Meat Picks | 12.19.13

Breaking (Gift) News

SteakBoxWe are super excited to share this breaking news: Mariano’s will be offering Premium USDA Prime Beef & Seafood gift boxes in their stores beginning today. Now, for the super excited part: Buedel Fine Meats worked with Mariano’s to develop these gift boxes for the holidays!

Cut by Buedel Master Butchers from Midwestern grain fed native cattle, the gift boxed meat is properly aged and hand selected USDA Prime beef. This is the grade of beef that is at the top 2% of all beef on the market.

Packaged under the Roundy’s name (Mariano’s parent company), the gift box selection of steaks include: Prime Tenderloin Filets, Prime Bone-In Frenched Rib Eye Steaks, Prime Boneless New York Strip Steaks and Prime Bone-In Kansas City Strip Steaks. Shoppers can choose from gift boxes with all steaks, steaks and lobster tails, steaks and crab legs, or steak and shrimp.

Preferred Dining

19,000 restaurants and 5 million reviews later, Open Table’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2013 is out. (We can’t imagine what that data sort was like!) Seven Chicago area restaurants made the list: Gaetano’s, Girl & The Goat, Goosefoot, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, L20, Les Nomades and Senza. Congrats to all the winners!

2014What-s-Hot-Top-TenTop Ten Trends

Another big list hitting the news recently was the forecast for the Top Restaurant Trends of 2014. Holding steady in the top slot from last year (music to our ears) is, “locally sourced meats and seafood”. This got us thinking…how much have these trends changed over the last five years?

Here are some of the interesting trails we discovered:

Locally Sourced Meats & Seafoods was also #1 in 2012 & 2011, and #2 in 2010 & 2009. Locally Grown Produce was #1 in 2009 & 2010 and remained in the #2 spot ever since. Sustainability has hovered in the #3-#5 spot for the last five years, taking third most often. Children’s Nutrition has been in the top ten since 2011. (Could not verify 2010.)       Healthful Kids’ Meals is #4 for 2014, falling from the #3 spot it held for the last two years.

Locally sourced meats, seafood and produce have been in the top two trend spots for the last six years running now. The big question is: when do things stop being trends and officially become standards?

BubCityCarol-okeFestive Frivolous Fun

Love this promo: Christmas Carol-Oke.

If you’re looking for a casual place for some festive frivolity and good cheer on Christmas Eve, Bub City fits the bill perfectly. “Ugly Sweaters Encouraged”!

Have a Very Merry Everyone!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

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Why Sysco’s Acquisition of US Foods Feels Like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Sysco and US Foods have been buying smaller food distributors and manufacturers to expand national reach and grow revenue for years. When news broke last week on Sysco’s $3.5B acquisition of top rival US Foods, I, like many others in the food industry, was quite surprised.  

MonopolyJPMorganThe two largest rival food distribution companies have pretty much competed for the same customers, and their competition empowered customers to negotiate for the best deal. Customers often use one broad line distributor as a primary supplier and another as a back up to keep their primary honest and on their toes. The acquisition will severely limit their system of checks and balances.

According to the NASDAQ press release, the deal “brings together the best of both companies to do more for customers and invest in accelerating the transformation of Sysco and the industry.” What the press release doesn’t say of course is that the combination of these two mega broad line distributors limits customer choices to a one-size-fits-all model – conformity to the company’s terms of standardized product sets and service methodology.  

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This union makes me think of George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where society succumbs to the control of “Big Brother” in an environment where individualism and independent thinking are persecuted as thought crimes. ‘Big Brother’ justifies oppressive rule under the auspices of greater good for society.

1984There is no doubt that Sysco and US Foods provide value to their customers with a wide array of products and vast distribution capabilities. However, the two combined, portends to limit customer choices and access to competitive products. One glaring example of this can be found in the offering of private label brands.

Sysco and US Foods make higher profits selling their own in-house private label brands, compared to selling name brand items for condiments, hot sauces, ketchup, poultry, desserts and other foods. The companies can source the cheapest ingredients from multiple suppliers and keep the customer’s purchase price the same for private label brands. Suppliers of private label brands are also often required to pay a “marketing allowance” or rebate, which goes straight to the broad liner’s bottom line.Sales reps are  encouraged and incentivized at higher rates for selling private label house brands to their customers.  

This isn’t anything new. Back in 2009, Sysco’s President and COO publicly declared an emphasis on private brands. (US Foods sells their private label brands under catchy names like, Patuxent Farms® and Chef’s Line®.) There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this practice and I’m sure the private label brands offer value to their customers.  However, with US Foods folding into Sysco, customers will have fewer brands to choose from and will likely be forced into a Sysco dictated one-brand-fits-all purchase setting. 

History (Does) Repeat Itself

General Motors grew to one of the world’s largest automobile companies by buying up independent car companies Buick, Olds, Pontiac and Cadillac. These once unique brands were eventually commoditized  to share the same standardized GM platform with cosmetic differentials only. Innovation and creativity waned in favor of conformity, standardized production and distribution. 

monopoly boardGM was very successful, earning millions of dollars on billions in revenues. Yet, over time, the one-size-fits-all model ultimately drove customers away. Lack of innovation opened the doors for foreign car companies who offered value by listening to customers’ needs and designing cars that were unique and innovative – a tidal wave of foreign imports ensued. GM remained steadfast in their thinking and ultimately faced bankruptcy before being bailed out by U.S. taxpayers in recent years.

Ironically, this merger comes at a time when the retail grocery market is trending opposite the one-size-fits-all supermarket model. Specialized local grocers, fresh markets and butcher shops are fast becoming the preferred customer choice due largely in part to the personalized service and diversity of products they offer. An example of this can be made with the demise of the Midwest grocery chain, Dominick’s.

Originally an independent family run grocer which catered to local neighborhoods, Dominick’s was acquired by Safeway in 1998.  Safeway ingratiated their corporate culture onto Dominick’s and changed the brand into a “me too” supermarket. Dominick’s struggled while other local grocers took away their market share using the same approach the company had originated. Last October, Safeway announced it would sell or close all 72 Dominick’s stores in the Chicago area and exit the market.

Wrap Up

Will the Sysco/US Foods merger face the same challenges down the road as GM and Safeway did?  Only time will tell.

My opinion is it’s a bad deal for the customer. There are many food service operators that simply buy on price with less or no regard for the quality or personalized service. The Sysco/US Foods merger limits price competition for them. There are many food service operators that value quality and personalized service first and are willing to pay the commensurate price for it. The Sysco/US Foods merger will limit their options as well.

When there is less competition, there is less choice. Fewer choices mean limited options; limited options drives standardization and conformity which restrict differentiation.

This is a merger where Big Brother Sysco will ultimately tell customers what’s best for them. I say, “Rise up, speak with your dollars and support your local independent food service companies who take great care in listening and responding to what you say is best for you.”

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

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Food Safety Profile: SQF, Exports, Protocols & Service

By Tim Vlcek

Helping customers in their kitchens.

Over the last ten years, food safety has become a critical part of the food industry. When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011, it was said to be “the most sweeping reform” of U.S. food safety in 70 years, shifting the focus from reactive to preventive standardization.

Food manufacturers are attached at the hip to the USDA on many levels, dedicated to HACCP processing standards and ever evolving with safety certifications domestically and abroad.

Considering the pinnacle points of food manufacturing are, price, quality and food safety, it’s ironic that food safety is the least talked about – there are no marketing initiatives for food safety.

More ironic is the fact that if you’re not investing in this, your business will suffer. The bigger companies invest deeply in food safety, which is why they get the bigger accounts too.

The FYI on SQF

The SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification is required by every major retailer. It proves your business has met the stringent criteria for safe food production. This is important stuff when you think about the volume of vendors involved in the food supply chain from start to finish.

The certification is performed bySQFlogo independent companies and is not an easy process. It takes 12 to 18 months on average to get approved, and can cost as much as $50,000. The size of your company has no bearing on this process either – Whole Foods wants that SQF regardless.

Buedel Fine Meats just received SQF certification (for which we are very proud) – our journey started last December. The final audit was last week; the process includes a desk audit (on site or remotely performed) and then an on-site examination of your company’s records, protocols, processing, etc. The auditors will physically go through your facility with a fine tooth comb over a grueling two day period. Many companies don’t even try to get SQF certified because the criteria is so tough; getting approved and receiving SQF certification is a big accomplishment.

Global Expansion

When a food company takes that first step into global trade they need to acquire “global certification”. In selling domestically, you know the rules and your customer base inside and out – exporting, however, changes everything.

Benchmarking2Every country you do business with has specific requirements, and once you meet them you will need to evaluate them consistently for changes. Japan, for example, is holding vendors accountable for certain anti- microbial compounds. This list is ever evolving, and it’s up to your business to stay on top of them, and bear any on-site audits conducted by the USDA.

For exporting beef, you will be required to write up a program dedicated for exporting that includes source verification and tracing raw materials. Collaborative efforts by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have helped pave the way for achieving global standardization.

Our company is currently exporting to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. You can research all companies approved for export on the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) website.

Safety and Service

Food processors and manufacturers are ultimately liable for the products they sell. It is a trickle down affect that commands safety and service be a top priority.

For refrigerated and frozen foods, managing the cold chain is crucial to ensure product integrity and safety. When a customer signs for their invoice, their purchase may have already been temperature checked, “temped”, numerous times – from the production line, to storage, packing, shipping, etc. The customer needs to feel confident that food quality has been maintained at all times.

Getting the highest yield is crucial to efficiency.

It is equally critical for sellers to help their customers handle food correctly – wherever they may fall in the supply chain. We work with our restaurant and hospitality operators consistently to help with shelf life and proper storage.

When we see cold chain management problems at our customers’ locations, often times, it comes down to a question of how and where they are storing their meat. Meat should be stored under 35 degrees, but that’s too cold for dairy and produce; ideally meat should be stored in a separate cooler. If that’s not possible, then meat should be stored near the back of a cooler, to avoid spoilage from the front of the cooler where the door is constantly being opened letting warm air in.

When operators want to do in-house processing, cutting and/or packaging, they also need to become acutely aware of food safety procedures.  An ideal rule to follow is to have a HACCP plan in place. Part of the services we provide include helping our customers with HACCP advice and protocols. It is to our mutual benefit when we are able to review their objectives and actually work with them on their own plans and protocols whenever we can.

Key Takeaways

Get to know your supplier. At Buedel Fine Meats, we visit our suppliers and get to know the person in charge of production and food quality – we are just as much a customer to our suppliers as we are a vendor to our customers. We recommend you talk with your suppliers about their safety protocols and what issues they may or may not be having.

Gather information.  Ask your suppliers for the specifications on their products. For example, what are their tolerances, level of trim, etc.? It’s to your benefit to be as familiar with your suppliers as you can. This is especially noteworthy for operators who do their own in-house meat cutting for safe food handling and yield cost management.  If you’re cutting your own meat in-house, audit yourself – always.  If you see actual yields off from what you expected, you could be losing money on every order. Does something just seem visually off? Take the time to take a second look.

Food safety and service go hand in hand.

We encourage our customers to visit our facility. When we take on new accounts we invite their entire staff to come in and see how their products are received, manufactured and delivered under our GMP’s (Good Manufacturing Practices) and SQF.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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The Great Steak Takeaway

By Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA, ACE

When I want to go out and enjoy a great steak, my family is sometimes reluctant. They are spoiled living with a culinary professional – they know what they eat at home is equal to the fine dining experience.

In Chicago, we are spoiled by the number of high-quality steakhouses here; from gold standard favorites like Gibson’s to the latest hot spots such as David Burke’s Prime House. These types of restaurants have walk-in coolers full of thick-cut, prime, dry-aged steaks. Chefs cook them at high heat with minimal seasonings to create a veritable crust, and the steaks come to the table properly cooked, well presented and pricey.

My family says I cook a better steak. Certainly they are prejudiced on my behalf, but I want to take this opportunity to share my take on great steak.

HomePageMeatPicIt’s all About the Cut

It starts with the meat. For those of us who can’t afford prime beef all of the time, I actually prefer a good choice grade for the majority of steaks I cook.

The tenderloin and its various classical cuts such as the Filet, Mignon and Chateaubriand, though tender, need a lot more thought put into them to get a great flavor. Rubs and wraps with bacon, fine cream-based forcemeat and sausage meats go a long way in that category, but that is another lesson.

Then there are the macho steaks, which include “The Cowboy,” “The Original Delmonico” and any of the other beast-named bone-in rib steaks found on today’s menus. Leave the rib whole, and don’t cut steaks. Slow roast the meat and carve it on or off the bone. Chefs know the bone is there for a reason: it keeps the shape of the steak, prevents shrinkage and if cooked right, makes a hell of a tasty piece to chew on.

If you have the desire to break down a whole rib, pull off the spinalis muscle. That, my friends, is the piece that has the best flavor of the whole muscle structure, and is also known as the rib-eye cap. Some Beef Marketing Boards are selling this as a new type of “value-added” steak. I think it is also a very expensive option unless you can trim down whole ribs. Try braising the rib-eye cap or quickly grilling it and slicing it thin. 

What’s left?

Best Pick

There is plenty of cow left, and many other cuts and steaks produced both in the retail and food service markets. These types of steaks all need some form of help whether jaccarding, marinating or under cooking to some degree. Regardless of what some catering companies and/or restaurants may say, the mock-tender or the teres major muscle will never taste or eat like a tenderloin.

Strip Steaks2If you want a steak that is synonymous with what a true “steak” should be, it is always going to come down to the strip, and a true strip is either the Bone-in Kansas City Strip or the Boneless New York Strip.

Look for a steak that is at least 1″ thick; these will range in weight from about 12 oz., for the boneless, to about 16 oz., for the bone-in. You don’t have to eat the whole thing, and you can get two very nice-sized portions from one steak.

Look for some good marbling in the heart of the steak. Ask for about 1/4″ of trim on the top and about 3/4″ tail. Always let the steaks come to room temperature or near there about 30 minutes prior to cooking. 

Select the right ingredients – they are vital: salt, cracked black pepper (no containers here), oil (not olive oil) and whole butter (yes, you read that right, whole butter). If you want to be more adventurous, fresh thyme springs, sliced shallots and cloves of garlic are excellent additions. There are no magic rubs, flavored oils or injections needed, and don’t even think about pulling out the circulating cooker or vacuum machine.

Perfect the Cooked Steak

Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy carbon steel or cast iron pan without any oil. Rub the steak with the oil to lightly coat. Place in the pan only when the pan is hot. Now leave it alone, turning down the heat ever so slightly. When you see little dots of blood coming through, turn it over and then leave it alone again. By now there should be some smoke in the kitchen. Have an adult beverage and relax. Let the steak get some color on the second side, and then the fun starts.

cast iron panAdd a good amount of whole butter and the aromatics if you are using them. Grab a spoon, and when the butter is bubbling and melted, baste the steak with the hot butter. Keep basting it to give the steak some more color. Turn the meat over again and cook that side for a few more minutes while basting continuously. If you are comfortable with doing so, press to touch for doneness (123°F). The shallots, thyme, and garlic should have perfumed the room and the steak. Pull the meat from the pan and place it on a rack.

Pour the aromatics over the steak on the rack, and walk away for a while. Entertain some friends set the table or take a few pictures to post on Facebook. Do anything you have to in order to resist the urge to cut into that thing. This is, to me, the secret of great steak: rest and patience. You need to be engaged in the cooking of the item. Don’t just throw it in a pan and let it cook by itself. You need to be part of the process.

After 10 minutes, you are finally ready! Trim the cap and tail off of the steak. (I am extremely cost conscious. If it was prime cut, would you throw that away? No! You might just eat it out of guilt.) Now, either serve the steak whole or slice it. It will be tender and perfectly cooked. Sprinkle a little sea salt over it and enjoy!

Wrap Up

That was a lot of words for the cooking of one steak, but it serves to describe what makes the difference in your cooking and approach to food.

Food doesn’t have to be “cooked at the speed of light”. Many restaurants are slowing things down now and taking the time to cook food properly – this makes me very happy. I urge other professionals to encourage young cooks to do the same. On a slow night, teach them how to appreciate the skills and patience it takes to make something perfect.

Slow it down at work, and at home – spoil your family and your customers.

Chef Reed is the owner of Customized Culinary Solutions and the current president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Windy City Professional Culinarians in Chicago. “The Great Steak Takeaway”  was adapted from Chef Reed’s newsletter, The Rubber Band Doorknob.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

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