Ask top Brisbane chef Andrew Mirosch how higher cattle prices have affected beef sales in his restaurants, and his answer may come as a surprise.
“Sales have actually gone up,” he told Beef Central at the launch of the Australian Certified Humane program in Toowoomba this week.
“The price of our expensive primal cuts last June went up 30-40 percent, it was a big jump.
“But demand has gone up.
“We are charging $55 for a steak now that was $42 but we are selling twice as many as we were selling 12 months ago.”
The award-winning Sirromet Executive Chef puts it down to luxury and provenance.
Eating beef in a restaurant is a luxury consumers are happy to pay for, provided they receive a high quality eating experience, he says.
Quality branded beef and provenance is central to ensuring that is what they get.
Every cut of grassfed or grainfed beef Mr Mirosch serves in Sirromet’s three restaurants is branded product, providing customers full provenance details such as how the animal was bred, raised and fed.
This is no mere gimmick or marketing ploy.
Consumers today are far more educated about beef, Mr Mirosch says, and genuinely want to know about how their food was produced.
“The change happened about five years ago, once MSA kicked in and once people got an interest in regionality and where their food comes from,” he explained.
“My customers will not eat a piece of YG*.
“If I serve YG my customers go off their nut.
“My customers want YP and older, it is darker, it ages better, the flavour is developed.
“It is a luxury. Customers can’t go to the supermarket and get a piece of meat like I serve.
“They also don’t eat beef every day, so when they go to restaurants they choose beef.”
HGP-free and grassfed beef were also becoming much bigger in restaurants, he said.
“I do Grasslands eye fillet, and I do Tas Pure, no growth promotants, and my customers are ordering that.
“It is a $55 meal, and they are ordering that over a $40 piece of meat, because of the provenance of that product.”
Humane certification an important step
Mr Mirosch said the introduction of Australian Certified Humane program was an important step towards giving customers what they want.
“To me as a customer to walk into a butcher shop with Australian Certified Humane, and a video running telling me how that animal has been treated from the day it was born, is very important.
“When I started this trade in the 1980s there was no traceability, and no branding.
“I would ring up a butcher and say I want to have two cartons of eye fillets.
“They would turn up in a box and that was it, I didn’t know if it was grassfed, grainfed, YG, YP.
“Customers also weren’t as discerning. To them an eye fillet was an eye fillet regardless of where it came from
“Now my customers know, they are very well aware of what they are getting.”
Branded beef boosts pub group’s beef sales
Another example of the power of branded beef lies in the recent performance of beef sales in the eight hotels in the Good Times Pub Group, also owned by Sirromet’s parent company Morris International.
About 14 months ago Mr Mirosch oversaw the replacement of generic beef with branded product throughout the chain.
“Everything is branded in the pubs now and the sales of beef have gone through the roof based on that,” he said.
Asked how the recent long running drought had impacted on the supply quality beef to his customers, Mr Mirosch said the tight supply had meant he had moved to purchasing large quantities of beef for ageing in Sirromet’s meat room.
Sirromet has three separate restaurants employing 22 chefs and apprentices, serving around 3500 customers every week.
* In Ausmeat language YG refers to Young Beef – male or female, 0, 1 or 2 adult teeth, up to 30 months of age. YP refers to Young Prime, male or female, between 0 and 4 adult teeth, up to 36 months of age.