Meatpacking Trend May Lead Butchers to Slaughterhouse

May 28, 2002

Major players in the $80 billion U.S. red-meat packing and processing business are pushing into “case-ready” meat products that come to the store prepackaged for retail sale, reports Reuters. Huston Keith of Keymark Associates, a market research and development company that has studied the case-ready trend, estimates that case-ready meats now account for about 15 percent of the market, a share that should rise to 30 percent within five years.

“The market for case-ready meats should improve as supermarkets seek to save money on in-store meat cutting,” says Joseph Luter, chief executive of Smithfield Foods Inc., the nation’s largest pork producer. “The one big reason is Wal-Mart has embraced it enthusiastically,” he says. “The stores they are building are going 100 percent case-ready. We expect other people will follow.”

A recent study of consumer attitudes issued by the Food Marketing Institute found that most supermarket shoppers still want to find a butcher on duty. Greg Denier, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, whose members include meat cutters, adds that supermarket chains may see a competitive advantage in distinguishing themselves from discounters by keeping a butcher at the store.

Supermarket designers are playing the middle of the road. “We’re seeing a definite gear-up towards it,” says Scott Reagles, a store planner for Design Services Group, a Minnesota-based unit of Supervalu Inc. “We look at alternatives,” he says. “One concept is that the dividing wall between the cooler and the meat space would be movable, so as the demand increases for cooler space because of case-ready, you can just keep expanding one and reducing the other instead of having to totally remodel.”

Moderator Comment: Is case-ready only a viable strategy
for retailers selling fresh meat? [George
Anderson – Moderator

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