Big ‘Q in the City

10325158_738899809508482_1853034942772849674_nIs barbeque BIG in mainstream America? The simple answer to that is “Yessum.” To give you a feel for just how big, over five million reviews covering nearly 20,000 restaurants were tallied during Open Table’s Best BBQ survey this year.

Current trends have also stirred discussions on what’s authentic barbeque, and what’s not. Buedel Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, (also a member of a local BBQ competition team) says authentic barbeque has an “honest approach” to it.

Authentic ‘Q

“BBQ definitely has gotten more popular not only in Chicago but all around the country,” says Russ. “Lots of places have opened up…chains are attaching [to it], and demand for beef brisket has dramatically increased.”

So what types of authenbrisket2tic things should people keep an eye out for? Kramer says authentic BBQ has more of a “rustic feel” to it. “They just concentrate on the food, the smoke, and the rest follows.”

That ‘rustic feel’ is highly void of frills. “If you go down south, to where BBQ was born, you order your food and go into another room to eat at benched tables – and some of those old time BBQ halls and parlors actually still exist.”

City ‘Q

Joining the ever growing list of barbeque branded restaurants in Chicago last February, Green Street Smoked Meats has been written up numerous times since opening. By May, it ranked in the fifth spot on Thrillist’s Top Ten BBQ Joints and continues to draw a steady flow of “best barbeque” guest reviews.

meatWhen Chef Russ walked into Green Street for the first time, he said he didn’t feel like he was in a restaurant but like he was actually inside a ‘BBQ hall.’ “It looks smells and feels like BBQ – they stay true to it. They present things on sheet pans and sell by weight. You can order a half pound [of meat], and it’s served on a tray with butcher paper.”

The restaurant keeps their meat wrapped in paper to keep it super moist. The meat is retrieved upon order and carved on the spot atop big butcher blocks. Part of their success can be credited to their in- house 12,000 pound Texas made J&R smoker, (J&R is a southern manufacturer with a global reputation for top quality) which can house well over fifty pork GreenStSMOKERbellies at once.

On the subject of authentic BBQ, Green Street suggests it’s really the “aficionados” who understand it outside of the average customer and for them, brisket is the highest in demand by far. So much so, the restaurant just added Creekstone Farms beef brisket to their menu this week.

On trend with high-end steakhouses and industry players, Green Street agrees there is a definite shift toward the Creekstone brand. From their perspective, it’s about premium quality and working with a company dedicated to über efficient and humane field to order protocols which also just happens to have a team of “really good people” on board too.

All Q’d Up

communualThere is no doubt that BBQ is big across the country these days and finding brisket is way easier than it used to be. (Picture: Open table seating area at Green Street Smoked Meats.)

Those who know something of barbeque history, understand authentic ‘Q is deeply attached to meat (“…you barbeque meat and grill vegetables,” as one foodie blogger put it) and society. It was the social aspect of barbeque that attracted people to congregate communal style to eat, visit and share the news of the day.

Wouldn’t it be great if restaurants like Green Street helped bring a little of that ole time congregatin’ back for good?

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience | Part II

TASTESFLAVORSIn Part 1 of our article, we examined what factors affect the way we perceive the taste and flavor of beef. (Remember, flavor is the quality of something you can taste.) We also talked about how beef with higher marbling (intramuscular fat) usually wins the taste test.

There are certain cuts of beef which may be more marbled than others and/or more tender. There are also ways of adding more flavor to beef with Marinades, Rubs and Brines and also increase tenderness.

Adding More Flavor

Marinade is a seasoned liquid that adds flavor and in some cases increases tenderness. Less tender beef cuts, such as several from the chuck, round, flank and skirt, benefit from a marinade with tenderizing ingredients such as food acids or enzymes combined with a long marinating time of 6 to 24 hours.

Tender beef cuts are marinated only to add flavor and, therefore, require short marinate times – 15 minutes to 2 hours. Less acidic marinade ingredients should be used since their tenderizing effects are not required.

Acidic marinade ingredients Marinadeinclude citrus juices, vinegar, vinaigrettes, salsa, yogurt and wine. Fresh ginger, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and figs, also contain natural tenderizing enzymes.

A highly acidic marinade can actually toughen meat fibers similar to overcooking.

Rubs are dry or paste-type seasoning mixtures used for flavoring applied to the surfaces of roasts, steaks and ground beef patties just prior to cooking, they often form a delicious crust during cooking.

Dry rubs consist of herbs, spices and other seasonings that are pressed onto the beef’s surface. Paste-type rubs are spread over the beef and use small amounts of wet ingredients, such as oil, crushed garlic, mustard, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, to bind the dry seasonings.

Cures & Brines rely on salt mixtures/solutions. For dry cures, salt and sodium nitrate are applied directly to the beef’s surface. Beef is also cured by immersing it in pickling or brining solutions that may or may not contain nitrates.

Originally developed as a form of meat preservation, these methods are mainly used to produce distinctive flavors, such as in corned beef and pastrami today.

Flavor Pairings

When beef is paired with two or more uEpic Burgermami tastes, it creates an explosion of savory, delicious flavors in your mouth.

Popular umami accoutrements to beef are aged cheeses, bacon, barbeque sauce, mushrooms, garlic, onions, red wine, soy sauce, and tomatoes.  Burgers are highly indicative of this practice – cheese and bacon are among the most preferred toppers today. (Pictured above left: Epic Burger)

Less Than Perfect Flavors

There may be times when you experience less than desirable beef flavor. Some of the terms I’ve heard used to describe this are, “livery”, “irony” and “warmed over”. Here are some tips on what you can do to avoid these situations.

Livery Flavor in beef is a complex occurrence without one clear cause, but there are ways to minimize livery flavors. 1. Red blood cells contain iron which has notes of liver flavor. A proper purge of blood during processing will help remedy the situation. 2. Avoid too much aging. Beef does become more flavorful and tender with age, but too much age can also cause a liver flavor. One reason may be that fat oxidizes during the aging process and the affects of oxidation appear to accentuate the liver flavor. If possible, avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness.

Irony Flavor or a Metallic mouth feel or iron taste is attributed to high myoglobin and hemoglobin contents which release iron during cooking. This off-flavor may be reduced by cooking beef to a lower degree of doneness.

takeoutcontainerWarmed Over Flavor occurs from reheating previously cooked meat. (Like when you reheat that doggie bagged steak in the microwave from last night’s dinner.) This undesirable flavor is caused by cooking to a high degree of doneness, improper storage, microbial contamination and exposure of cooked meat to oxygen. Consider having leftovers cold in sandwiches or salads to help minimize the problem.

Flavor Wrap

The taste of beef can be enhanced. Here are our top five flavor tips for getting the most out of your next meal:

1. Choose higher grades of beef, USDA Prime or USDA Choice, that have more marbling  (the marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade)

2. Opt for Properly Aged beef – anywhere between 14-28 days depending on the cut

3. Keep your beef properly chilled under 40°F until cooking and avoid freezing/thawing

4. Avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness and reheating

5. Experiment with complimentary umami flavors to create a flavor explosion.

Enjoy the taste of beef and savor the flavor!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

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How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience | Part I

CreekstoneBeeffiletThe words taste and flavor are commonly used interchangeably to describe eating sensation but in reality they are very different. Appearance, smell, and personal judgment can also affect our beef experience. (Pictured right: Creekstone Farms Filet.)

Triggers & Sensations

If you were in grade school before the late 1990′s, you learned about the basic taste receptors on your tongue for sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In the late 1990′s a fifth taste receptor was confirmed as umami which is the way our body interprets and senses protein or savory taste.

Receptors on our tongue send signals to our brains when we experience certain tastes. The ability to detect these five tastes is instrumental to our decision making. We may decide something is too bitter, or nicely sweet, and then decide to keep eating it or to avoid it in the future.

How our innate survival instinct relates to our taste sensors directing us towards certain foods and away from others is further important. For example, sweet indicates energy-giving carbohydrates; sour indicates potential danger from spoilage; bitter indicates potential toxins.

Flavor is the quality UmamiTongueof something you can taste. It is the combination of the taste, plus the other sensations that influence our perception of food, such as aroma, texture, juiciness, color and feel in your mouth.

People sometimes use words such as, rich, buttery, silky, pungent and earthy, when describing something they eat or drink. When doing so, they are actually speaking of flavor. You may have used the term “off-flavor” when something didn’t taste quite right. That’s because the combination of taste and the other influences were not what you expected or experienced before.

Beef + Fat = Flavor

Beef without fat lacks flavor. Fat imparts juiciness and flavor in beef but all fat with meat is not equal. There are three types of fat in meat:

  • Subcutaneous or External fat that covers the outside of a carcass
  • Seam or Intermuscular fat that runs between muscles
  • Marbling or Intramuscular fat that is found within muscles

Marbling is the visible flecks of fat within muscles that are directly related to the flavor and juiciness of cooked beef. Marbling affects flavor in two ways. First, fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) experience chemical changes during cooking and produce potent flavor compounds. Second, fat acts as a container for aromatic compounds that are released during cooking. Many beef flavor components are found in these aromatic compounds.

There are ten degrees BeefFlavorBlogof marbling USDA graders use for evaluation, from Very Abundant to Practically Devoid. The marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade.   USDA Prime has the most abundant marbling, USDA Select has the least marbling and USDA Choice is right in the middle.

Part 1 Wrap Up

Our eating and flavor preferences can be altered by the ways we see, smell, taste and even think about foods. In a study conducted by the University of Nebraska, consumer opinion was put to the test with steak:

70% of respondents visually preferred low marbled steaks, but high marbled steaks were rated juicier, more flavorful and taste acceptable.

What’s most interesting about this result is the inertia between a visual and actual taste. By sight, lower marbled steaks may have been perceived as the better alternative, but it was the flavor profile of higher marbled steak that won out.

From a market perspective, grain fed beef tends to have more marbling whereas grass fed beef tends to have less marbling. Consequently the flavor of the beef is quite different.

Read on: How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience Part II 

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook 

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Meat Picks | 7.9.14

New Food Show

CNBCA new CNBC show called, Restaurant Startup premiered this week, where famed Master Chef Judge, Joe Bastianich, and renown Chef Tim Love compete against each other investing (their own money) in restaurant concepts they think will hit it big.

Casting for the show (ala Shark Tank) is ongoing: www.restaurantstartupcasting.com. You may also appreciate this video segment Bastianich did with an established NYC restaurateur on survival in the restaurant industry.

Tenderloin in Taiwan

image003 image001The global food market is ever expansive and Taiwan is booming. Last month, a record 7,400 international buyers (up 13% from 2013) visited over 3,900 booths at the Taipei International Food Expo, which took place over four days at the end of June. The core sections of the expo were: food, food industry machinery and packaging, hospitality, laundry and halal markets.

According to Austrade.gov US Beef is considered higher quality in Taiwan and has a “special grade” rating, as opposed to other beef imports classified as a “general grade”. The quality of meat also determines where it is sold. US Beef is usually sold to Western cuisine restaurants and contemporary supermarkets. Tenderloin, Rib Eye, Strip Loin and Short Ribs are some of the most favored cuts in Taiwan. (Pictured: Buedel Fine Meats on display by Tzy Yao at the Taipei Expo last month.)

Shmooze Date

Thursday, August 7th is the next date for the free industry networking event at Drink in Schuamburg, organized by Food Industry News. The featured speaker at the event will be Rich Labriola, founder of Labriola Bakery Cafe and the most recently opened Chicago version of, Stan’s Donuts. All food industry professionals are welcome.

Magic KISS

Paul-Stanley-and-Gene-Simmons-of-KISS-Venue-friendly-Rock-Brews-RestaurantYou have to respect the marketing prowess of KISS legends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They have over 3,000 licensed merchandised items and Simmons has built a highly successful multi-faceted empire across the entertainment, hospitality and financial industries for the last forty years.

Four years ago this summer, Stanley, Simmons and three other friends (Restaurateur, Michael Zislis and Rock & Roll Magnates, Dell and Dave Furano) came up with the idea for the restaurant chain Rock & Brews. With locations in California, New Mexico, Hawaii, Kansas and Mexico, the ever expanding brand announced it will also be going into arenas and stadiums opening its first “venue-friendly” location at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA., this summer.

Love KISS or not, you can’t dismiss this perfect parody of food, music and marketing.

Deal of the Day

10488075_759259007448679_8136965851066997891_nGreat hump day deal on “Fried Chicken Wednesdays” at Takito Kitchen. Enjoy $3 fried chicken tacos (sesame or crispy) on a hot sauce tortilla, with cheddar, herb aioli and avocado lettuce. TK also has a Farm to Table Prix Fixe Dinner and offers a Farm to Table Brunch every Friday through Sunday.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

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Outpost Road Trip

Buedel’s Corporate Chef, Rlogouss Kramer, Master Butcher, Peter Heflin, and Logistics Manager, Michael Tibbs, took a road trip to Outpost Natural Foods recently to help celebrate Outpost’s fourth store opening in Mequon, Wisconsin.

Outpost is the fourth largest natural foods co-op (by sales) in the U.S. They are known for providing a unique, fun and educational shopping experience of fresh, local and natural foods, including hard to find items. They are a IMG_20140621_104539444_HDR“locally-owned cooperative” committed to sustainable living, fair trade, local growers and community. Outpost stores are “year-round farmers markets.”

When you send a bunch of meat guys out to celebrate something (anything, for that matter) you have to know there’ll be loads of high quality meat on hand. Russ, Peter and Michael spent the day “slow-smoking” Niman Ranch St. Louis Ribs. (Russ used his competition BBQ team’s glaze and sauce. They won a Grand Champion title at the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ photo 3last year – and don’t even think about asking him for the recipes.) The Buedel team prepared “split” ribs (cut in half for appetizer sized servings) for the event.

The Huen Family, one of Niman Ranch’s family farms from Fulton, Illinois, was also on hand to talk to customers about the way they raise their hogs for Niman Ranch, and answer questions. (Buedel supplies Outpost with Niman Ranch products and organic poultry.) Peter says the Outpost people are just great to work with and are totally dedicated to keeping to their core vision. “The Outpost staff is behind the whole movement and their customer base is very supportive, giving a lot of feedback to all the departments about sustainability and humane practices.”

St. Louis Style Ribs were first pophoto 1pularized in the 1930′s by butchers in the St. Louis area. They are actually Spare Ribs with the rib tips cut off to dispose of cartilage and gristle with very little meat. St. Louis Ribs didn’t become an “official USDA standard” until the 1980’s. Both Spare and St. Louis Style Ribs are most commonly grilled and smoked in the southern regions of the U.S. For more info about ribs, check our Meat Up post on Ribs 101 for Summer Grilling. If you’d like to try some St. Louis Ribs in your own backyard, here’s a recipe from Russ:

St. Louis Spare Ribs at Home

Spread a light coating of yellow mustard and liberally sprinkle your favorite BBQ Spice/Rub on both sides of the ribs.

Bake ribs on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes until lightly brown. Transfer ribs to roasting pan with about an inch of water on the bottom, cover tightly and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until meat is tender between the bones.

Preheat grill to a medium heat. Cook ribs until they are nice and brown on the outside. Brush your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides of ribs when they’re just about ready and let the sauce glaze.

Have a great Fourth of July everyone!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 6.26.14

Ed’s Fest

ED Debevic FlyerMake a note of this date: Saturday, July 26th. You’re all invited to a party at Ed Debevic’s from 11-5, for a luau-themed food and fun fest for the whole family. What makes this (fifth) annual event extra special this year, is Ed’s 30th Anniversary! Hard to believe it’s already been three decades since Debevic’s has been open.

For those of us around (way back in 1984), Ed Debevic’s was an immediate hit. Their shakes, burgers, retro diner setting and wildly entertaining wait staff exploded onto the casual dining scene. People just loved it – and they still do today. What’s not to love about a “cheap and deep” menu?

Don’t miss Ed’s 30th Anniversary on July 26th! A portion of the party proceeds goes to local charities too!

Best Burger in the Nation

1-kuma-flickr_RLeeThe Daily Meal expanded their annual perfect patty list from 40 to a whopping 101 Best Burgers in America earlier this month. The top slot went to Kuma’s Corner in Chicago for their signature Kuma Burger complete with: bacon, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and a fried egg. As The Daily Meal put it, “It’s not as though there’s not enough flavor in the burger, but that egg… whoah.”

Gadget Giveaway

TailgaterTailgater Monthly is running a sweepstakes you might be interested in. They’re giving away $5,700 worth of outdoor tools, equipment and accessories you can use for barbeque and parties at home and on the go – everything from a compact portable generator to a floating cooler. Entry to the contest is free via online registration good through tomorrow, 6/27.

Fixin’ for the Fourth

carwfish boilLooking for something different to do on the 4th? How about a Crawfish Boil at Shaw’s? For $30, you can get an all-you-can-eat Louisiana style crawfish boil with potatoes, sausage and corn fixins’ from 12-9 on July 4th.

Find a complete list of July festivals and concerts at Time Out Chicago.

Post of the Week

Do you love this Facebook post from Niman Ranch as much as we do?

Post of the WeekFrom the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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The Latest on Finely Textured Beef

The Wall Street Journal called me last month for thoughts on a piece they were doing regarding the resurgence of finely textured beef (aka “pink slime”) in answer to rising beef prices.

Back in August of 2012,img-learn-packaging-overwrap we addressed the potential future impact on the industry due to the pink slime hysteria ignited by the media on consumer markets. (Read 1 of 10 Things (at the very least) the Foodservice Industry DOES want you to know.)

Thousands of good working people ultimately lost their jobs at companies producing Finely Textured Beef (FTB) who were forced to shut down from an avalanche of cancelled orders due to the misguided media frenzy. What made the situation even more exasperating was the fact that these production processes were USDA approved. All laws and regulations were followed, but it was the processors that bore the immediate brunt of the fallout.

When this occurred, the beef industry was experiencing its lowest herd numbers since 1955 due to drought, and the impact of removing FTB from the food supply required a substantially large amount of additional cattle to fill the demand gap for ground beef.

It was more than logical to predict these effects would likely drive up cattle futures and eventually the price of ground beef for all of us.

How Much is Too Much?

Before the pink slime hysteria in 2012, the average price of 100% ground beef in 2011 was $2.78/lb as per the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has been tracking ground beef prices since 1984. By May 2014, the average price of 100% ground beef was $3.85/lb, a 38% price increase compared to the 2% average annual rate of inflation in the United States. Just last weekend, a friend of mine told me she paid almost $5/lb. for 80/20 ground beef at her local grocery store. Consumers, retailers and regrill imagesstaurateurs are all paying much more now for ground beef.

Ground beef is the most bought and consumed type of beef by far. With that in mind, combined with the fact that beef prices are at record highs, it’s no wonder that finely textured beef is indeed making a comeback.  Retailers and consumers, perhaps now more properly educated on the subject, are purchasing products that include FTB in the ingredients.

FTB is currently sold to over 400 retail, food-service and food-processing customers, more than before the 2012 controversy, albeit overall in smaller amounts. Production of finely textured beef has also recently doubled at some manufacturing plants from its low point after the controversy.

Environmentally Sound

The production process for finely textured beef recovers lean beef from steak and roast fat trimmings that would otherwise be wasted. It is made the same way the dairy industry makes cream by using centrifugal force to separate the cream from milk. Cargill posted an easy to follow video outlining the start to finish process early this year; watch it here.

ftbThe maximized use of harvested animals, further popularized by “nose-to-tail” culinary trends, also makes the most of the limited natural resources used to produce beef. Conversely, in a market free of FTB, the following occurs: 1.5M more head of cattle are needed to fill the gap, 10.5M more acres of land is used for grazing those cattle, 375B more gallons of water is utilized to feed and process the cattle and 97M more bushels of corn is needed to feed them, which is grown on 600K more acres of land.

Wrap Up

On the surface, the return of FTB to the market would seem to indicate retailers and consumers are more concerned about cost than method. The good news is, environmentally sound USDA approved beef practices, which produce quality ground beef at better prices, is back.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats Facebook

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The Grand Champions of BBQ Pitmasters

WINNER - RSSeason 5 of BBQ Pitmasters came to an end last Saturday night with Rescue Smokers taking the title of Grand Champion, $50,000 purse and an exclusive invitation to the prestigious Kingsford Invitational later this year.

Rescue Smokers and Squeal Like a Pig competed in a final showdown where they were challenged to cook an unprecedented four different meats for one turn-in box: chicken, spare ribs, brisket point and pork shoulder. At four hours out from the finish, a surprise “one bite challenge” for whole shrimp was added to the mix for a chance to win an extra point.

Rescue Smokers also won that challenge with a bacon wrapped grilled shrimp. Judge Myron Mixon told the team afterward it was risky adding “an extra protein” to RS-TURN IN BOXthe challenge because it had to be “cooked perfect too.” Squeal Like a Pig’s Pitmaster, Joe Pearce had never cooked shrimp before the challenge.

Robby says he knew their turn-in box looked perfect and affirms you have to be a hit with “appearance” because that’s where the judging begins. Pearce, the youngest competitor, to ever make it to the show’s finals, lost by an undisclosed margin. “Joe is an accomplished Pitmaster for his age,” says Royal, “and I respect him for that.”

BBQ Brothers

Where Joe Pearce actually competed with his brother, Robby says he and teammate Raymond Poore are definitely like brothers. “There’s always a front man, and I have the gift ofRS-TASTING gab,”describes Royal, “but Ray and I are equals…we also argue. You didn’t see this on air, but we had a disagreement in every episode.” Royal says it’s easy to disagree on things because it’s very frustrating when you have to cook something you’re not familiar with.

“The team that Robby and I used to compete on before we created Rescue Smokers believed that one man made it all happen, ” recalls Poore. “So when we got started we never put the “i” in team. If I need to do a comp and Robby needs to do a comp, we are confident that we both can make it happen. And if I make a change or Robby makes a change, we trust each others’ decision whether good or bad.”

Royal and Poore always kRescueSmokersnew each other, but never had a relationship before BBQ. Royal says he got into it because of his father. “My dad joined a cook team and my brother and I would go hang out with them. When my dad died in 2002, Ray came to me and asked if he could take my dad’s place.”

Their relationship blossomed as a social hobby at first. “When we originally started, it was Ray and our wives, then another couple joined us, and a younger couple was also with us for a while.” Both couples eventually dropped off according to Royal because, “…it doesn’t give you anything back. You’re lucky if you break even – it’s just been the four of us for the last 5 years. BBQ is a passion – it’s not about the money. I’d love to do this full time, but it doesn’t pay the bills.” And, there’s only one Myron Mixon, right? “Exactly!”

Winning Profile

RS-BRISKET AND BUTT ON THE PITWhen they’re not competing, Royal says he and Poore’s family get together in their backyards. “Our families taste test for us.” Their children take on the role of spectators, “They love BBQ, and they love to hang out.”

Having lost by a miniscule margin in the semi-finals last year, Robby professes the biggest difference between BBQ Pitmasters Season 4 and 5 was that he and Ray came back ready and prepared to cook anything. “We took swings to hit a home run and it paid off.” Some of that renewed readiness may be attributable to an experience they had late last year when Destination America was filming a new cook show in their home state of Georgia.

RS-BRISKET BURNT ENDSBBQ Pitwars would have four top crews (including Myron Mixon and Pitmasters co-judge, Moe Cason), competing against each other during BBQ circuit competitions. When Royal heard Pitwars would be filming at the Big Pig Jig® in Georgia last November, (his “home cook”), he called the show producer to tell them they better keep their eye on Rescue Smokers while filming because they were going to “take Myron down.” The gauntlet was somewhat brazen at the time given the fact that Rescue Smokers had come in 2nd behind Mixon for the last three consecutive years in a row at the competition.

Placing 9th in Ribs, 4th in Shoulder, 1st in Chicken and 1st in Whole Hog out of 130 teams, Robby and Ray did beat Mixon and won the 2013 BPJ Grand Champion title. [You can see the win in Episo2013BigPigJigChampionde 3 of BBQ Pitwars.] How did Myron react? “He was happy for us,” says Royal, “as he would be for himself.” After that win, Rescue Smokers was invited back to BBQ Pitmasters for Season 5.

Beating Mixon was a full circle moment for Robby who says it wasn’t until he went to Mixon’s cooking school in 2007, that he truly learned how to cook BBQ. “We never won anything before that time and at the very first competition after that, we won a state championship!” Royal is also quick to point out that winning championships Myron competes in is absolutely essential. “You want Myron there. If we’d won [the Big Pig Jig®] without him there, it would be like Barry Bonds’ home run record – there’d always be an asterisk after your name.”

In competitive BBQ, “you have to be extremely consistent,” offers Royal. “Don’t change anything, try it again – be very careful with timelines, and get the product out at the right time. Be confident, have fun, be consistent, and get lucky …in judging.”

Status ‘Q

RescueSmokehouseGrillIn 2007, Ray and Robby each put in $1,000 and have never put in anything since. “We’ve been blessed to have it pay for itself,” says Royal, who says they’ve been able to buy their equipment, supplies and cover expenses with their winnings.

In 2012, Ray opened a restaurant in Ashburn, Ga., Rescue’s Smokehouse Grill, on the same day Robby received a promotion to Director of EMS and County Fire Chief. Poore says winning BBQ Pitmasters has meant the world to him and his family, “…not only is it nice to see your dad or husband on TV, but it has greatly helped out my restaurant.” He likes “making people smile with great food” and the challenges that come along with that. “I have one customer that wants his steak med-rare with no blood, who would figure?”

Prior to restaurant openings aMyron & Ray outside restaurantnd promotions, Rescue Smokers used to compete over 28-30 weekends a year, now they limit it to 10-12. Royal says it’s always been a stress release for him, “The average working life in EMS is only 7-8 years. You see a lot of awful things.” He says the guys at the station have always been supportive of the team, “…and now I’m their boss.”

The team’s winning track record, BBQP experience, and lighter weekend travel schedule has also paved the way to new opportunities. Ray and Robby are getting ready to launch a line of sauces (in July) and have plans to open a cooking school in the very near future. “We don’t just cook in one sanction – we cook them all across a 3-4 state area,” points out Royal. “We were the first team to win in four different sanctioning bodies; your flavor profiles change so much by cuisine, region and requirement. We are one of the most versatile teams in the nation.” [Read more about sanctioning bodies here.]RS- RIBS OFF THE PIT

Royal is looking at the new endeavors as an opportunity to “make a little bit” from their competitive efforts. He also made a point in saying that Rescue Smokers has never had any sponsors until recently – kinda. “Last December, my wife and I bought a camper. Several weeks later, the guy we bought it from invited us to lunch. He wanted to know why with all the BBQ competitors in our area, he wasn’t selling more trailers.” Royal ended up buying a new trailer for Rescue Smokers (which they’d planned on doing) by striking a “better” deal with the dealership in exchange for putting their logo on the trailer.

That’s a Wrap

BBQ Pitmasters was filmed last January and February over a five week period. “Every 3-4 days they did a new round,” describes Royal, “we were there from sun up to sundown – at one point it was 32 degrees – it was really cold!”

BUEDEL FINALS MEATAfter the final episode was filmed, they brought their check home and hid the trophy. It wasn’t too tough keeping quiet about the results until after the first episode aired in April when people kept asking them how they ended up in the competition. Robby tooled a standard reply: No matter if we won or lost, we met some great people, cooked some great product and had a great time.

Royal says they didn’t do anything special for the first airing of the final episode last Saturday night. “We had a bigger crowd. I smoked some sausage; Ray cooked some pizzas. Afterwards, it was a blast.”

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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New Chew on the Block | Mikey’s Jerky

LOGO trimmedOf all the possible businesses, a young entrepreneur could get into these days (tech, being the most obvious choice) you can’t help but wonder why Mikey Allen chose jerky. Yet the decision to go into the snack biz was far more logical than you might think. At the ripe old age of 25, Allen has been making jerky for 20 years.

Family Passion

“I remember we [he and his siblings] got this tiny little hydrator for Christmas when I was 5 – it probably made about 2 lbs. worth of meat at a time,” says Allen. “My dad used to go hunting, so the first jerky we made was with venison. We made it a couple of times a year and gave it to friends and family.”

Allen says his father and grandfather always had a great appreciation for doing things by hand. “My dad grew up in Champaign and went hunting with my grandfather. The recipe we used to make jerky was the same recipe my dad used with his father, and it’s the same recipe I use for Mikey’s Or894030_230185417188667_608606519362212903_oiginal today.”

Pictured left: Mikey and his Dad at one of their first open market stands.

The youngest of three children, Allen’s family moved from St. Louis to Louisville so his father, then a general dentist, could go back to school for orthodontics. “My dad was unhappy with general dentistry, so he went back to school and my mom, who was a nurse at the time, supported us.” The family eventually planted permanent roots in Wheaton, Illinois when Mikey was 6.

Allen went to work after college for Groupon in sales and on to logistical and advertising sales after that. It was during this time when his lifelong “hobby” started taking on a different perspective. “I started selling jerky to co-workers and friends and they all said, ‘you really have something here’”.

Perfecting the Product  

A year ago last April, Mikey quit his job dedicating himself to turning his passion for jerky into a legitimate business. He executed extensive due diligence, went through the agonizing process of getting industry licensed, and set his goals on producing a healthy handcrafted all natural snack. “In the jerky business, there’s not much out there yet in this niche.”

10301430_243618842511991_2282074179221836951_n(Pictured right: One of Mikey’s customers started sending his jerky overseas to her brother in the Army. She says the soldiers  love it.)

Allen currently rents commercial kitchen space and contains production costs by pulling “all-nighters” working a perpetual graveyard shift. “The process is very labor intensive” he describes. “There’s slicing, trimming, marinating, hydrating and then packaging. I lay every piece out singly for hydrating. It takes about 10 hours per run, plus the 4-8 hours for prep and marinating. I can make about 250 pieces in a 24 hour turn around. If a batch doesn’t turn out right, I throw it out!”

Dedicated to producing healthy, all natural and antibiotic free products, Allen says he Googled “grass fed suppliers” and found Buedel. “James [Melnychuk] has been just awesome with me, showing me the ropes of the meat business – he treats me like I was ordering 1,000 pounds a week.”

Mikey uses eye of the round cuts for his jerky with little fat from grass fed cattle and Creekstone Farms Black Angus beef. “I admired the companies who used only eye of the round cuts when I first started out, because it’s super lean. You can use bottom round, but it’s more labor intensive to trim it.”

Flavor Profiles

Having made venison and bison jerky in the past, Allen says he’d also like to experiment with some exotic meats in the future too, but will keep his focus on handcrafting beef jerky for now. “A lot of my competitors outsource to mass production facilities.”

Mikey’s Jerky currently comes in three core flavors: Mikey’s Original – a smoky bite with a strong, lasting finish, Great Barrier Beef – a zesty exotic herb and spice blend, and Grim Beefer – a hot and spicy version, “not for the faint of heart”.10012228_226415907565618_1235124841889871716_o

Allen says most people say his Grim Beefer flavor has just the right amount of kick, and others tell him “it could be hotter.” Always experimenting with new flavors, feedback from family and friends often weigh in. “Someone wanted me to do a brown sugar and maple syrup version and at one point we tried a Paleo diet version – it had a LOT of pepper.”

The ingredients on a package of Mikey’s Original include beef, water, salt, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worchester, liquid smoke and hot sauce. The jerky has soy and wheat allergens, however Allen also plans on expanding into gluten free products in the future.

Until last week, Mikey’s Jerky was only available by word of mouth and at local area weekend markets. Two new access channels were launched this week: Online Order and a special Father’s Day Gift Offer good for three consecutive monthly deliveries.

After Father’s Day, customers will have the option of joining The Jerky of the Month Club, which will include new and limited flavor profiles. You can also buy a bag this weekend at the French Markets in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn.

Building a Brand

17-20 pieces of Mikey’s Jerky fill every brown bag which has a tested shelf life of three months. “People love the packaging because it gives you a clean feel,” he says. “I’m selling the week of production right now, but when I hit retail, I’ll have to have it retested.”

Already approached by a Whole Foods rep, Allen is busy laying the groundwork for production expansion refurbishing a kitchen to commercial standards to move into next fall and hiring his first employees. His immediate goal is to be cooking 24/7 while staying true to the handcrafted process. The new kitchen would allow him to produce 750 bags a day – three times his current 24 hour turn around.

Mother's Day promoThankful for the support he’s received from friends and family, Mikey credits his dad for coaching him, his mom for teaching him “Quick Books”, (and helping him with all the “cute packaging” he’s really bad at), his siblings for helping him sell and his college buddy, graphic designer Adam Vicarel, for creating his logo. (Pictured left: Mom’s ‘cute’ Mother’s Day packaging.)

As with many startups, crowd sourcing may also be on the horizon, but Allen is quick to mention the help he’s received from his friend, Bob Sorenson at Threadfunds.com. Thread Funds is a platform for “crowd funded apparel and merchandise”, where startups can sell logo branded items to raise awareness (and funding) for their products, services and/or events. You can buy a Mikey’s Jerky tank top here.1557590_203964463144096_1545155536_n

Allen says his biggest challenge is “time management”. He only pulls two ‘all-nighters’ a week, but they wipe him out the next day. It’s about meeting supply and demand, and he says he’s trying to “work smarter”.

Mikey’s big vision is to keep the company family operated and handcrafted within the healthy/all natural retail market. “I want to provide a quality product people will appreciate that tastes good!”

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 6.5.14

Food Apps

mobile-appsAccording to Tech Republic, food apps are one of the hottest 2014 tech startup categories. Last week they published a slide article on “apps that are changing the food industry”, citing 15 new releases. Some highlights on the list: Harvest Mark – traces where your food comes from, Wild Edibles – identifies wild plants and flowers you can prepare for consumption and Farmstand – finds local and seasonal foods by mapping farms and farmer’s markets.

Score Card

Game 1 of the NBA finals may start tonight, but the battle between Pilgrim’s Pride v. Tyson Foods over who buys Hillshire Brands is heating up.

If you haven’t kept up with who’s on first, Pilgrim’s Pride is now up, 2 to 1, after raising the ante this week from their offer of 5.6 billion to 6.7 billion countering HillshireBlogPicTyson’s 6.2 offer. What’s most interesting in this war of the food titans is the fact that Hillshire was focused on acquiring other companies. Ironically, it was Hillshire’s most recent acquisition plan, to buy Pinnacle Foods, which turned the tables on them.

How will this affect food fans? In the consumer arena, ticket prices will most likely go up! Read our latest post: What happens to price after the food fight?

BBQ Semi Finals

Buedel Fine MeatsThe competition was intense last weekend in the first of two semi-finals on BBQ Pitmasters. Each team barbecued three different kinds of ribs, beef, baby back and country style, in an episode appropriately named, Ribs, Ribs & More Ribs. The semi-final round further challenged the Pitmasters by requiring three meats to be cooked versus the normal two.

Judged on “taste, tenderness and appearance”, Robby Royal of Rescue Smokers won the round by a margin of 2/10 points. It was poetic justice for Royal who lost by 1/16th of a point last year in the semi-final round.

The remaining three teams compete this Saturday, June 7th at 8pm CST on the Destination America network. Don’t miss it!

Top Meeting Spots

Crain’s just published a best list of private dining rooms in the city. Focusing on the downtown, River North, Gold Coast and Randolph Market neighborhoods, they whittled the list down to a choice 32 covering “traditional and trendy, refined and rustic, blow-out and budget-conscious”. Here’s their top picks:

Crainslist

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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What Happens to Price After the Food Fight?

The past few weeks have been all but mundane in the world of retail food products. Two big chicken producers, Pilgrim’s and Tyson Foods, have waged a food fight over acquiring Hillshire Brands for retail market dominance.

HillshireBlogPicGet Your Score Card Out

On May 27, Pilgrim’s Pride (PPC) offered to buy Hillshire Brands Company for $5.6 billion, then two days later Tyson Foods (TSN), offered $6.2 billion for Hillshire.

Pilgrim’s is the second-largest chicken producer in the world. They employ approximately 38,000 people and have the capacity to process more than 36 million birds per week for a total of more than 9.5 billion pounds of live chicken annually. Pilgrim’s is owned by JBS S.A. the largest animal protein company in the world.

Tyson Foods, Inc. is one of the world’s largest producers of meat and poultry with over $34.4B in annual sales, they process over 41,000,000 chickens, 135,000 cattle and 391,000 hogs per week.

Formerly part of Sara Lee Corp., Hillshire Brands (NYSE: HSH) is a leader in branded foods. The company generates nearly $4 billion in annual sales and has approximately 9,000 employees. Hillshire Brands’ portfolio includes iconic brands such as Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm, State Fair, Sara Lee frozen bakery and Chef Pierre pies, as well as artisanal brands Aidells, Gallo Salame and Golden Island Jerky.

Hillshire Brands has also recently been on a buying spree of their own to enhance and increase their presence in leading retailers. Just last month, Hillshire completed its acquisition of Van’s Natural Foods from Catterton Partners. Van’s is a leading better-for-you brand with simple/clean ingredient food brands in frozen breakfast and snack foods, including waffles, pancakes, cereal, crackers and snack bars. Van’s frozen breakfast and snack foods are available at grocery stores, mass merchandise stores and natural food retailers nationwide.

A few weeks after the Van’s deal, Hillshire announced plans for a $4.2B acquisition of Pinnacle Foods a leading producer, marketer and distributor of high-quality branded food products. Pinnacle’s name brands, such as, Birds Eye®, Armour®, Open Pit® and Vlasic®, are found in more than 85% of American households.

How Much is Hillshire Worth?

Hillshire Brands knows how to innovate new products and market them. Acquiring Hillshire would give either bidding company increased scale and presence in Frozen, Refrigerated and Dry retail spaces – a move which would help further vertically integrate their businesses and be in the center of retail stores.

Pilgrim’s and Tyson also know that commodity meat is a low margin business compared to the margins that are made on prepared foods. Hillshire’s strong portfolio of retail brands stands to improve their gross margins and boost profits for shareholders.

Pilgrim’s offered $5.6B / $45 per share – a 25% premium over Hillshire’s stock price the day of the announcement, a multiple of 12.5x Hillshire’s EBITDA. Tyson’s then raised the stakes to $6.2B / $50 per share – at a 35% premium over Hillshire’s stock price the day of the announcement, a multiple of 13.4x Hillshire’s EBITDA. Pilgrim’s responded (as of today) in smackdown fashion with a $6.7B / $55 per share counteroffer.

Both companies also want Hillshire to call off its planned $4.2B acquisition of Pinnacle Foods and are willing to pay the $164M breakup fee. It would appear they generally consider Pinnacle’s products to be outside of their core interests.

How Will This Affect Consumers?

The Hillshire deal may be good for shareholders of the companies who invest for positive returns, however it may not be a case of what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander, for retail shoppers. We may be paying higher prices when all is said and done.

Over the last year, consolidations in the food service industry such as, Sysco’s acquisition of US Foods and Smithfield’s sale to the Chinese have the potential to prove equally problematic for consumers. Both of these deals portend to reduce competition, giving consumers less choice and less opportunity to vote with their dollars. These types of scenarios are not limited to the food industry either. The airline industry is often taken to task on limited choices due to price fixing.

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act, two laws passed in compliment to the first anti-trust law, the Sherman Act of 1890. These laws were passed to guard against monopolistic practices: to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down and keep quality up. In my opinion, the consolidation of companies means less competition which I believe drives higher prices.

You can’t help but wonder if trends like these continue whether food companies will reach the pinnacle of being “too big to fail” like the retail banking industry during the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Will less choice, higher prices and bail outs, ultimately become the status quo?

From the desk of John Cecala | |Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

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How to Tell What’s Prime and What Isn’t

Google U.S. Prime Steakhouse and you’ll get over 7.7 million listings in return. Considering that only 2% of all USDA graded beef legitimately qualifies as “Prime”, there are more restaurants across America claiming to serve “Prime” than there is actual prime beef available.

What’s in a Word?

The word “Prime” can be used in many ways. As an adjective – first in quality or value, as in first rate: This steak is prime! As a verb – to prepare or make ready: Prime the grill to prepare beef. As a noun – the highest quality, choice, best part of anything: I ordered Prime steak.Prime definition

According to a recent U.S. restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group, there are over 600,000 restaurants in the U.S. We see items on restaurant menus like Prime Rib, Prime Steaks, Prime Beef and Prime Burgers, described in a variety of ways, but are you truly being served USDA Prime graded beef?

Remember, of all the beef produced in the U.S. only about 2% is certified as USDA Prime grade. Some restaurants use clever menu descriptions that mislead their guests into thinking they’re ordering certified USDA Prime beef when in reality they may be serving something else. One well known national restaurant chain proudly promotes “U.S. Prime” on their menu, yet USDA Prime Graded beef is not served for all their steaks.

Other popular merchandising terms are, “Prime Cuts”, “Prime Aged” and “Prime Beef”, but none of these terms guarantee certified USDA Prime Graded Beef is being served. Using “prime” terms, allows restaurants to buy lesser grades of meat and sell them as “prime”. The ultimate goal being to make an extra buck by getting a premium price for a less than premium product.

USDA primeWhile there are no guarantees for truth in advertising on restaurant menus, one way to determine if you are ordering the real thing is to look for the words “USDA Prime”, or a symbol bearing the USDA PRIME shield. If you just see “U.S. Prime”, it means nothing.

Making the Grade

The USDA has ten degrees of marbling that determine the grades of beef. Marbling is the term used to define the abundance of little flecks of white fat that visually appear within the meat muscle – the more marbling, the higher the quality grade.

MarblingMost restaurants serve these three grades: PRIME, CHOICE and SELECT. USDA Prime is the highest quality grade designation in terms of marbling which helps deliver tenderness, juiciness and rich flavor.

Beef inspection is mandatory, however, beef grading is a voluntary practice. Yes, you can purchase State Inspected beef that is not graded by the USDA, or even USDA Inspected but ungraded beef. When beef is USDA graded, it is given a USDA shield stamp. That shield is the most accurate way to determine what grade of beef you’re actually eating.

Other marketed terms, which can be confusing, are: “Certified Angus Beef” (CAB), “Black Angus”, “Angus Beef” and “Premium Angus”. These terms describe the breed of the animal, not the USDA quality grade related to marbling. There are hundreds of branded and private label beef programs claiming to be unique in some way, but unless that Premium Angus carries a USDA grade certification, it is only describing the cattle breed, not the quality grade.

The next time you dine at a “Prime Steakhouse” look for the words “USDA Prime” or the USDA Prime Shield on the menu. (Use the same rule of thumb when buying raw meat.) If they’re not present, ask more questions. Avoid having, and paying more for something less than certified USDA Prime beef.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Buedel Brings the ‘Q

PRESS RELEASE

Chicago Meat Company Featured on National BBQ TV Show

Buedel Meat UpCHICAGO – Local meat purveyor to top restaurants and hotels, Buedel Fine Meats, is the new meat sponsor for Destination America’s hit show, BBQ Pitmasters, where 18 teams of BBQ pros compete to win $50,000 and a coveted spot in the Kingsford Invitational next November.

What the Heck is a Pitmaster?

Pitmasters are dedicated cooks who reach professional standing on the competition BBQ circuit. “The winningest man in barbeque”, Myron Mixon, is the lead judge on BBQ Pitmasters. A cookbook author and entrepreneur, Mixon has won over 2,000 competitions and is considered a leading authority on barbeque.

In perpetual hot pursuit of the perfect ‘Q, Pitmasters apply rubs, sauces and flavor enhancing injections with the tenacity of a food scientist. Select meats, choice equipment and heat source management play a big role in competition strategy.

Buedel Brings the ‘Q

BBQ teams assemble in front of the judges each week to find out what they will be cooking to provide a level playing field for the Pitmasters who must come prepared for any barbeque scenario. The big meat reveal puts Buedel at the forefront of every episode, providing an unprecedented opportunity to capture initial reactions from the pros, and gain public exposure for their brand.

At the halfway point of Season 5, Buedel has already supplied a visually enticing array of meats ranging from 15 pound pork shoulders to 30 lb. prime rib roasts. The on camera response to Buedel’s meats has been overwhelmingly positive and often subsequently shared by the Pitmasters across social channels:

…those Pork Butts and Ribs I cooked on BBQ Pitmasters were rock solid [and] some of the FINEST I HAVE EVER COOKED!!!!  – Chris Chadwick, Hawg County Cookers, on Facebook

Positive Press for Chicago

Anytime a local company can grab a positive spotlight on the national stage, it’s good for the City and the economy. The results have been so positive in fact, Buedel just added a Shop for BBQ Pitmaster Meats page to their new retail site in answer to public interest for the meats being cooked on the show.

“Our experience has been no less than fantastic working with BBQ Pitmasters,” says John Cecala, VP & Principal at Buedel, “and we are very proud to be a part of the show.”

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BBQ Pitmasters is on the Destination America Network, which is owned by Discovery Communications. Saturdays: 9pm Eastern, 8 pm CST. Episodes Remaining: 5/17, 5/24, 5/31 & 6/7 Finale

Buedel Fine Meats is one of the leading quality purveyors to restaurants, hotels, resorts, and e-commerce serving local, regional, national and global markets. They are the oldest family owned meat supplier left in Chicago – 2014 marks their 107th year in business.

Additional Quote: “BBQ Pitmasters was looking for a high quality meat supplier for Season 5, and they called us!” – John Cecala, VP & Principal, Buedel Fine Meats.

Media Contact: JJ Rusch  jj@multiedgemedia.com

www.buedelfinemeats.com http://www.buedelfinemeats.com/shop-buedel

http://www.buedelfinemeats.com/shop-for-bbq-pitmasters-meat  www.buedlemeatup.com

@BuedelFineMeats  Facebook Fan Page  LinkedIn Company Page

Tags: Buedel Fine Meats, BBQ Pitmasters, Destination America, Discovery Networks, Myron Mixon, Barbeque Competition, BBQ Competition Circuit, Kingsford Charcoal, Kingsford Invitational, #BBQ, #Pitmaster, #CompetitionBBQ, #StartYourFires, #LoveGrillin, #TuffyStone, #MoeCason, #MyronMixon  @DestAmerica, @Lord_of_Q, @TuffyStone, @Ponderosabbq

Resource Links

http://www.buedelmeatup.com/2014/04/30/breaking-bbq-news-from-buedel/

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2014/01/06/barbecue-tourism-real-thing-heres-2014-competition

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2012/10/19/the-worlds-best-barbecue-really/

http://amazingribs.com/links/barbecue_competitions_and_associations.html

http://www.nbbqa.org/bbq-links

http://www.kcbs.us/index.php

May is National BBQ Month!

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Meat Picks | 5.8.14

Beard Winners

PurplePigThe James Beard Award winners were announced earlier this week. Of the many winners (see full list here), three Chicago stars shined bright.

Jimmy Bannos Jr. of River North’s The Purple Pig was a co-winner in the Rising Star category for chefs under 30. Dave Beran of Next won Great Lakes Best Chef and Outstanding Restaurant Design (75 seats or less) went to the design team at Lawton Stanley for their work at Grace.

Congrats to all!

Burger Bonanza

FlipTSignatureRiversBurgerMay is a popular month – gardens are tilled and grills get fired up – it’s also National Burger Month. (Read Art of the Burger and Fun Facts for the Burger Connoisseur.) River’s Casino came up with a nifty promo this year: a different burger every day for $10 at FlipT – great deal.

Rivers Chef Jason Herling brought some burger samples to Windy City Live last week. He said it took them two weeks to come up with 31 different variations and at 25, it got challenging. There was the Saigon, Philly, Makin’ Bacon, Carnivore and French Connection, to name a few, which had brie cheese, carmelized onions and pear slices – but his personal favorite remains their signature Rivers Burger, with cheddar, jalapenos and a large onion ring (pictured above).

FlipTChallengeRivers took their burger bonanza one step further by adding a weekly burger eating contest to the mix this month. Every Thursday in May, at 5, 7, or 9, you can challenge the (professional) standing consumption record of 5 Rivers burgers in 6:45. The first person to break the record wins $5,000; if you can come within 5 minutes of the record, you win a free burger every week for a year. Who’s hungry now?

NRA Countdown

Housewares – March, Restaurant – May, are fixtures on the Chicago convention scene. This year’s NRA Show (National Restaurant Association) is the 95th (yes, ninety five!) Anniversary of the annual event. Over 60,000 industry buyers from all 50 states and over 100 countries will pile in to McCormick Place May 17-20 to peer, poke NRA 2014and peruse through more than 900 product categories.

One of the new additions to this year’s show is the Foodamental Studio where attendees can learn (for free) from award-winning chefs such as, Tim Graham of Travelle, and then have the opportunity to try out the new skills for themselves.

If you’re going to the show, please stop by and see us! Buedel’s booth # is 7863!

P.S.

NtlBBQMonthMay is also National BBQ Month. According to the HPBA (Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association), 58% of adults agree that cooking out is more fun and relaxing than dining out – being outside is great! In honor of National BBQ Month, the National Barbeque Association (NBBQA) is running a Facebook campaign throughout the month too. Simply post your best what-bbq-means-to-me pic on their fan page and win a prize.

From the desk of John Cecala ||  Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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The Vegas Strip Steak

Vegas Strip RawYou may not know who Tony Mata is, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Flat Iron Steak, a cut he discovered years ago. Mata’s most recent discovery is a new type of strip steak.

Antonio (Tony) Mata is a meat scientist, product development specialist and self-proclaimed Meat Geek®. A native of Mexico, he studied at the University of Arizona where he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural biochemistry and nutrition. Dr. Mata has been involved in adding value to the carcass for most of his professional career.

A Cut is Born

In 2012, Mata was searching new ways to glean value added beef cuts, in conjunction with the Oklahoma State University Food & Agricultural Products Center. Through research, he discovered a new cut of beef from the shoulder, or chuck, normally used to make ground beef. Using non-staVegas Strip Cut Outndard butchering procedures for loin seams – a big outside the box move – he was able to discover the new cut.

The chuck is an inexpensive primal cut that by its nature contains a lot of connective tissue, fat, cartilage and gristle. Dr. Mata’s butchering procedure, since patented, was to trim the bad from the good and yield a tender cut of meat, he ultimately trademarked as The Vegas Strip Steak®. Delivering tenderness, flavor and visual appeal, the steak weighs in at about 14 oz and can easily be cut into smaller portions.

Vegas Strip TendernessTenderness  It is tenderness that is the most important characteristic in a beef cut; it is also the most challenging to deliver. The tenderness of the Vegas Strip Steak® is on par with the New York Strip Steak. It does not require aging or marinating to achieve desired tenderness.

Flavor  Steak flavor can vary across cuts, and steak lovers are dedicated to their favorites. The Vegas Strip Steak® offers universal appeal and solid steak flavor that satisfies any beef craving.

Appearance While tenderness and flavor matter most, visual appeal can enhance the overall enjoyment of steaks. The Vegas Strip Steak® portions beautifully and can be grilled, pan fried, roasted or smoked; it works well in just about any presentation a chef may wish to plate.

Vetting the Vegas

Vegas Strip by Rick GreshDr. Mata worked side-by-side with Chicago’s very own Chef Rick Gresh to validate product performance, establish target specifications, develop and identify menu possibilities and confirm profit potential. Chef Gresh, highly excited about the opportunities the steak would bring to menus, regularly features The Vegas Strip Steak® at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago.

The Vegas Strip Steak® is available exclusively through specially appointed partners of Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef. (In the Midwest, Buedel Fine Meats is the branded Creekstone Farms partner.) Affordably priced, it wholesales for under $7/lb, which in comparison to steaks cut from the strip loin, rib eye and/or tenderloin, delivers remarkable value.

Round Up

blogcollage2If you haven’t tried The Vegas Strip Steak® yet, but it sounds familiar, the cut was most recently showcased on BBQ Pitmasters. (Buedel Fine Meats is the current season’s chosen meat provider.) When the Lone Star Smoke War episode aired, the BBQP judges referenced Dr. Mata, but just one of the Pitmasters competing that day had heard of or cooked a Vegas Strip Steak® before then. Yet, all the pitmasters fired them up to perfection and loved their visual and tender flavor rendering.

Dr. Mata done good!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Doing Business with Avendra

What comes to mind when you think about hotels and restaurants? Atmosphere? Menu? Price? Activities? Certainly the last thing is Supply Chain Management (SCM).

SCM may not be sexy, but it is a critical component to the hospitality industry. Avendra provides the SCM oil that helps many restaurants and hospitality providers run at optimum performance levels – and they’ve made it an art form. Their business reach includes procurement services, labor and cost management, strategic solutions and quality assurance – that’s where we come in to this story.

Absolute Assurance

Buedel is the Midwest meat purveyor for Avendra’s hotel, food service and restaurant clients. We were just awarded their Certificate of Delivery Excellence as a result of their Meet the Truck audit program.

AwardMeet the Truck audits occur throughout the year at hundreds of customer locations across the country – on a surprise basis. The Avendra audit team meets vendor delivery trucks unannounced to analyze safety protocols, equipment condition, product integrity, punctuality and overall performance. The criteria are complied, submitted for review and vendors receive a copy of the audit report with recommendations for improvement where/when warranted.

Avendra’s quality assurance programs are rigorous to say, the least. In 2013, there were 1,169 Meet the Truck audits performed at more than 369 customer delivery points. The company also performs price audits and hundreds of ongoing audits at manufacturing plants and distribution centers to maintain superior quality levels for their customers. Over the course of a year, Buedel was surprise audited three times, and I am proud to say we scored 100% each time.

Comprehensive Coverage

In addition to quality assurance, procurement, et al, Avendra also helps their customers with a variety of menu management servic10155664_615822491842883_7245649089152275166_nes and solutions. Such was the case recently, when they hosted a Natural & Sustainable Food Show for their client companies.

Avendra vendors who service this market category, such as Buedel, were invited to exhibit at the show. Culinary teams composed of Food & Beverage Directors, Executive Chefs, Hospitality Managers and others in kind, with interest in adding natural and sustainable food choices to their menus, attended the show.

It is these types of extra service efforts that keeps business competitively strong and provide the opportunity to stand out among the crowd. Avendra examples the type of companies we want to do business with, and we’re truly glad they want to do business with us.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Buedel Goes Global

The FHA 2014 (Food & Hotethumb_showfloor02l Asia) expo was just held in Singapore. Promoted as Asia’s largest and most comprehensive international food and hospitality trade show, there were close to 65,000 attendees from well over 100 countries and regions over the four day event.

Industry buyerFHA2014_LOGO1s perused an extensive range of products and services put up by over 3,200 exhibitors inside 63 international group pavilions. Buedel Fine Meats was on hand exhibiting with our export distributor featuring USDA Prime Dry Aged Angus Beef.

Global Tastesthumb_showfloor07

One may think in Asia, where Wagyu beef and authentic Japanese Kobe beef are prevalent that Angus beef from the United States would be passe, but just the opposite is true. Highly coveted, Dry Aged USDA Prime Angus Beef is considered a luxury by the elite.

Ironically, dry aging is the way all beef used to be aged until the 1970’s, when vacuum packaging was brought to the meat industry. Today, USDA Dry Aged Prime, is highly valued because we, in the U.S., have mastered the sophisticated process of dry aging beef.

There were many exhibitors of Chphoto 3illed Beef at the show, including Wagyu from Japan, USA and Australia, but few with Dry Aged beef. Buedel exhibited a variety of USDA Prime Angus Dry Aged cuts. The excitement over our dry aged beef in Singapore was incredible, with the most favored Dry Aged cuts being:

  • Bone-In Strip Steaks
  • Boneless Strip Steaks
  • Bone-In Rib Eye Steaks
  • Bone-In Rib Eye Roast

Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are all seeing an uptick in the number of steakhouses offering dry aged beef.

The Process

Dry Aging is a time honored, old world tradition where primal beef cuts are aged for 28-50+ days in a controlled open air environment.

During this process, the external service of the meat becomes hard and envelops the meat with a crust. The beef inside the crust develops a fine rich concentrated flavor and photo 2tender texture as the natural moisture in the muscle is evaporated. When the beef has reached the desired age, the inedible outer crust is carefully removed and the meat can be cut into steaks that deliver an incredible flavor.

To properly dry age beef you must have separated refrigerated space with precise temperature, relative humidity and air circulation controls, along with specific UV lighting to control bacteria growth to create the perfect environment.

Dry aged beef is more expensive than wet aged beef because there is typical loss of about 20% of the meat during the dry aging process. Dry aging is best for cuts of beef that have higher marbling such as Prime and Upper Choice grades. The most typical dry aged cuts are from the short loin (Porterhouses, T-Bones, Bone-In Strips) and the ribs (Bone-In Rib Eye Steaks).

Overseas Logistics

Exporting to Asia is quite comphoto 4plex and requires a myriad of paperwork and certifications. Every country has their own set of specific requirements. Once the initial requirements are met, consistent evaluations must be made for any changes. Japan, for example, is now holding vendors accountable for certain anti-microbial compounds. This list is ever evolving, and it’s up to every business to stay on top of these requirements, and bear any on-site audits conducted by the USDA.

Buedel is currently exporting to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. For this type of beef export, you must write a dedicated exporting program that includes source verification and tracing raw materials. (Read more about food safety guidelines and protocols here.) Collaborative efforts by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have helped pave the way for achieving global standardization.

We are proud to be able to serve these growing markets and help build global appreciation for U.S. beef producers.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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