July 31, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Finding ways to add value to beef products benefits farmers, the beef industry and retail markets. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is working with beef industry leaders, as well as local grocery managers to do just that.

For about 12 to 18 months, Excel Corporation has been working to increase awareness of a cut from the beef shoulder called the Flat Iron. Meat managers usually cut this area of the shoulder into stew meat, or grind it up for ground beef. However, they may be missing an opportunity to gain more profit from the shoulder.

“We’re continually looking to add value to underutilized cuts,” said Terry Siber, retail meat consultant for Excel Corp. “In tenderness, the Flat Iron ranks in the top five most tender cuts of beef. It’s actually number two behind the tenderloin.”

Siber was in Lexington recently to do a cutting demonstration for meat managers of Kentucky’s Slone’s Markets. With help from the Kentucky Beef Council and UK Cooperative Extension, Siber said he sees the demonstration as just the ground floor for the product. 

Slone’s CEO Bob Slone is looking forward to offering the new cuts in his six Kentucky stores.

“UK and the Kentucky Beef Council approached us about doing this and we contacted Excel and asked them to come do a demo,” he said. “In the grocery business we’re always looking for ways to get more profit from a piece of meat and also give the consumer more choices in what they serve at home. The Flat Iron appears to have the potential for both.”

Slone said they hope to start offering the new cuts to consumers fairly soon. He said they will rely on meat managers to do most of the marketing one-on-one with consumers by explaining to them what the cut is and ways they can use it. The Kentucky Beef Council likely will do in-store demos.

Another valuable marketing tool is UK’s annual Ag Roundup, the largest alumni event on the UK campus each year.

“For a number of years, the Kentucky Beef Council has assisted us with an alumni event called Roundup,” said Grace Gorrell, UK agriculture and alumni development associate director. “They’ve always donated product to us for meals. This year they came to us and asked us to help promote a new specialty product and also help get the Flat Iron in the marketplace.”

This year’s four-day Roundup will feature Flat Iron steaks and roasts at its eight meal functions.

“We feel this will help us accomplish a big goal of Roundup, which is to educate people about Kentucky Agriculture,” Gorrell said. “We’re all more apt to purchase something we’ve experienced ourselves.”

Yet another facet of the partnership is Extension agents educating people in their counties about beef. Laura Stephenson, Clark County extension agent for family and consumer sciences, has been presenting a consumer beef quality awareness program in many Kentucky counties over the past year. She’s incorporated the Flat Iron into the second phase of that program.

“We’ve been doing programs with new cuts of beef to promote the producer-consumer connection,” she said. “So what we’re hoping to do is not only teach consumers about new products on the market, but to also teach them how to prepare them and to understand that they can get leaner, lower-cost cuts and still have wonderful flavor and variety.”

The Flat Iron steak was first identified through research at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida funded with beef checkoff dollars by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Grace Gorrell 859-257-7211