A NEW TV beef marketing campaign launched by supermarket giant Coles on Thursday for the first time celebrates the subtle differences between grain and grassfed beef available in the domestic market.
In what represents the most overt ‘grain or grass?’ messaging ever seen in domestic beef promotion in Australia, Coles draws attention to the eating qualities that can be enjoyed in both.
What the ad strives to sell is the notion of choice: that one finishing system is not necessarily ‘better’ than the other, but that both have their followings, and some consumers can in fact enjoy both, for variety.
“It’s got that depth of flavour,” a consumer remarks in the ad, after tasting a grassfed sample.
“It’s always very tender,” a grainfed beef lover offers.
While Coles has stocked both grain and grass-finished beef brands for three years, never before has it drawn attention to the differences between the two, in the manner that it has in the latest TV ad.
Coles first introduced a certified grassfed beef option under the Graze brand to customers in selected regions in 2014, following Woolworths’ earlier lead. Click here to view earlier story.
The company yesterday flagged that it will double the number of certified grassfed cattle suppliers to the program (see details below) as the popularity of the grassfed offer grows, and a wider variety of products are added to the range.
Not far away from ‘Graze’ in Coles’ chilled meat cabinet is its ‘Coles Finest’ 100-day grainfed Black Angus product. Both are attractively packaged in single portions, using latest VSP (vacuum-skin pack) packaging for optimum shelf life.
Retail pricing shows a distinct premium has again been established by Coles for its grainfed offer.
For a period after the original launch of Graze, there was little difference in price between the company’s premium grassfed and grainfed offers.
Using scotch fillet as a point of comparison, the Coles Finest 100-day product yesterday was pitched in the Brisbane market at $43/kg (almost $13 for a typical 300 gram portion), compared with the grassfed Graze scotch on special this week at $33/kg ($9.90/300 gram steak serve), down from its normal price of $40/kg or $12.10 per serve.
Standard Coles ‘Everyday’ MSA yearling scotch fillet yesterday afternoon was also retailing for $33/kg.
Coles’ Graze certified grassfed is produced out of Scone in central NSW, Brooklyn in Victoria (both of which also produce JBS’s highly successful Great Southern farm assured product), and Harvey Beef in WA.
Coles Finest 100-day product is supplied by the Maconochie family’s Hopkins River feedlot in Victoria, Rangers Valley feedlot near Glen Innes in northern NSW, and Kylagh feedlot in WA.
Coles Everyday beef is also produced via 60-70 day grainfeeding programs, but the company has never sought to describe that product as grainfed, nor the fact that it is backed by MSA science. HGP-free is the major point of difference (both Graze and Coles Finest are also HGP-free).
Grassfed program grows
Coles says customer demand for high-quality, grassfed beef has resulted in a doubling in the number of cattle producers required for the ‘national’ launch of Coles’ grassfed range at all supermarkets last week. Previously, Graze was available only in stores in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
The range has now expanded to all states and territories, and has diversified to include not only steak cuts, but up to 10 items also including roasting items, ribs, mince, burgers, sausages, stir fry and meatballs.
Coles said company research had revealed that 79 percent of customers wanted meat that came from animals “raised and fed naturally”, prompting the company to “offer a beef range which comes entirely from cattle that graze freely on grass.” Phrases like ‘Free to roam’ feature prominently on Graze packaging.
What’s perhaps a little odd is that in the same week that the company releases a statement about the growing demand for Graze and free-range, it runs a TV add that equally celebrates grainfed beef.
Coles livestock manager Steve Rennie said the popularity of the Graze range had resulted in Coles sourcing beef from more than 300 Australian livestock producing families, so customers across Australia could try it.
“Grassfed beef has long featured on menus at top steak restaurants and now customers can serve up Aussie grassfed beef on their menus at home,” Mr Rennie said.
“Due to the overwhelming response from customers enjoying the quality and flavour, and with many requests for more products, we’ve been working hard to be able to supply this range to more Australians.”
“For years we have been focused on providing our customers great quality beef at great prices. We are proud to be the only national supermarket to guarantee no added hormones and provide a grassfed beef range.”
He said the Graze program required all participating farmers to be available for random audits by AusMeat to ensure they are meeting the rigorous standards in animal husbandry and pasture management. The Graze program also specifies cattle are never fed grain to supplement their diet even in challenging seasonal conditions.
Therein lies the biggest challenge for a national red meat supply chain looking at having the same product on shelf, 24/7/365.
The Graze expansion required sourcing from different locations at different times of the year to suit changing seasons, with farmers across ‘most states’ (largest beef producing state Queensland appears to be the outlier) now supplying Coles with grassfed beef, Mr Rennie said.
Coles recent strategy in fresh meat has been increasing emphasis on ‘non-intensive’ farming practises, using phrases such as cage-free, sow stall free, and free to roam.
That philosophy fits closely with the company’s Euro-centric and New Zealand-centric senior management, where more intensive grain-finishing programs are much less common.
Graze brand statement
Published below is the Graze brand statement produced by Coles:
Graze is proudly brought to you by our Aussie Farmers in partnership with Coles. Individually selected to high standards, our livestock are raised in the open pastures across the scenic farms of Australia. From the New South Wales Tablelands, Victoria’s North East and Gippsland areas to South Australia’s Limestone Coast and the Great Southern Region of Western Australia, our Farmers work with nature to produce great tasting, quality grassfed beef. Achieving this high level of quality requires adhering to a set of high standards which ensure the cattle have access to graze open pastures, are cared for by skilled stockmen and women, and that none of our beef is treated with HGPs. The Graze beef standards cover feed and water, as well as other areas including traceability and animal welfare and handling.