In Taiwan, the price of a high-quality beef dinner can top $100, leaving restaurant operators struggling to find menu options for the full economic spectrum of their customers and diners looking for more affordable cuts of U.S. beef.
In response, restaurants and hotels have partnered with the U.S. Meat Export Federation to develop creative new dishes with more affordable cuts, including the petite tender and the clod heart.
USMEF says early results indicate that both restaurants and consumers are enjoying the fresh approach, and Taiwanese media outlets are taking notice.
With funding support from the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program, USMEF recently hosted seminars for Taiwan's food service operators, retailers and importers to educate them about the quality and value of these two U.S. beef cuts. Cooking demonstrations, product information and recipes showed the participants how the petite tender and clod heart could add menu alternatives at a variety of price points.
Jimmy Chang, chef and owner of the Chez Jimmy restaurant chain, was the first to introduce the petite tender, adding it to the menu in four of his restaurants. He soon found it accounted for 15% of his sales.
The Regent Taipei Hotel introduced four petite tender menu items at its mid-price restaurant, Azie, with dishes ranging from $12 to $17, finding them to be a good fit.
"The petite tender has the features of lean muscles without the grassy smell (of grass-fed beef)," said Maggi Wu, marketing planning manager for the historic Taiwan Grand Hi-Lai Hotel. "People are focused on flavorful, nutritious and low-fat meals, and the petite tender provides customers with more dish choices while giving restaurants an ingredient that can be used in steakhouses, buffets and for tappanyaki (Japanese-style griddle cooking)."
The Grand Hi-Lai found a variety of uses for the new cut, serving it at the hotel's poolside café and lobby lounge in six dishes ranging from $10 to $24.
The clod heart is also gaining in popularity. It will join the petite tender at Taiwan's Ambassador Hotel in a special "Great American BBQ Beef" promotion that runs from mid-June through the end of July at nine restaurants.
The clod heart will be used for a smaller beef roast while the petite tender is targeted for steaks and lighter mid-priced brunch items.
"While some retailers have focused on the marbling of traditional U.S. beef cuts, others are hearing their customers inquire about low-fat menu items, so they are beginning to inquire about the availability of these cuts. That interest is working its way back to importers as well," said Davis Wu, USMEF-Taiwan director.
Through the first four months of 2014, U.S. beef exports to Taiwan stood at 9,542 metric tons (21 million pounds) valued at $77.9 million. While these totals are down 12% in volume and 8% in value from last year, they saw upward movement in April, rising 12% in volume and 8% in value versus 2013.