BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- V. Richard's Market has expanded its selection of all-natural meats, which now make up nearly 90% of the product mix in the single-unit independent's meat department.
V. Richard's has been slowly integrating the new items in time for the holiday season, and now offers all-natural meats in all categories, supplied by six different distributors, according to co-owner Liz Little. The selection includes products from Piedmontese Perfect Beef, Clear Creek Prime Natural Beef, Pure Farms Pork, Case Farms Amish Country Chicken, and Country Day Turkey.
As its all-natural selection grows, V. Richard's own homemade meats, which are blended with cheeses and other unique ingredients, round out the other 10% of that department, Little said.
According to Little, V. Richard's "sought out the best quality and value" in suppliers of its all-natural meats, a selection process that required careful inspection of each company's documentation concerning the all-natural label, as well as continuous, ongoing inspection of processes and standards.
"We check up on our suppliers' records and documents once a month or, at the very least, once every other month," she said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, defines all-natural as any meat or poultry item that contains "no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product)." The physical label itself must also explain the use of the term natural, such as "no added coloring or artificial ingredients."
With two of V. Richard's new all-natural meat suppliers, Clear Creek Prime Natural Beef and Case Farms Country Chicken, headquartered in Colorado and Ohio, respectively, Little said that much of the current line of all-natural meat is imported through a middle man on a "quick-shipment" basis in order to preserve freshness and quality upon arrival in Wisconsin. Other companies ship store-direct.
According to Little, some of the current all-natural suppliers approached V. Richard's as a retail outlet, while others were sought out by the store as it investigated reliable sources for all-natural meats. The gradual process of incorporating the new products has taken place over the course of several months, said Little, with the last two all-natural selections put in place inside the store just weeks ago.
V. Richard's is making its customers aware of the new, healthier selections through extensive radio promotions on local stations as well as in-store pamphlets available in the meat department. According to Little, a heavy sampling campaign is also helping shoppers get a taste for the new meats, a factor greatly contributing to what she called a large "second-helping" contingent of consumers who "are definitely coming back for more."
V. Richard's typical, quality-seeking, health-conscious customer seems to be taking full advantage of the store's new offerings, as sales over the past few weeks have been above projections, said Little.
According to V. Richard's meat manager, Tim Pellet, prices for the all-natural meats are very competitive, ranging from $5 a pound for pork to $7.99 a pound for certain beef items and $39.99 a pound for steer. Sales are going very well and are expected to continue doing so, he said.