By Dave Ongie, News Editor
It was an odd sight indeed to see a pair of large motorcoaches pull up the gravel parking lot onto Sam Widener’s property last Tuesday afternoon. One by one, visitors from around the United States and several foreign countries filed off the buses and received a hearty welcome from Widener and his family before getting a closer look at Wincrest Angus.
By Widener’s own admission, his family farm is not a large operation, certainly not one that routinely draws busloads of sightseers. Roughly 70 head of cattle are raised on the property, which is bordered on all sides by subdivisions on a landscape that has changed drastically since the farm was established around the turn of the 20th Century.
So what inspired the attendees of the annual Certified Angus Beef Annual Conference to climb on a bus in Asheville, N.C. – home base of this year’s conference – and take a field trip over the mountains to Johnson City? Kara Lee, Production Brand Manager for the Certified Angus Beef brand, chalked it up to the logo painted on the side of Widener’s barn and Food City, which earned the distinction of being named Retailer of the Year by Certified Angus Beef at this year’s conference.
Last year, a large barn on Widener’s farm was selected as one of 40 barns in 40 communities across America to have the Certified Angus Beef logo painted onto it. The logo was part of a throwback marketing campaign to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Certified Angus Beef b rand.
So while the quantity of cattle raised on the Wideners’ farm may not be anything to write home about, the quality is certainly noteworthy. Angus cattle have been raised on the property since 1951.
During his remarks to his guests, Widener noted that Tennessee was the first state to implement a Beef Quality Assurance process.
“Practically every state has a Beef Quality Assurance program now,” he said.
After enjoying lunch and a tour of Wincrest Angus, the visitors loaded up and took the short drive over to the Food City location on North State of Franklin where they received a presentation from Food City president and CEO Steve Smith before touring the store.
Smith briefed the visitors on the grocery chain’s rapid growth, which he chalks up to supplying customers with high quality products, including Certified Angus Beef.
“The Certified Angus Beef brand plays right into that sweet spot for us, because really, center of the plate is so important to our customers,” Smith said.
When presenting Food City with the Retailer of the Year award, the folks at Certified Angus Beef noted that the Abingdon, Virginia-based chain has set the bar high in terms of quality and service by employing trained butchers in each store to property cut the meat, help customers choose the correct cut and offer preparation tips.
“Customers understand the difference, and it’s driven by the people in our stores,” says Dan Glei, executive vice president of marketing and merchandising at Food City. “Our commitment to having a strong, highly trained butcher in the store makes all the difference.”