Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 41

T

he coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
has left no corner of the US food industry
untouched. Jordan Beeman, president of
Flatonia, Texas-based HeartBrand Beef, said
trying to sell high-end specialty Akaushi beef
during the pandemic presents challenges not
faced by most commodity-based processors.
He said the ride his business has taken the
past few months is "like living on a wave" with
plenty of ups and downs - and opportunities to
sell more beef.

Photos: HeartBrand Beef

MEET THE NICHE
HeartBrand Beef is led by Bill Fielding, chief
executive officer of HeartBrand. Fielding is a
veteran of the meat and food industry. He spent
years working for some high-profile companies
including 27 spent working for Cargill. That
was in 2016 and Fielding already had spent
seven years developing a niche beef product
sourced from Akaushi cattle.
American Akaushi cattle are direct
descendants of the Mount Aso region's revered
Akaushi herds in Japan with a lineage that can
be traced back more than 30 generations to the
origins of the breed. The US herd is the largest
purebred group of Wagyu-type cattle outside
of Japan.
HeartBrand Beef is the exclusive breeder
and processor of Akaushi beef in the United
States. Akaushi (which means "red cow"
in Japanese) cattle raised by HeartBrand
graze on a special mix of grasses in the open
air and later move on to a grain formula.
This combination results in highly marbled
beef but with a fatty acid composition that
has a positive ratio of monounsaturated to
saturated fat and is a significant source of
oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat in
olive oil.
In 2016, the US Akaushi herd numbered
roughly 3,000 head. Currently, HeartBrand
boasts a herd of 17,000 head which includes
animals that are cross breeds.
"So, we've just been trying to continue
to grow the herd and continue to grow beef
sales," Beeman said. "We've had some pretty
good growth over the last few years, and
we're really poised for quite a bit of growth
in 2020. So, that's been our main focus - just
trying to get more Akaushi bulls out to more
commercial cattle producers, so we can
continue to grow our program."

HeartBrand, which mainly serves
foodservice customers added new product
lines and ventured more into processed meats.
The company started offering a cube steak or,
as it's known in Texas, a chicken fried steak
or cutlet. Sausage and jerky also were added
to the mix as HeartBrand explored new ways
to add as much value as possible to each
individual carcass.

PANDEMIC PRESSURES
Heading into March, HeartBrand's business
was doing well. And then came the global
pandemic. That is when the ups and downs of
doing business during a global public health
crisis became apparent to Beeman.
"What's really unique about us is that
we already own the cattle," he explained.
"So, even before March when we realized
all this was happening, we already had the
cattle allocated; so, the growth was going to
be there."
But, by the second week of April, the
outlook for HeartBrand's growth story looked
bleak, as foodservice operations across the
United States shut down to slow the virus
spread, Beeman said.
A survey of 6,500 restaurants fielded by
the National Restaurant Association found
that restaurants lost $30 billion in March and
were on track to lose $50 billion in April. The
NRA estimated COVID-19-related losses of
more than $240 billion nationwide by the end
of 2020.

"Once they try one
of these Akaushi
steaks...that repeat
sale is very high."
- JORDAN BEEMAN

www.meatpoultry.com | 09.20 | MEAT+ POULTRY

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Meat+Poultry - September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - September 2020

Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 2
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 3
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 4
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Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - VDG1
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - VDG2
Meat+Poultry - September 2020 - 51
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