Meat Picks | 10.31.13

Hallowed Business

131014150237-halloween-spending-620xaIn case you haven’t heard, Halloween is big business. Halloween spending (candy, costumes and decorations) is projected to top out at 7 billion this year – down from 8 billion last year.

This year’s projection dip is being attributed to consumer concern about the economy according to CNN Money. Yet, reports from the National Retail Federation provide overall Halloween spending has increased by close to 55% since 2005.

You could say this market is remarkably Picture2spooktacular.

Ancillary businesses boom around the holiday too. Take, “pop-up” stores, for example – those transient stores that typically open in vacant retail spots for limited time periods such as Pool & Patio, Halloween and Christmas. Rents for these types of “temporary real estate” can be as high as $80,000 a month in metro areas like NYC. On, businesses can search for short term leases like these by industry, need and location. The number of business and industry resources that feed into Halloween are numerous, to say the least.

Food Fright

20131030-PIZZA-slide-T92N-articleLargeIn the restaurant industry, business is ghoulish on Halloween – other than pizza delivery – one of ‘za’s biggest selling days, attributed to families celebrating at home.

In an effort to bolster sales, many restaurants offer discounted or free eats to costume clad kids (our neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts gives free donuts to Trick-or-Treaters). The Chipolte chain ties charity into it, by donating proceeds on discounted meals sold after 4 p.m.

Despite valiant efforts, the number one food on everyone’s mind today is candy, and the number one favorite kind is chocolathalloween-candy-in-bowl southshoremamas.come. 72% of all Halloween candy consumed will be chocolate, according to the National Confectioner’s Association. 

Over 12.6 billion was spent on chocolate alone last year in the U.S. Here are the top ten American favorites from first to last by annual sales figures:

  1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups $509 M
  2. M & M’s $500 M
  3. Snickers $456 M
  4. Hershey’s Chocolate Bar $325 M
  5. Kit Kat $306 M
  6. Twix $116 M
  7. 3 Musketeers $101 M
  8. Cookies & Cream $100 M
  9. Milky Way $93 M
  10. Almond Joy $82 M

…it’s sweet to be in the candy business.

Trick or Treat

turnipsDo you know what major significance the turnip (you heard me right) has to Halloween?

According to, modern day Jack-O-Lanterns are the direct descendants of turnip lanterns used for seasonal Celtic celebrations dating back 2000 years ago. Legend has it the Celts would put embers, taken from community bonfires, inside hollowed-out turnips to create lanterns to light their way home.

Happy Halloween!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Meat Picks | 10.22.13

Super Supper Club

DinnerLabDoes the name Brian Bordainick ring a bell? If it doesn’t resonate now, it will soon. Bordainick pioneered a “social dining experiment” in New Orleans, which in just two short years, is about to become a conceptual hospitality phenom of national proportions. 

Dinner Lab is an event centric dining club where “a group of interesting strangers” (sewn together by annual membership fees) gather at surprise locations (diners don’t know where they’re going till 24 hours before) “to share cuisine crafted by up-and-coming chefs from all over the country.” The concept blossomed from New Orleans, to Austin, Nashville, New York and LA, and is now targeted to open soon in Atlanta, Chicago, DC, Miami and San Francisco.

For young chefs, Dinner Lab is a dream come true, giving them a stage to “tell a story through a menu”, outside their employers’ kitchens. According to the company website, there are 300 Windy City membership lots open. Here’s the link to the Chicago application page.

New Season, Great Host

After all the hoopla surrounding the search for a new host, and “900 applicants” later, the new season of Check,Please! finally got off the ground earlier this month. CheckPlease3

Catherine De Orio is absolutely charming as the new host and does an eloquent job of navigating guest reviewers as demonstrated on the recent Benny’s Chophouse segment. Two of the three guests raved about their Chophouse experience, (citing meat, service, and ambiance, as some of the key factors that make Benny’s pure “magic”), while the third was fixated on talking about baked potatoes. The ever smiling De Orio artfully suggested the guest move on to discussing the most important course – entrees.


PumpkinSearchDid you know the State of Illinois is one of the largest harvesters and processors of pumpkins? That a local artisan recently appeared on the Food Network’s Halloween Wars carving pumpkins? Or, that if you Google “pumpkin meat recipes” (seriously) no less than 18,300,000 hits return in .39 seconds? (There’s a recipe for meat-stuffed baked pumpkin from Country that looks especially good.)

No matter how you carve it, pumpkins are a big deal – for decorations, as food andpumpkinbowls even in beer. (Check out TOC’s top pumpkin brew picks here.) You may also be interested in knowing that, not only, is Illinois one of the biggest pumpkin producers, but arguably in the top slot among the first five pumpkin growing states including California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Happy Pumpkinween!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Meat Picks | 10.10.13

Hall of Fame Days

Did you know that today is Richard Melman Day? The Mayor of Chicago also decreed October 17th as Chef Paul Kahan Day and the 24th, Chef Alain Roby Day, in celebration of the culinary arts.

2013InducteesMelman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, will be honored for his Industry achievements, along with Chef of the Year, Chef Paul Kahan and Pastry Chef of the Year, Chef Alain Roby, at the Chicago Culinary Museum & Chefs Hall of Fame awards, on Thursday, October 17th at the Castle Club on Dearborn.

Now in its eighth year, the annual fundraising event has become a calendar staple of the Chicago culinary community. The funds raised each year by silent auction and donations, help support education and industry preservation. Culinary ChicagoCulinaryMuseumLogoartifacts are also being collected for the museum.

Eighteen area restaurants will be on hand to provide the food: Salpicón, Joseph’s Restaurant & Bar, XOCO by Rick Bayless, Saloon Steakhouse, Carmichael’s Chicago Steakhouse, Chicago’s Dog House, Alhambra Palace, A.C.K., (All Chocolate Kitchen), Ristorante Centro, Bittersweet, Bistromic, LAO Eighteen, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Great Street, Saigon Sisters, Chicago Cut Steakhouse and Hub 51. Buy tickets at brown paper

Buedel Fine Meats is extremely proud to be a financial sponsor of the event.

Would You Buy Expired Food?

The Daily Table is a new grocery concept set to debut in early 2014 which will sell tax-deductible food donations from other grocery stores at drastically reduced rates to income challenged consumers. The store will also offer healthy cooking classes to help educate poorer populations on better health and dietary habits.

UseByThe brainchild of a former Trader Joe’s executive, The Daily Table will in reality be selling expired food at huge discounts – a gallon of milk could actually be as little as a dollar per gallon.

While the concept could be a community and sustainability plus, the prospect of selling expired foods is still unproven. What may complicate matters further is the lack of clarity for what “use by”, “best by”, “sell by”, literally means to consumers. Recent reports provide misinterpretation of labels by consumers has been found to be a “key contributor to 9 out of 10 people throwing away safe and edible food.”

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Bison is a Lean Meat Alternative

At one time over 40 million American bison roamed the plains across North America. Industrialization and abuse brought the population down to as little as 1,000 head in the late 1800’s. Through proactive conservation and ranching, the population of today’samerican-bison_12348_600x450 American bison is about 350,000 head and growing.

Recent trends show bison is becoming more popular in restaurants and retail stores as a healthy alternative to red meat. Those who remain unfamiliar with the taste and benefits of eating bison assume it is “gamey” tasting and/or unhealthy. Quite the contrary, bison is literally a breed apart in many ways.

Grass Fed & All Natural

Bison grow to between 900 – 2,200 pounds in the wild and live between 12 – 20 years. Farm raised bison, (raised for food), are typically harvested between 2 ½ – 4 years of age. Most American bison is pasture raised, without added hormones or administered antibiotics and fed on wild grasses, sagebrush and other native vegetation such as, alfalfa and clover. During cold winter months and if/when drought occurs, they are fed hay and stored silage.

There are some institutional producers who do grain feed bison, but opposite to beef, this is the exception. The most flavorful bison is harvested in the fall and fed on fresh green grasses for at least three months prior to slaughter. Harvested meat from hay fed bison, early winter to late spring slaughters or hay fed droughts, will be less flavorful.

Taste & Nutrition

Bison tastes similar to beef but with a more robust, deeper and richer savory flavor. It is a juicy leaner meat with a tender texture and hints of Bison Nutritionalssweetness. 

Available in the same cuts as beef, rib eye, strip, sirloin, tenderloin and ground bison, are the most popular. Unlike beef, there is no quality grading system for bison; it is very lean with little marbling.

You may be especially surprised to learn Bison is lower in fat and calories than beef, pork, chicken and salmon. It is  comparatively one of the most nutrient dense meats available because of its proportion of protein, fat, minerals and fatty acids to calories. Low in cholesterol and sodium, bison is also rich with iron and offers a healthy balance of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Cooking Bison

Bison SteaksBecause bison is so lean, proper cooking methods are vital. On average, bison takes about a third less cooking time than beef because of its leanness.However, it is recommended bison be cooked at lower temperatures over a longer time period to preserve its tender texture and natural juiciness.

Like beef, bison can be prepared in numerous ways:grilled, smoked, roasted, braised. The most tender bison cuts come from the muscles that run along the backside of the bison – rib, loin and sirloin cuts – which are all great for roasts and steaks. Bison roasts and steaks share the same nomenclature as beef, (Prime Rib, NY Strip Steak, Top Sirloin, Rib Eye) and can be prepared in the same ways.

Cooking bison is similar to cooking beef steaks, salt and pepper are all it takes to produce an enjoyable eating experience; there is no need for marinating. For a healthy heartier meal, braised bison back ribs  are fork tender with delicious taste from the bone.

Here are some general guidelines from the North American Bison Cooperative:

Roast, Brisket & Short Ribs: Low temperatures, high moisture and a good amount of time yield the best results.

Steaks: Tender cuts such as steaks have little fat marbling which means they are highly susceptible to drying out. Cooking to medium-rare will give you a mouth-watering, flavorful bison steak.

Ground Bison: For bison burgers consider cooking 2-3 minutes less than beef. It will have the best flavor and texture if it is cooked rare or medium-rare. If you are browning bison for a recipe, there is no need to drain the meat as there will rarely be any grease.

Try these resource sites for recipes:                                                                 

Wrap Up

The top five reasons why you should give bison a try:

1.  American bison is pasture raised and All Natural without added hormones or antibiotics.

2.  A lean source of protein, bison meat is low in fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories.

3.  Bison is an excellent source of nutrients, rich with iron, zinc, niacin, vitamin B6 and selenium and offers a healthy balance of Omega 3 fatty acids.

4.  Easy to prepare, bison has a robust, rich and juicy flavor with a tender texture.

5.  Available as roast, ribs, steaks and ground, bison provides a vast array of menu options.  

Buedel Fine Meats offers a variety of quality bison meat for foodservice.For more information, contact us at

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Duck… Duck… Choose!

I had the pleasure of visiting with a California poultry farmer recently, who raises ducks and guinea hens for the foodservice industry. Unfamiliar with duck breeds, it was fascinating to learn more about those most popularized as specialty game poultry by culinary professionals. Here’s the Duck 101 on four of the most common breeds: Muscovys, Pekins, Mallards, and Mulards.


The Mallard, or Wild Duck, is the ancestor of most domestic duck breeds. Males are called, “drakes” and females are called “hens”. They are considered wild waterfowl and commonly feed on flies, beetles, dragonflies, crustaceans, worms, seeds, roots and tubers.

In America, Mallards are a protected species which can be hunted seasonally only. Their meat is all dark with very little fat and often tastes greasy and gamey. This breed is often considered as “bottom feeders” and takes a back seat to other farm raised breeds delivering more desirable eating experiences.

Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck


Pekin duck originated in China and was derived from the wild Mallard for domesticated egg and meat production. Brought to America in the 1870’s, this breed is the most common of domestic ducks and is also commonly known as White Pekin Duck, American Pekin Duck and Long Island Duck.

Pekin is the breed used for the popular Chinese dish, Peking Duck. Tender, mild and adaptable to a wide range of cuisines and flavor profiles, 95% of duck meat consumed in the US today are Pekin.

FYI: The ducks in those wacky AFLAC insurance commercials are Pekin.


Muscovy duck is native to Mexico, Central and South America. The male Muscovy is known for its size and meatiness and can grow up to 15 pounds. Muscovy hens are much smaller than their male counterparts, growing up to only 7 pounds. The breed is both feral, and farm raised.

Due to their size, Muscovy drakes have the best yield of breast meat of all ducks. The meat is especially lean, and the skin is 50% lower in fat than the Pekin and Mulard breeds. Muscovy also has an exceptional bold flavor, preferred by many chefs over the Pekin breed.

Mulard Duck

Mulard Duck

Mulard (Moulard)

Mulard duck is a cross between Muscovy and White Pekin ducks, purposely raised for meat and foie gras (pâté). Propagated by mating Muscovy males with Pekin females, Mulards are born sterile. The parent breeds do not cohabitate well together, and thus most Mulards are produced by artificial insemination.

Mulards are larger in stature, have a stronger, gamier taste and have considerably fattier meat than Pekins. In France, the breed is referred to as Moulard, and its breast is called “Magret”. Mulard meat can be stringy and chewy, but the French covet the Magret for its rich flavor calling it, “duck steak”. Mulards are primarily raised for their livers for foie gras.

Duck BreastDishing Duck

Duck is highly nutritious and tasty when properly cooked. It is an excellent source of protein, and without its skin, Duck has an even lower caloric value than skinless chicken. (There are about 140 calories in 4 oz of duck breast without the skin.) The meat is also a good source of vitamins A, B3, C and minerals iron, selenium and calcium.

Duck can be purchased in a variety of ways: Whole, Bone-in Breast, Boneless Breast, Whole Breast, Legs, Liver, Wings, Gizzards, Natural Smoked Duck Breast, Duck Leg Confit, Duck Prosciutto and Duck Bacon.

Like chicken, Duck can also be prepared in numerous ways: Roast Duck, Deep Fried Duck, Smoked Duck Breast, Duck or Duck Leg Confit, Duck Prosciutto and Peking Duck.  Find more duck recipes here.

Duck is a delicacy that has been enjoyed for over 4,000 years. Now that I’ve come to understand the basic differences in the breeds most often used in cooking, I’m looking forward to giving more duck dishes a try.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare


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