Saturday, June 16, 2007

Angus beef? Batangus beef!

ANYBODY can step into the shoes of Elena A. Gonzales, a grandmother in her late 70’s— she keeps house and shoots the breeze five days a week. On the sixth or seventh day, which ought to be holy, she’s in the thick of her business.

She retails beef cuts. Sells ‘em meat like a politico on an earnest house-to-house, door-to-door campaign in Metro Manila subdivisions and neighborhoods.

In the late 1970s, live cows fetched P1,000 a head. The cut up carcass is retailed to the tune of P3,000 up. That’s meat and potatoes two-fold profit.

And there’s lots of gravy to boot. Certain portions like the eyeballs, balls and pecker, udder, brains, tendons, or the ox face that are turned into delicacies—strictly not for sale unless a gourmet specifically asks for them. The hide is salted, sold off to a tannery that turns up leather and leather products. The hooves and horns are boiled down, turn out as glue used in cabinetry and woodworking. Even bones are collected—certain cabinetmaker firms that do bone-inlaid furniture buy them by the kilo.

The profit margins may have changed but the Elena A. Gonzales old-fashioned formula in making a market has not.

She descends upon a neighborhood, goes on a door-to-door campaign seeking out the lady of the household, chats up the lady in earnest to haul in a customer.

It’s a trite-and-tested sales pitch she plies again and again. Why buy Australian, Kobe or Angus beef when homebred Batangus beef isn’t fed with what could be entire chemical factories or by-products from industrial plants? Besides, there hasn’t been an outbreak of mad cow disease hereabouts. Too, there’s a lot more flavor in local cattle as they’re fattened with whole grain corn and sugarcane tops. Matutulungan pa ang magbabakang Pilipino kapag tinangkilik ang produkto nila!

A sales pitch like that can nudge at the potential customer’s sense of patriotism.

Besides, Philippine households spend more than P55 for food for every P100 spent in living costs. So there’s also a gut-level appeal to that sales pitch.

Three converts in a subdivision block is an auspicious start for a weekend delivery of Batangus beef. Customer satisfaction is assured. Word gets around the neighborhood that there’s a Batangus beef peddler who regularly descends on the area as if it’s her newspaper route. And she sells quality cuts from BAI-stamped and approved carcass of freshly slaughtered Batangus beef.

It doesn’t take a month to win over most of the households in a subdivision block. She’ll be feeding ‘em off her hands—and they’ll be glad to buy from her.

With a roster of some 30 customers to go back to each weekend, the hardworking grandmother hardly breaks up a sweat racking up modest margins for two days work.

Remember: there are a lot more neighborhoods that await conquest.

Back in the late 1970s, a number of students who were paying for their college schooling have dared step into the shoes of Elena A. Gonzales. And they’re still at it. They earned more than tuition and spending money from their foray into a retailing business.

They’ve also learned that it can be easy to earn an honest buck—why work five days a week when you can make do with weekends?

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