Walmart is getting into the beef business.
The nation’s biggest grocer has contracted with a Texas cattle rancher and other industry-related businesses to provide a steady supply of no-hormone-added Angus beef to 500 of its U.S. stores beginning later this year.
The move comes two years after Walmart upgraded its steaks and roasts to higher-quality Angus, part of a broader push to improve the quality of its fresh foods amid intensifying competition in the $840 billion grocery sector.
Tyson Foods and Cargill — which has facilities in Cedar Rapids — currently provide Walmart with most of its beef, and will continue to do so.
But Scott Neal, who runs Walmart’s meat business, said the retailer also wanted to form its own supply partnership in response to customer demands to know more about who actually grows the food found in supermarket aisles and where it comes from.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based company estimates the effort will trim costs and create about 450 jobs.
“We are creating a supply chain from the cow-calf side all the way through to the customer,” said Neal, the retailer’s senior vice president of meat, seafood and fresh quality control.
“This is an opportunity to look at it from end to end.”
Despite the growing popularity of plant-based substitutes such as Beyond Meat, which now is widely available at U.S. supermarkets, Americans’ appetite for the real thing hasn’t abated.
The country’s beef consumption should rise to 57.6 pounds per person this year, the most since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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Demand for Angus — whose marbled, tender cuts have become synonymous with quality — has been particularly robust.
Sales volumes last fiscal year reached a record 1.21 billion pounds, according to Certified Angus Beef, about double the amount seen a decade ago.