2000 Census.
Source: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and Supporting Materials
Published in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ldp