Meat Picks | 9.27.13

Beef A Rama PosterBeef-A-Rama

If you’re heading up to Wisconsin this weekend or just looking for something to do, check out the 49th annual fall festival Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua. Live music, hot air balloon rides, fresh food markets, stuff for the kids and of course, lots and lots of beef cooking and eating are scheduled for tonight and tomorrow.

Debuting as Fish-O-Rama in 1964 to celebrate the first day of fishing season, the fest eventually morphed into a beef bash where local merchants prepared roasts to thank local customers and vacationing visitors to the area.

Beef-A-Rama … you know we LOVE that name!

MeatPoultry.comIndustry News

Industry trade, Meat &, recently called upon Buedel for insight on the merits of portion control and top trends in the meat business. Read the full interview here.

Beef Supply Chain

Grass v. Grain

Much has been voiced about grain fed and grass fed beef. If you’re still up in the air about the differences and merits of each, check out our latest blog The Benefits of Grain and Grass Fed Beef. It’s a straight forward read outlining the positives both have to offer with regard to economics, diet, cuisine and the environment.

Chicago Gourmet Update

Tickets for Friday’s Hamburger Hop and Late Night Gourmet and Saturday & Sunday’s Main Events are all sold out for the Chicago Gourmet Wine & Food Celebration at Millenium Park.

There ARE tickets still available for Grand Cru and the American Express package (including the Main Event) for Sunday. Links: Tickets  Event Schedule

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The Benefits of Grain and Grass Fed Beef

All beef cattle start their lives on mother’s milk and are then weaned to graze on pasture grasses until they reach about 400-500 lbs. When calves reach these weights they are sold off to feeders where they either remain grass fed, or are sent to feedlots. In each case, the calves will remain in the pasture or feedlot until they reach desired harvest weights.Beef Supply ChainCattle are bred to be consumed for food. Each feeding method has benefits and detriments that vary markedly, not only in diet, but in cost, taste, consistency and time. Is one system better than the other? The answer is truly subjective – personal preference, palates, and beliefs play heavily on consumer preference.


Grain Feed Mixture

Grain Fed Beef  Grain fed cattle are started on grass and then sent to feedlots to be finished on formulated feed rations designed to make the animals grow as much and as fast as possible. In most cases, the formulated feed contains as much as 75% corn grain. Grain fed cattle normally reach harvest weight between 18-24 months of age.  


What exactly is a ‘feedlot’? The beef industry finishes grain fed cattle in feedlots in order to produce the type of carcass desired by the American consumer.

All feedlots are essentially the same in construction, layout, design and purpose with key components being: feed mills, to store and mix feed rations, pens, where cattle are gathered, and feed bunks, where cattle eat and drink water. Cattle are closely monitored in feedlots, efficiently fed and given unlimited access to clean water year round.

Feedlot Monitor SystemAnimal stress is also closely monitored by feedlot managers. Animals under stress are more likely to get sick; sick animals do not gain weight and will most likely lose money for the operator. Most modern feedlot operators employ animal handling protocols to reduce stress in accordance with the guidelines set forth by renown animal behavior authority, Dr. Temple Grandin     

Grain fed cattle are viable in the marketplace because they are available throughout the year. Where grain feed cannot be grown due to unfavorable climate conditions, it can be easily trucked in from other areas of the country. Most feedlots operate in the Midwestern corn belt states.

Grass Fed Beef  Grass fed cattle start on grass and remain on grass until they reach harvest weight – usually between 30-36 months of age. Grass fed cattle must reside where grass is easily available; inclement weather may force cattle to be moved to pastures where grass exists. During the winter months when grass is dormant, grass fed cattle must be supplemented with feed, usually hay and grass silage, to maintain nutrition and sustain their grass fed status.

Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef is also very lean. The low fat content in grass fed beef requires greater attention to cooking to prevent an unpleasant eating experience. The tenderness of grass fed steaks can also be inconsistent. Thus, grass fed is better when cooked slower than its grain fed counterpart. It is further essential for grass fed beef to be aged correctly for adequate muscle fiber release to prevent toughness. When properly aged and cooked, grass fed beef is delicious. Some even say it tastes the way beef “used to taste”.  

Increased costs, due to the lengthier amount of time it takes for grass fed cattle to reach harvest weight, are passed on to consumers. Ultimately, grass fed beef costs more than grain fed beef.

Grass & Grain Benefits


Grass Fed Steaks

        Grass Fed Steaks

* Grass fed beef is high in Beta-Carotene which is converted to vitamin A (retinol) by the human body. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Additionally, vitamin A creates a barrier to bacterial and viral infection and supports the production and function of white blood cells.

* Grass fed beef typically has 3 times the amount of vitamin E found in conventional grain fed beef. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease, block the formation of carcinogens formed in the stomach, and protect against cancer development. Vitamin E may also improve eye lens clarity and reduce or prevent the development of cataracts.

* The ratio of Omega-3 fatty acids to Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet plays a prominent role in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization recommend a ratio of roughly 1:4 parts Omega-6 to one part Omega-3. The Omega-3 content in grass fed meat increases by 60% and produces a much more favorable Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio than grain fed beef.

* Grass fed beef is leaner and higher in protein than grain fed beef and averages 1.5 times more protein than typical USDA Choice grain fed beef.  Research indicates that eating lean beef can help lower total, LDL and VLDL cholesterol, and triglycerides while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol. It can also help lower blood pressure, aid in weight loss, and improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.


Grain Fed Steaks

         Grain Fed Steaks

*  Grain fed beef is juicier and more tender than grass fed. Grain fed beef has a higher fat content; higher fat levels deliver more flavor. 

The fat in the grain of grain fed meat acts as a buffer in cooking which makes it more forgiving to various cooking methods. Grain fed beef can be cooked to perfection in a variety of ways.

Grain fed grades out higher in quality scoring and is desired by most American palates. Grain fed beef is coveted by restaurants offering USDA Prime and Choice beef. 

* Grain fed beef is available in All Natural programs which deliver additional quality benefits without added hormones or antibiotics.

Grain fed cattle are less costly to raise; grain fed beef prices are less than grass fed beef. Grain fed beef is also in ample supply. 

Wrap Up

Whatever your preference, there are economic, environmental, dietary and culinary benefits to both grain fed and grass fed beef.  

In my opinion, one does not eliminate the other, rather both options enhance your menus and provide numerous opportunities to delight your guests.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Meat Picks | 9.20.13

Fall Fest Frenzy

Sunday marks Autumn’s “official” return and with it a new crop of seasonal festivals. The local sourced sausage/beer/music Wurst Festival (gotta love that name) ends today in Daley Plaza, and numerous Oktober, Scarecrow, and Fall fests are set to make their debut this weekend and well into next month.

Restaurant celebrations are also in HofbrauFestfull swing, and one of this year’s biggest is at the new Hofbräuhaus Chicago in Rosemont. What better place to get your inner German on? Special menus, music and attractions are planned at Hofbräu now through October 31st. Windy City Live co-host, Ryan Chiaverini is the celebrity keg tapper tonight.

Check the Metromix city and suburban fest schedules for more info.

LyfeKitchen2LYFE gets in the way

If you haven’t heard, there’s a brand new spanking chain on the way to Chicago – LYFE Kitchen.  Love Your Food Everyday was built on the concept, “great food can do amazing things” – specifically: support local farms, promote sustainability, reward environmentally sound businesses and give back to the community.

Lyfe’s eat good / feel good / do good mantra is set to debut in Chicago this November.

Culinary Kids

MasterchefKidsA new cooking competition premieres tonight, Masterchef Junior. Yes, you read that right – a culinary challenge for kids 8-13 who “love to cook”.

Earlier this week, Chef Graham Elliott, told Access Hollywood the kids were so good they were more than capable of giving Masterchef adult competitors a run for their money. Set your recorders to FOX from 7-8 tonight.

We’re Proud as Pig!

Last weekend, Buedel’s own, Chef Russ Kramer and teammates, Mike Tibbs and Joe O’Connor took top honors at the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Competition. Sanctioned as an “official Illinois stateRibs championship competition”, over 60 teams competed at the day long bbq and blues event.

Competing as the Bawlin Hawg BBQ team, Russ, Mike and Joe took 8th place for Best Rib Entry, 4th place for Best Dish with their Smoked Scallop over Bacon, Asparagus Risotto & Porcini Breadcrumb presented on cedar planks, and Grand Champion overall.

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5 Ideas to Spark Fall Menus

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

Who doesn’t love Fall? The weather is still enjoyable, football is back, and the leaves will soon turn those gorgeous red, purple and orange colors – it is my favorite time of year.

The seasonal change from warm days to chilly nights also signals the introduction of fall menus for chefs and restaurateurs.

September opens the door to robust dishes and heartier meats; wild game and duck are also now in season.

Here are some inspiring ideas for  building Fall menus using a variety of meat selections and slower cooking methods:

Shanks a lot!

Shanks are terrific for braising. They are fattier with more connective tissue rich with collagen that along with the bone adds fabulous flavor when cooked. Shanks are also relatively inexpensive. Lamb, Pork, and Veal Shanks make excellent braising choices.  

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

We recommend using Domestic Colorado lamb shanks, though Australian and New Zealand lamb will work too. Compared to imported lamb, which is typically grass fed, American lamb has grain in its diet and tastes less “gamey”. Domestic lamb is larger in size and presents beautifully on the plate; many say it is the highest in quality and consistency.

For pork shanks with a little something special, try the Duroc breed hogs. This breed produces well marbled very tasty meat and competitively compares with higher priced Berkshire or Kurobuta pork.  

When it comes to Veal shanks, Domestic No. 1 Special Fed veal is our favorite. These calves are raised on a milk formula supplement. Their meat color is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine, and velvety appearance superbly tender and delicious.

Other Cuts

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Bone-In Beef Short Ribs can be braised whole, or portion cut in a variety of ways, from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.

Shoulder Cuts of all types are also perfect for braising. Lamb, Pork, and Veal shoulder cuts are typically favored for stew dishes.  

Cheek Meat has become quite popular in trendy restaurants and bistros. Beef, pork, and veal cheeks are rich with flavor and suitable for producing smaller portions. Ox Tails are also excellent for braising.

Rotisserie Raves

Rotisserie cooking allows you to cook whole pieces of meat, which can be used across multiple dishes on your menu. This maximizes your yield, saves labor and leverages your food cost.

The best candidates for rotisserie cooking are Lamb Leg, Lamb Rack, Lamb Top Round, Veal Shoulder Pork Rack and Pork Loin. Chicken, Duck, and Cornish Hens are also traditional rotisserie favorites.

Get Your Game On

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Game meats have also risen in popularity in recent years. Known to be highly flavorful, some of these meats also have lower fat content.

Elk, Venison, Bison, Rabbit and Duck all make great game for fall menus. Elk and Venison racks lend themselves well to a variety of recipes. Bison flanks and chuck rolls are excellent for hearty pot roast. Rabbit can be stewed or braised in a number of ways, and Duck is always a traditional favorite.

Recipe Starters

To help get your creative juices flowing, check out some of these fab Fall recipes for ideas:

Savuer – 25 Recipes for Braised Meats

Recipes from Chef Hans Susser: Roast Pork Butt, Braised Veggies, Pork Jus & Applesauce  Braised Oxtail & Potato Dumplings  Braised Beef Ribs In Red Wine

Recipes from Chef Danilo Alfaro:  Veal Shank Osso Buco  Braised Lamb Shoulder  Braised Chicken Stew

Happy Fall!

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Meat Picks | 9.4.13

Chicago Gourmet Returns

HamburgerHopTickets are available now for the annual Chicago Gourmet wine and food celebration at Millennium Park, September 27-29.

New to this year’s lineup is the Late Night Gourmet, an “official” after-party to CG’s renowned Hamburger Hop on Friday. The ‘Hop begins at 6 pm on the roof of the Harris Theatre followed by Late Night at the Radisson BLU from 9-12 pm. Check out the full schedule of weekend long events here.

The Emerald Vile

HammerHeadDid you happen to see the shot of the chef on with meat clever in hand standing aside a kitchen colleague holding a restaurant critic’s severed head? The good news is this isn’t a local story; it happened in Ireland – at a Michelin starred restaurant no less. The Photoshop-at-its-worst shot was created in “jest” (so says the cleaver bearing chef) in answer to a negative review. The critic issued a prompt receipt and delivered the picture to the local police.

Words can’t describe just how ridiculous it is to lose your head over things like this…

Genetics, Geography & Grub

There’s an interesting post from the Guardian about how our genes, surroundings and upbringing has much to do with what types of foods are served where today.

According to the article, having a taste for something is very literal and varies greatly from one culture/location/family to the next. For example, some spices we useMcDabroad and think of as sweet, may only be used in savory dishes in other countries. This is why global travelers often experience same meals not tasting like they do at home. Likewise, American restaurant chains often tailor their menus abroad to the tastes of the population; what sells big here may not even be offered there because of taste sensitivities.

New Openings

TOC reports there are eight restaurants scheduled to open this fall in the city. On slate for September: Honey Butter Fried Chicken on Elston, the Chop Shop – 1st Ward in Bucktown, a restaurant, bar, music venue and deli where you can watch “butchers in action”, Authentaco on Ashland and The Dawson on West Grand, a “comfort-food haven”.

Matthias MeEatlaylogorges’ A10 on E. 53d is due to open in October and in November, Nico in the Gold Coast’s Thompson Chicago Hotel and the highly anticipated arrival of Eataly – the gigantic food emporium in the old ESPN Zone on Ohio, where eight restaurants, a culinary school, market and a microbrewery will be housed under one roof.

Best wishes to all!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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