Meat decommodification: A case of differentiation in the Peruvian market
Traditionally, meat has been considered a commodity — that is, a mass-produced good with a low level of differentiation. One of the most important characteristics of commodities is the high volatility of their price because, by their nature, they are very sensitive to changes in production and demand. In the search for better prices for meat, some brands are trying to differentiate and add value to their products.
Globally, consumers are increasingly more aware that better nutrition represents one of the main pillars of good health — which has led to a trend of new lifestyle choices in recent years. This new way of understanding what we choose for our tables brings with it greater expectations regarding the food supply.
Therefore, the challenge for producers — and the food industry in general — is to have tools on hand to help them cope with and anticipate the new eating habits of consumers seeking a better quality of life.
Inspired by this new global trend, the Wong supermarket chain in Peru — owned by the multinational business consortium Cencosud — saw the opportunity to serve a segment of the Peruvian market that seeks a healthy, balanced and natural diet. In addition, they understood that it was necessary to find and become allies with a national producer who raised top-quality cattle that would meet the needs of this new market.
The Finca Nueva Farm, located south of Lima, is a family business, established almost half a century ago. Since its founding, its vision has been to produce high-quality cattle to satisfy a demanding market. For Ricardo Heredia, son of the founder of the business, being passionate about livestock is essential in order to innovate and grow. Heredia knows that animal welfare is key, since it is reflected in the quality of the meat. Therefore, he does not neglect the important aspects of livestock care, such as offering comfort to animals — by providing good feeders, drinking troughs with clean and fresh water and adequate shade areas for the animals' rest, as well as a well-balanced diet.
Heredia is aware that consumers are passionate about nutrition, sustainability and traceability, so he continually seeks to adapt and develop new products, while meeting the international certification standards. When he and his farm decided to focus on producing premium-quality meat, to achieve certification of good livestock practices, they looked for hormone-free solutions that would leave no residues of antibiotics in the meat, and they were also interested in implementing a good traceability system.
The Wong supermarkets and the Finca Nueva Farm were also interested in feeding an organic form of selenium. Including selenium in an animal’s diet can be beneficial in that it contributes to:
- Maintenance of animal health by supporting the animal’s natural defenses
- Superior meat quality, with differentiated parameters such as better color, texture and juiciness
- Perhaps most importantly, the meat on carcasses supplemented with organic selenium will contain that antioxidant. Thus, the consumer who buys, cooks and consumes this meat will benefit not only from the nutrients of the meat, but also from the benefits of selenium.
In the field of nutrition, functional foods are those foods or food products that, in addition to their inherent nutritive substances (i.e., proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins or minerals), also contain a specific substance added for health benefits. Thus, a processed food such as milk will become functional if it is enriched with some type of additional vitamin, such as Complex B. Besides having its traditional characteristics of proteins, calcium and more, the milk now also has the added benefits that come from Complex B, making it a functional food.
Selenium is an essential nutrient for both animals and humans as it plays an important role in metabolism, supports growth, helps improve reproductive functions, improves the body's defense mechanism against infections and neutralizes free radicals, given its antioxidant function.
Alliance in favor of the consumer Alltech Sel-Plex® is the only organic selenium in the form of selenium yeast that has been reviewed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Wong, in alliance with the Finca Nueva Farm, decided to feed Sel-Plex® to their Fleckvieh cattle, a breed of European origin. Subsequently, they carried out tests in the slaughterhouse, where they made the cuts and packed the meat vacuum. These cuts, which matured for more than 10 days, showed results that helped differentiate this meat from the other meats on the supermarket shelf, thus allowing for decommoditization.