A Case Against Case-ready

Posted: September 14, 1988

There's been another study. Yes-siree-bob, the meat industry has done gone and done it again. They've done another doggone dang-blasted study. Don't know what we ever did before we knew all the things we're learning with all these studies. Don't know what all those "consultant" folks did to make a living before the beef industry got all that money they got from the "beef check- off" to do all the studies they're doing.

This new one is "A Study of the Retail Economics of Case-Ready Meats" conducted for the American Meat Institute Center for Marketing Research by Willard Bishop Consulting Ltd. Yes-siree-bob, tell ya what! If I had a son today I'd tell him straight away: "Son," I'd say, "don't you worry about all that B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. stuff, we all know what that's worth. And you can only pile it so high anyhow. You get yourself one of those Ltd.s and get yourself into consulting, that's where the big money is these days."

Forgive me if I speak with my tongue in my cheek (or is that a chaw of tobacco?) but this new study strikes me as a joke. I can almost hear what my grandad would say through his chaw, "I wonder what ever happened to common sense?"

The stated objective of this new study is to "develop an independent assessment of the sales and profit impact of case-ready meats on the performance of the meat department.

In developing this analysis, it was necessary to establish two important definitions:

"Case-ready meat - Individual cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal that have been cut, retail-packaged and perhaps even priced by processors outside the store. This product can be placed directly in the meat case without any special handling."

Now what this first definition means, as near as I can make out, is that if a supermarket adopted a "case-ready meat" program, it wouldn't need any butchers (meat cutters) behind the counter because all the meat would come pre-cut, pre-wrapped and even pre-priced from the packing plant. Filling a meat case would take no more skill than stocking cans of soup on the shelf. Now that's almost certainly going to save a little money for the supermarket; butchers aren't getting rich but in most cases they probably make a little more than a grocery clerk.

The second definition upon which this "Study of the Retail Economies of Case-Ready Meats" was developed defines the "Meat Department of the Future." This meat department, with two exceptions, closely resembles the meat department found in a typical supermarket. These exceptions are: All beef, pork, lamb and veal sold self-service is case-ready, i.e., these items no longer need to be processed in the store.

"There is a service counter to provide shoppers with easy access to meat department personnel who can respond to special requests."

This definition I find a little more difficult to explain than the first one. Seems to me what they're saying is that the meat department of the future is going to be about the same as the meat department of today except they won't need any butchers because all the meat will be pre-cut, "case-ready." Then they're gonna have a service counter where the butchers they don't have

because they don't need them can provide special service.

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