Meat Picks | 8.29.13

The Handwich is Here! 

BurkeBaconBar1Chef Rick Gresh first told us about the impending debut of the “Handwich” (a slider sized sandwich you can hold with one hand) in June. It officially arrived last week when Burke’s Bacon Bar opened for business directly adjacent to David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel on Rush Street.

Niman Ranch pepper bacon, chicken liver bacon, Chinese bacon, bacon crumbs, bacon “kraut” and more, are staples to the new Handwich menu. There is a vegetarian version, to which bacon can be added, and as promised, Spam is on the menu because Spam is bacon, according to Chef Gresh.

Burke’s Bacon Bar, complete with a street side walk-up window, is open Sunday-Friday from 11-2 am and Saturdays till 3 am.

Buzz-worthy Bun-dling 

SonicBunWe recently came upon our first sighting of branded buns at Fatpour Tap Works in Wicker Park. This week we heard that Sonic is jumping on the bun branding bandwagon in an effort to boost sagging sales with local flair via college logos.

USA Today reports, localized burger chains have used this buzz spurning concept before, but this is the first time a major chain has done so. Made with tapioca starch and food colorings, the logos are steamed onto the buns just before serving. Colleges also make out on the deal through licensing and royalty fees.

Labor Day Quiz 

Trivia is always fun at friend and family get together s – especially when you know the answers. Here are three bites of knowledge you can use this weekend in honor of Labor Day (answers below):

1)    What day of the week was the first Labor Day celebrated?

2)    What is ironic about the two men that were credited with starting the holiday?

3)    What is another name for Labor Day?

LadieTailorStrike#1: The very first Labor Day was organized by the Central Labor Union and celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th in New York City in 1882. #2: Their last names were almost identical; Peter McGuire and Matthew Macguire. #3: The “Workingmen’s Holiday”.

Read more about Labor Day at the Department of Labor’s web pages.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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5 Fun Facts for the Burger Connoisseur

When Chicago based Technomic, a food industry research firm, releases a comparative study on burgers, it’s a big deal. (Last week they wrote “sliders” are becoming a big deal in the UK. Who knew?) Especially so when they provide eye opening stats like this:

95% of all consumers say they eat burgers at least once month

EdditMerlotPeppadew_BC-1The key word there is all – that’s a huge statement of epic populous proportions. Here are some of the other highlights provided in the Burger Consumer Trend Report:

Cravings Drive Sales: 49% of consumers cite cravings as one of the top reasons they purchase burgers.

Quality is Key: 51% of consumers say it’s highly important that the burgers they order are made from never-frozen beef, an increase from 43% two years ago.

Resource is Important: More than 55% of those polled want menus to specify the type of beef that is being used.

Build-your-own is Big: Nearly two-thirds of consumers say build-your-own burger concepts are appealing. 64% say that the ability to customize burger toppings and condiments is also important.

Special Diet Interests Continue: The interest in special diets, driven by younger consumers, continues to grow. More than a fifth of all burger eaters say that gluten-free (23%), vegan (23%) and vegetarian (22%) are important options for them.

If you’re a burger connoisseur (and who isn’t) cravings, quality, resource, size and flavor undoubtedly play into your love affair with burgers. According to one Technomic executive, “The better burger sector continues to thrive …and shows no signs of stopping.”

One of the reasons (we think) burgers have become such a fixture in our homes and on menus across the globe, is because they can be made, seasoned and served in so many different ways. Check out these fun facts from Zagat’s last survey on the subject:

1. 50% of those polled say they prefer to go to a specialty burger restaurant vs. 14% who go to fast food chains.

2. 38% of people like their burgers medium rare, 36% like them medium and only 6% want “hockey pucks” – aka well done. 

3. 60% of burger eaters say they like “fancy” bread or specialty buns and 66% say ketchup is their best condiment. 82% named cheese (cheddar being #1) as the most desired topping, followed by lettuce and tomatoes (59% each), grilled onions, (56%), bacon, (54%) and pickles (48%). The least favorite topping cited was jalapeños (20%).

4. 75% of those surveyed said they like to eat burgers for dinner and 65% said they like having them for lunch.

5. Though grass fed, natural and alternative meats are in vogue for many consumers, 85% said they want their burgers made the good old fashioned way, “from a cow”.

With summer’s end around the corner, Labor Day weekend will be one big burger blast for many of us. The best part is, no matter how you ground your round, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

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Meat Picks | 8.21.13


Chef Rino Baglio being inducted by Michael Escoffier

New Disciples

Chef Jeremiah Tower, “The Father of American Cuisine” and Chef Rino Baglio, the first North American WACS Master Chef & Executive Chef at Osteria Pronto, were among the honorees inducted into The Disciples of Escoffier International – USA* at a private reception in Chicago last night honoring the one year anniversary of the Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy. Special

"The Father of American Cuisine", Jeremiah Tower with John Cecala

“The Father of American Cuisine”, Jeremiah Tower with John Cecala

guest, Michel Escoffier, the great-grandson of Master Chef Auguste Escoffier, was also on hand commemorating the occasion. You can watch the red sash induction ceremony here.

*The Disciples of Escoffier Intl. maintains the culinary traditions of French Cuisine and honors the memory of Auguste Escoffier, preserving his work and promoting culinary education worldwide.

Creative Harmony

We found the recent TribChefYeo article about the transition journey of acclaimed Top Chef, Patricia Yeo, as lead creative at Big Bowl very insightful. The story provides an in depth accounting of the adjustments Yeo had to make from opening new restaurants and the day to day tasks of running them, to innovating the menus of LEYE’s largest chain.

The Chef says the transition became especially appealing when Big Bowl’s Executive Chef, Marc Bernard invited her to experiment with RusticRoadFarmcrops at the now famous Rustic Road Farm in Elburn which he started last year. Yeo, who has a doctorate in biochemistry from Princeton, shares in Bernard’s dedication to blending lifestyle with local sustainability, now lives at the farm.

Big Bowl’s President, Dan McGowan also weighs in on meshing restaurant management with creative innovation. McGowan says their job is to be just “one step ahead” of their customers, because two or three steps will lose them.

Beef People

WD_Beef_instant_win_gameYou have to love a marketing campaign called, “Beef People”, we certainly do! Last month the Winn Dixie grocery chain started an instant game/sweepstakes called just that. Shoppers who liked their Facebook page would see six cuts of beef sold at Winn-Dixie from flank to rib eye. To win, fans would have to flip and match three out of the six cuts of meat on the page’s virtual grill.

The company expanded the social media game’s accessibility, which more than 46,000 have since played, with mobile and tablet versions. Play was also extended for another month for shots to win the free steak.

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What You Can Do When Tyson, Merck & Chipotle Talk Higher Prices

CreekstoneBeeffiletAmericans eat more beef, about 54 lbs per capita, than we eat of pork, veal and lamb combined. Three major announcements in the past week seem to portend higher beef prices down the road.

We have some suggestions for chefs and restaurateurs on how they can control their food costs and better protect their profits.

First, the Headlines…

Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), which provides 26% of the U.S. beef supply, notified cattle feeders that as of September 6th, the company would no longer purchase animals that had been given Zilmax (zilpaterol) a drug added to feed which accelerates weight gain by as much as 30 pounds just before slaughter.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) is considering bending its rules on serving only “naturally raised” beef amid a supply shortage of beef raised without antibiotics.

Merck & Co.’s (MRK) animal health division said Friday it would temporarily suspend sales of its widely used feed additive Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada following Tyson’s announcement to no longer purchase cattle that have been given Zilmax.

How does this all mesh together?

There’s an interesting dichotomy between the needs to meet consumer beef demand, the growing demand for naturally raised beef, and the need for beef suppliers and retailers to make profits.      

U.S. cattle numbers have dropped to their lowest level since 1973 on the heels of a record-setting drought that decimated feed supplies and forced producers to cull animals.Beef production in the U.S. will decline 4.9 percent in 2014, retreating for a fourth consecutive year according to the USDA. Yet we are producing more edible beef today than sixty years ago in part because of the use of beta agonists like Merk’s Zilmax.That is helping to keep beef prices in check, albeit with lower quality beef because of the drug.  

Suzanne Collett, owner at Fortune Cattle Company, says, “Meat quality is important but losing 15 to 30 pounds off of a Fed Steer makes a huge impact on the supply. If this product (Zilmax) and competitor (Optaflexx), are completely taken off the market this would effectively take away about 5.7 million (and more) peoples’ ability to consume beef at 54 pounds each per year…that’s more than the entire city of Chicago’s population. If all packers follow suit…the impact is much greater. Isn’t it amazing what one product can do…diminish meat quality but feed so many people?”

All Natural beef already commands higher prices than commodity beef. Naturally raised cattle cost more to produce, and they take longer to reach the desired harvest weight. Consequently, few beef suppliers are willing (or able) to sustain on natural beef alone. Hence one of the reasons that Chipolte is  considering bending its rules on serving only “naturally raised” beef amid a supply shortage. With 900 restaurants and growing, Chipoltle’s demand for beef will continue to grow.

If all beta agonists are taken off the market, we’ll have less beef or longer time on feed to get cattle to harvest weight. Both outcomes mean higher commodity beef prices down the road if demand remains the same.

What You Can Do About It

Buedel consistently helps chefs and restaurateurs drive profits in their business with tailored fine meat programs. Here are three suggestions we have to help you preserve profits and control food costs in the face of rising prices.

Use Menu Profit Lock-Ins vs. Weekly Price Shopping Many people we talk with run their businesses by shopping for the lowest price of the week. They assemble the weekly price sheets from vendors, put them all in a spreadsheet and compare prices by item by vendor. Then they buy the lowest priced items from multiple suppliers to control their food costs. While this may ensure you get the lowest price for the week, you will still be subject to the weekly movement of commodity pricing.

Our suggestion is to lock-in menu item profits for blocks of time versus weekly price shopping. To do this, you need to determine your minimum acceptable food cost for the menu price of an item and then work with your purveyor to lock-in a price for a specified block of time. Then you can forget about the weekly price movement because you have your desired profits locked in place.

Doing this may require that you pay more than the current market price for the item at the start, but ensures you won’t pay more when prices rise above the lock. If the prices fall below your price lock point, you still make your desired menu profit. Use your purveyor’s knowledge of the market to your advantage and partner with them to develop a win/win program. 

Embrace the Power of Portion Control Last year I wrote a blog entitled, Should I cut my own steaks or buy pre-cut portion control steaks? which talked about the hidden costs many operators miss when cutting their own steaks or chops. If you’re serving steaks or chops on your menu and cutting them in your kitchen, you’re probably letting profits slip away with unaccounted for costs. 

There are many portion control, or “steak ready” cuts that eliminate the hidden costs of waste and labor. We help our customers quantify their yielded costs of finished goods, and then compare that measure to their desired target profits. Take an educated look at portion control.

Use Small Reductions in Portion Sizes When prices are on the rise a small reduction in portion size can mean large cost savings and higher profits. For example, let’s say you sell a tenderloin filet on the menu for $20.00. Just a small change from an 8 oz portion to a 7 oz portion at a cost of $10/lb increases your menu item profit by 4%! (Of course, we recommend this only when weight is not noted on the menu.) That small 1 oz portion change will be virtually undetectable in size and shape of the filet.

When all three of these suggestions are combined, you will have a strategic and powerful set of tools to put your operation in the best position against higher prices. If you’d like to hear more ideas, contact us:

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Meat Picks | 8.15.13

EddieMerlotGardenGarden Outreach

Reading about the union between Eddie Merlot’s in Burr Ridge and the Helping Hand Center, a local non-profit organization serving children and adults with disabilities, is the kind of story that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

Earlier this year Merlot’s began working with Helping Hand to provide vocational opportunity for their members inside the restaurant. Last Spring, General Manager, Mike Rufo and Chef Dan Tucker took the program outside when they decided to start an herb and produce garden for the restaurant and enlisted Helping Hand workers to participate in the process.

The project has proved a win-win for both sides. Chef Tucker says his hardworking Helping Hand team takes great pride in the garden now and the fact that Merlot’s gets to feel good along the way is “just a cherry on top”.

LanghamLobbyTravelle Opens at the Langham

Named one of the year’s best “up and coming”, the Langham Chicago made its Windy City debut last month. Located in the landmark building by Mie van der Rohe on North Wabash, the luxury hotel seamlessly blends modern amenities with historical elegance.

Floor to ceiling windows throughout, (including all guest rooms), 55” TVs, and Himalayan salt saunas are just some of the things you can expect to experience at the Langham. Locals and hotel guests can also enjoy the brand’s signature afternoon tea service inspired by its grand hotel namesake. The birthplace of afternoon tea service is attributed to the five star Langham London, which the Prince of Wales opened in 1865.

TravelleMainDiningRmLast Friday, Langham’s much anticipated premiere restaurant, bar and lounge, Travelle, opened with Executive Chef, Tim Graham, at the helm. Travelle is positioned as a Mediterranean-inspired cuisine which will draw influence from numerous countries across the region. TravelleSeacuterie

In an early review by TOC, special mention was made about Chef Graham’s creation of “seacuterie”. Likened to (meat) charcuterie, Graham describes their seafood version as a “terrine made of smoked salmon and herb butter”.

Travelle is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner till midnight and until 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. You can take advantage of Open Table access via their Facebook page for reservations.

Miracle Weekend for Kids

Marriott’s (19th annual) Miracle Weekend starts tomorrow at the Lincolnshire Marriott. The Miracle Weekend is a charitable event dedicated to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial). To date, Marriott has raised over $1 million dollars for the hospital which depends upon philanthropy to help children and their famMarriottMiracleilies.

Marriott Rewards members can also donate their points through the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to help families of sick and injured children stay at a Marriott hotel nearest to where their children are being treated. Check donations, are equally welcomed!

Buedel Fine Meats is extremely proud to lend support to the Miracle Weekend golf tournament which kicks off the event.

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Tyson Foods Ban on Zilmax: Politicking or Animal Welfare?

zilmaxI recently wrote about the use of Beta Agonists in the nation’s cattle supply. [See Beta Agonists: The Dummying Down of Commodity Beef?] Last week Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), which provides 26% of the U.S. beef supply, notified cattle feeders that as of September 6th, the company would no longer purchase animals that had been given Zilmax (zilpaterol) a drug added to feed which accelerates weight gain by as much as 30 pounds just before slaughter. Recent reports of cattle being delivered for processing that couldn’t walk or move were cited as a cause for the move.

Selective Reasoning

The company that manufactures Zilmax (Merck) issued a statement saying the benefits and safety of Zilmax are well documented. “The experience reported by Tyson is not attributable to Zilmax. Indeed, Tyson itself points to the fact that there are other possible causes and that it does not know the specific cause of the issues it recently experienced.”

What’s most intriguing about this play by Tyson is they did not say they would also stop buying animals given Optaflexx, the competitive market drug to Zilmax. It kind of makes you wonder: Was this a sincere move by a mega-meat merchandiser to show they genuinely care about animal welfare, or simple politicking by Tyson to make it easier for them to export beef to countries that prefer beta agonist free beef? 

If Tyson’s rationale is indeed generated on behalf of animal welfare, why then didn’t they address the use of added growth hormones and the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics in addition to Optaflexx? All tools used to help animals gain weight faster, the company’s rationale for singling out just one drug seems suspect at the least.  

Profit vs. Welfare

My guess is this situation is more about money than animal welfare. Tyson Foods is a $3B publicly traded company responsible for generating returns for its shareholders. Exporting is a large market opportunity for companies like Tyson. This announcement was released just after their earnings report, which included statements about the opportunity to grow and provide high-quality, food-safe products with China.

China and many countries in the European Union have banned the use of these drugs in meat production. In May, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, announced it would cut in half its purchase of animals raised with a similar drug, ractopamine.  About a week later, Smithfield announced its sale to a Chinese company.

Could it be that Tyson is also posturing benefit from the pending Asia-Pacific trade agreement being negotiated with the U.S.? The trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is about to start its “19th round of negotiations” later this month in Brunei.

There are over 600,000 head of cattle harvested per week in the U.S., and none of the other major beef producers such as JBS, National Beef, or Cargill have yet to follow Tyson’s move. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out over time.

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The Maestro of Food & Beverage at French Lick

When you talk to someone who speaks passionately about the place they work for it’s an uplifting experience. That’s exactly what our interview, with French Lick’s Food & Beverage Manager, Tom O’Connor, was like.

French Lick Resort

The original hotel opened in 1845 as French Lick Springs Hotel known for its “miracle waters” from sulfur springs in the area. Throughout the 1920’s, Al Capone, Cole Porter and FDR were frequent guests. The resort remains a favorite destination of celebs and dignitaries today.

The French Lick Resort and its sister hotel, West Baden Springs, boast 4 golf courses, stables, pools, spas, 16 dining venues, 13 retail outlets, a conference center, hospitality and event catering and more. To say it is an extraordinary place, would be a gross understatement.

“Everyone needs to come to French Lick at least one time in their life,” prides O’Connor. “There are 105 things to do here! The gaming, [yes, there’s a casino there too], golf, tennis, hiking, horseback riding, basketball, bowling, youth activities – we’re a family friendly, historic and sports oriented facility in the heart of the Hoosier forest.”

O’Connor never stops spouting the resort’s historical accolades either. “I try to interface a lot of French Lick’s rich history,” he says, “it’s the string that runs through a lot of things we do here.” Located about 60 miles from Louisville, Kentucky, bourbon is also a really big deal at French Lick.

There are many things people may be surprised to hear you do, like selecting a barrel of bourbon at the Woodford Reserve Distillery.

The barrel arrived last week. 180 bottles followed with our “personal select” label – it makes us unique. We have the #1 Manhattan in the state; we went to a competition in Indy among the best bartenders. We try a lot of different syrups [they create their own]; one that was great was vanilla bean and fresh cherry juice. There is a shop here that sells Bavarian nuts, so we took coated candy almonds, our personal

1875 Steakhouse

French Lick’s renown steakhouse, 1875, was named in honor of the very first running of the Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875.

Woodford Reserve, and then rimmed the glass with cherry juice and pulverized almonds – rolled the cherries in that too.

Our concentration on bourbon is because of the Kentucky namesake, the running of the derby and the history of the derby – French Lick has housed many Derby horses.

The aristocracy used to stay here from Derby Day to Memorial Day. They had their own horse trains come in. Trunks would be coming and going all day long because the women wouldn’t wear the same dress twice.

O’Connor playfully told us the Cakewalk was invented at French Lick too.

There used to be a lot of Jamaican workers here who couldn’t speak English. But every night at 9, they’d cakewalk (in a competitive style around the dining room) with flambé on their heads.   

You just released news of hosting a major golf championship, what does that mean for you?

The 2015 Senior PGA Championship will be the first time in 91 years we’ve held a major! The scope of exposure to the resort is global. It puts us in the limelight for what we can easily facility between our golf and hospitality staff – that we can entertain a major event. It’s been seven years since the renovation – we are now at that level.

When will you start the hospitality planning for this event?

The tournament underwriter is KitchenAid. They will have a big promotional tent of course, and there is opportunity now for other sponsor tents. We are also the site for the 2014 Porche International Conference and the LPGA Legends Tournament will be here in September. There’ll be 80-90 hall-of- famers here… there’s still a few sponsor slots oooooo-pen.

Okay, we’ll talk to our team about that. You are quite the salesman!   

I assist where necessary, even sales as it relates to food and events. I collaborate with the marketing department… it’s the culmination of experience. It’s also extremely rewarding. I’ve ran into people who’ve been around here for many years; what the Cook family did for this location – they restored an entire community.

Table One French Lick

Table One, located at the West Bayden Springs Hotel, is the private chef’s table inside the kitchen. When guests desire privacy, the glass wall will magically transform into frosted panels by the flip of a switch.

What can possibly prepare anyone to manage these types of operations?

I will be here 5 years in October, before that I had a catering company, before then, restaurants. I’ve managed country clubs and hotels. I went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales – the original one in Rhode Island.

What made you want to be on the operations side versus being a chef?

I always aspired in management because I could utilize my knowledge of culinary arts to deal directly with the client – not that the rewards aren’t there as a culinarian – but you are part of a profound opportunity to be involved with things like weddings. I make my staff acutely aware that our customers are going to be having a life experience – they’re here for a memorable experience that will last a lifetime.

When this position came up, it all came together, I did my time. All along the way, you apply the young culinarian in you. I remember a facilities teacher telling my class that 75% of us wouldn’t be there [in the industry] in two years and friends of mine weren’t. I tried IBM for 6 months and didn’t know what to do with my weekends.

I still have the drive to attend to the guest experience; here you can actually apply a passion. My dad said, ‘you’ll never go hungry or be out of work’, and he was right.

Where did you grow up?

I was raised in northern Jersey. My dad worked in NY as a sales director for a textile company. I’d go to the city with my dad and we’d watch the Macy’s parade from the 23rd floor of his office building. We’d also go to Rock Center to watch the skaters and to the Rainbow Room.

I remember after the first showing of the Sound of Music at Radio City, our entire family had tableside flambé at the Rainbow Room – which I revived at the resort – fine tableside service. It brings back the memory of what French Lick was in the 20s, 30s, and 40s… Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee, Crepes Suzette – you can have all of them after having some of the best steaks in the world – thanks to Buedel.

1875 is a superb venue, we’re proud to serve you. Thanks for saying so!

What are the top three things you’ve learned over the course of your career?

One – You must possess a passion beyond worrying about being compensated – once you start putting hours to dollars your future is limited.

Two – Approach every day with excitement; there are no two days alike. And, that  your guest will have a profound experience so they’ll want to return. You can have the best food in the world, but without good interaction, they won’t come back.

Three – Constantly be educated. I watched the Food Network this morning – I felt like a neophyte. I didn’t know you could eat that or think the influx of molecular gastronomy would be in my life. We’re like doctors.

One More…

Stay with authentic based products. Farm to table has become a part of our fabric here, don’t sacrifice your culinary techniques for canned. Be original; resort back to production of the food item – don’t compromise. It takes extra time and talent to do this, not F-A-Ts.

What do you mean by that?

Food Assembly Technicians – what cooking schools are pushing out. The art of Escoffier has to be maintained and practiced, or the art will be lost … stay true to the basic mother sauces…béarnaise…hollandaise…

Can those kinds of standards be maintained at smaller hospitality levels?

They can do it cost effectively by minimizing labor and increasing technical knowledge – individuals need to be more faceted. The cost is less when you use raw products. For example, if you made cheesecake the difference would be something like 63¢ / sliver vs. $2 / pre-made slivers.

You also have to watch every second. If someone brings in something manufactured, your costs go out the window. When there are more units in a chain, then there’s more profit – that’s how the big boys can do it.

The biggest expense is labor. I always say, ‘When your staff goes home, you’re making money.’

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Meat of the Future?

This week a tasting of the world’s first lab produced ground beef burger made from in vitro cattle stem cells was cooked and tasted in London. It was the culmination of a five year experiment to grow artificial beef that came at a cost of over $300,000.

AP Photo/David Parry

AP Photo/David Parry

The burger was created with a 20,000 strand count of laboratory-grown protein. Salt,     breadcrumbs and egg powder, were then mixed in with red beet juice and saffron to give it color. Visually, it looked the part; taste wise, not so much, according to first accounts.  An “absence of fat” was one of the comments made.

Working toward manna

The scientist’s aim with this research is to show the world that the meat of the future can be produced without slaughtering millions of animals in an environmentally friendly way. With continued development, the process is targeted to become economically less costly than traditional farming methods.

Recent Advances in Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research are helping medicine march towards cures for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, Blood disorders, Muscular Dystrophy and many more ailments. These advances in medicine can be miracles for mankind.  Such miracles are still far in the future for food – as much as 20 years down the road before these burgers begin to hit the grocery store according to a Reuter’s report.

The global appetite for meat shows anything but decline with meat production projected to rise to 376 million tons by 2030. With the increasing demand for food from humanely raised animals, without added hormones, administered antibiotics and Non- GMO feed, this meat of the future could be the next manna from heaven.   

…but would you really eat it?

Personally, food for me is a pleasure balanced with purpose.  I enjoy treating myself to delicious, juicy steaks and burgers and also try to balance that with a healthy responsible diet. It’s hard for me to imagine a world where synthetic meat would be the norm. At the same time, perhaps this is a breakthrough to help feed the world.  

Synthetic meat, lab grown in volume, has the possibility to end hunger in a remarkable way. Kind of the same way USDA approved Lean Finely Textured Beef was produced to feed millions of people. You may know of this as the “Pink Slime” ground beef wrongly sensationalized in the media.  I wonder where “Celebrity Chef” Jamie Oliver stands on this one?

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Are You Buying Faux Angus Beef?

AngusThere are hundreds of branded and private label beef programs on the market claiming to be unique in some way. Of these, about 80 brands are actually “certified” by the USDA validating what they say they are. Many of these brands also claim to be some kind of “Angus” or “Black Angus” beef.

Clad with witty logos, nice packaging and a clever back story, most buyers believe they are buying Angus quality beef when it says “Angus” on the label. Yet of the 50+ “USDA Certified Angus” programs, only 35 of them actually carry the requirement for genetically confirmed Angus cattle.

How can this be?


In 1996, the USDA created the GLA Schedule which specifies the characteristics of cattle eligible for approved beef programs claiming Angus influence. The USDA certifies Angus programs based on either the way the animal looks or by the actual genetics of the animal. The meat business terms for these clarifications are Phenotype and Genotype.

Phenotype Angus certifications require the cattle to look like an Angus breed by being 51% or more solid black, but in reality they may not actually be Angus. The simplified analogy here is: if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck! 

Genotype Angus certifications require the cattle actually have traceable Angus genetics. In this case: I know you’re a duck because your DNA confirms you’re a duck!

It used to be visually simple to tell one breed of cattle from another before the boom of modern crossbreeding techniques – today, not so much.

Angus 101

BrahmanNot all cattle breeds are created equal; beef quality and consistency are heavily influenced by genetics. Hereford and Angus (British Breeds) were known to be quality bred for centuries. However, many other breeds were developed for different purposes such as climate/heat tolerance, dairy and draft uses.These breeds, such as Brahman, Holstein and Limousin, perform well for their primary task but are inconsistent in their meat quality. 

Black HolsteinThere are over 80 cattle breeds used in the U.S. beef supply today. Advances in crossbreeding technology and animal husbandry, now provide black hided cattle with very little true Angus quality. This is how breeds such as the 51+ black Holstein and Simmental, can qualify as Angus under the Phenotype program.

In reality, close to 65% of the commodity cattle supply today havBlack Simmentale black hides but may not genetically be Angus.

Hankering for Angus

Why is Angus beef so desirable? Pure and simple, it is the most consistent performing beef on the market.  

Angus (and Hereford) cattle have superior genetics that produce better quality meat in terms of tenderness and fat (marbling). It stems from the way their genetics control a protein called myostatin which inhibits the growth of muscle in cattle.  Angus cattle have more myostatin, which makes their meat fattier and more marbled. The superior genetics of Angus beef tends to have more finely textured marbling, which makes it even more tender compared to other breeds.

How to Find Authentic Angus

USDA G-SchedulesStart by researching the “G-Schedule” registered with the USDA. Choose a USDA Certified branded Angus program that carries a Genotype GLA live animal requirement.

Brands such as Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef and Certified Angus Beef  have USDA verified/certified programs that ensure their Angus branded beef do, in fact, have the required Angus genetics. 

Know the Faux: Angus brands, which carry the Phenotype GLA live animal requirement, only confirms the animals have more than 50% black hides. These are exactly the type of beef programs, which could be faux Angus, when expecting the quality beef benefits of actual Angus genetics. Use this link to verify beef programs: USDA Certified Beef Programs.

Another important attribute to look for in branded Angus programs is “Maturity”.   As cattle age, their beef quality becomes less desirable.

Commodity CattleThe USDA categorizes the chronological age into Maturity Categories:A, B, C, D, E.  “A” Maturity carcasses are 9 to 30 months old, “B” Maturity are 31 to 42 months old. USDA Prime, Choice, and Select graded beef can only be A and B Maturity. Carcasses older than 42 months are considered Commercial, Cutter and Canner grades.

The better USDA Certified Beef programs use only “A” Maturity beef in their program because the younger animals have more desirable muscle quality and tenderness.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Chefs and restaurateurs want to make sure their customers have a delightful eating experience every time they dine. When it comes to beef, there are many variables to keep in mind includiBeef Quality Ladderng, USDA grade, breed of animal, aging and trim specifications that are important before the meat is prepared by the Chef.    

One of the best ways to eliminate the variations in quality is to start with a  USDA Certified beef program that carries the Genotype GLA genetic Angus confirmation. Then make sure you work with a local meat purveyor who will properly age the beef for you to help ensure the most desirable and consistent taste and tenderness possible.

From the Desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook Page


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