BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- V. Richard's Market here beefed up traffic in its meat department recently with the sale of steaks cut from the top prize-winning steer at the Waukesha County (Wis.) Fair.
The single-unit, upscale independent paid $4,000 for the 1,330-pound Grand Champion crossbred steer at an auction at the fair, and has since chalked up quite a bit of word-of-mouth publicity with the buy, V. Richard's officials said. The auction took place the first weekend of the fair after judges had named the livestock winners. Then, for the remainder of the fair, a sign posted on the Grand Champion's stall said, "Purchased by V. Richard's Market."
"Already, that got us some attention," said Pat Nimtz, assistant meat department manager at V. Richard's.
Then, a Grand Champion plaque and signs were posted in the retailer's meat department to announce the upcoming sale of Grand Champion cuts. Notices at each checkout stand, too, alerted customers of the sale.
"We devoted a 5- to 6-foot section in our full-service meat case to the whole variety of cuts and just keep replenishing it. We expected to sell all of them that first day," said Nimtz.
He explained that the decision to buy the prize-winning animal was spurred by the outstanding success of a similar venture.
"Last year, we bought the Reserve Champion at the State Fair and we were surprised at the response we got. We sold all the meat from it in one day. Everything. It amounted to at least 900 to 1,000 pounds of meat. It was more successful than we had ever thought it would be," he said.
Nimtz added that the best cuts were the first to go.
"The tenderloin filets, and the porterhouse and T-bone steaks. The steaks that people like to grill."
But that wasn't all. People bought ground beef, chuck roast, beef ribs, and stew meat from the champ.
"Last year was the first time we did this and we were pleased with the results. It increased traffic significantly," Nimtz said.
The retailer received an even better response this year. The Waukesha County Fair is held in the town of Waukesha, right next door to Brookfield, so news of the buy at the fair spread fast in the retailer's market area, Nimtz explained.
A banner in the meat department and a section of the retailer's full-page ad in the local newspaper announced the sale. On the day the meat went on sale, the young 4-H Club member -- 14-year-old Dan Kopshinsky -- who raised the steer had been scheduled to appear at the store to answer questions and talk to people, Nimtz said.
"Last year, we had the girl who raised the Reserve Champion here to meet and talk to customers."
First, the carcass of the champ was aged at a meat processor's facility. On the day before the sale, it was quartered and delivered to V. Richard's, where Nimtz himself custom cut it for the case.
Steaks from the champion were retailed for a price per pound that's about $2, or a little more, above the price per pound for a comparable Black Angus cut at V. Richard's, Nimtz said.
"Last year we sold porterhouse steaks from the Reserve Champion for $10.99 a pound, and our Black Angus porterhouse was $8.99 a pound."