Wine, cheese, pasta companies join holiday effort
By TIM HEARDEN
American veal production and consumption are in decline, but the Beef Checkoff hopes to revive the unique meat's popularity by linking it to holidays.
A couple of years after starting a promotion of veal in connection with Columbus Day, the checkoff is now sponsoring a Thanksgiving-to-New Year's marketing effort with the help of several partners.
Casillero del Diablo Brand Spanish Wines, the largest marketer of Spanish wines in America, has agreed to put some 300,000 bottleneckers promoting veal on wines in over 50 supermarket chains across the United States, including Costco and Walmart.
The California Milk Marketing Board and Classico Sauces are taking part in the push. The bottleneckers promote veal parmigiana by offering coupons for $1 off veal, $1 off Classico Pasta Sauce and 55 cents off California cheese.
"We're hoping there will be veal sales from Thanksgiving all the way up through New Year's Eve," said Dean Conklin, executive director of veal marketing for the Beef Checkoff. "It was kind of a late (developing) promotion. ... It's a great opportunity to lay the foundation for future promotions like this."
The checkoff is looking for other partners in a series of planned efforts related to other holidays next year, including Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and summer grilling season, Conklin said.
The efforts come as veal has been receding into the background among foods in the United States. Production is down, in large part because drought-related declines in the cow herd have left fewer bull calves available from the dairy industry, Conklin said.
"They're buying a lot of bull calves for dairy beef production, so we're seeing less veal production," he said. "Every time there's lower production, there's less per capita consumption."
Domestic veal production has declined from 143 million pounds in 2008 to 130 million pounds last year, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service. Consumption fell during that period from 150 million pounds nationwide to 139 million pounds, as Americans consumed an average of 0.3 pounds per person last year.
About 1,000 farmers nationwide raise calves specifically for veal, while many dairy farmers across the country have typically sold bull calves for veal production.
However, veal has fallen out of favor in some segments of society in recent decades, as consumers' concerns about the housing of the calves in small stalls has harmed sales. Industry representatives point out they've adopted a new set of standards for ethical treatment of the animals, with many producers moving to group housing for the calves.
In recent years, a Beef Checkoff-funded advertising campaign has been pushing veal as the "official" dish of Columbus Day, even going so far as to compare it to turkey at Thanksgiving. Humorous TV ads have depicted a couple in the kitchen arguing about which veal dish is the best.
Even so, what was once a $600,000 annual budget within the Beef Checkoff for veal promotions has dwindled to $265,000, Conklin said, and most of that is supported by assessments on imported veal.
Veal Made Easy: vealmadeeasy.com
Veal Farm: www.vealfarm.com