Dollars & Cents vs. Dollars & Sense

Let’s compare and contrast two stories in the recent news about pork production.  One is a story of dollars and cents, and one is a story of dollars and sense.

Dollars & Cents

3D chrome Dollar symbolLast September, Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer sold itself to the Chinese for $4.7B. Smithfield raises about 15M pigs per year producing over 6B pounds of pork sold under popular brand names including Farmland, Armour, Cook’s Ham, Krakus Ham, Patrick Cudahy and John Morrell. When the sale to Chinese went through, Smithfield’s CEO stated: “This is a great transaction for all Smithfield stakeholders, as well as for American farmers and U.S. agriculture. The partnership is all about growth, and about doing more business at home and abroad. It will remain business as usual — only better — at Smithfield.”

‘Business as usual’ is a telling comment. Smithfield is notorious for factory farming; incorporating the use of inhumane gestation crates, confined animal feeding operations and environmental pollution.

To quell some of the220px-Gestation_crates_3 negative press, Smithfield is “recommending that its contract growers phase out the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant.” This is quite the bold move for a factory farmer where disease, pollution and animal confinement are standard practice.

On 1/21/14 more news broke: Problems Persist After Smithfield Sells Out to Shuanghui; Future Remains Uncertain.  The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and Waterkeeper Alliance issued a Notice of Intent to sue the current and former owners and operators of a Smithfield owned feeding operation, located in North Carolina, to stop pollution caused by illegal waste disposal.

Dollars & Sense

Ironically, one day earlier, the NY Times posted this story: Demand Grows for Hogs That Are Raised Humanely Outdoors.

Consumer awareness and c7960787444_a1b4b8476d_ooncern about the use of antibiotics, humane animal treatment and the environment is growing. More chefs and restaurateurs are featuring pasture raised, all natural pork on their menus. The popularity of “farm-to-fork” and “nose-to-tail dishes” is growing.

Opposite to the Smithfield mass production model, pigs raised by family farmers who use sustainable production methods which preserve the land and its resources for future generations, is fast becoming en vogue. The pigs are happy, the farmers are happy, and consumers are happy eating a better product.

pigsinsnow-300x224Pigs raised outdoors using traditional farming and animal husbandry methods cost more because it costs more to raise them this way.  However, the Times article also points out that as much as consumers say they want their meat to come from humanely raised animals, they still resist paying higher prices for pasture-raised pork.

This resistance is what continues to drive companies like Smithfield to keep producing cheap pork, and the consequences that go along with it.

Finding Middle Ground

The situation becomes one of trade-offs. Which is worse: Paying less for cheap pork thereby supporting the issues associated with pervasive factory farming, or paying more for pork thereby supporting the issues associated with humane, natural and sustainable farming? In my opinion, one will never fully replace the other, but both can improve.

As a consumer, I prefeMenusr to spend a little more to eat healthier and better tasting naturally raised pork. I also feel good that a by-product of my preference, is supporting the family farmer.

On the other side of the fence, I see the daily dilemma Buedel Fine Meats customers face between their desire to avoid offering commodity pork and trying to manage their food costs. Many chefs and restaurateurs are simply unable to absorb the higher cost of all natural pasture raised pork and maintain their desired profits.  They too are voting with their dollars.

Perhaps there is a middle ground.

A movement to change the status quo can be ignited by slowly adding pasture raised pork items to meals and menus. Start with one or two items, promote them and educate the consumer on the value. My guess is that a few will stick, and then maybe a few more.

If we all do this, we can begin to deliver a subtle message to the Smithfield’s of the world in a language they understand – money.  Soon they’ll listen because they have to return profits to their shareholders.  When the factory farmers see more dollars being spent for pasture raised pork, they’ll want to capture some of the growing segment – then someday perhaps, most of it, and we’ll all be better off.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Pride and Passion in a Conglomerate World

Late last year, another chapter in the Chicago food industry closed. Local meat supplier, Allen Brothers, was bought by Chef’s Warehouse, Inc., a Connecticut-based food conglomerate, after a 120 year run of family ownership.

If you didn’t see one of the few blurbswatchdog7 about the deal, you probably haven’t heard about it. The company’s (recently revamped) website makes no mention of it, and it is business as usual on their fan page where holiday specials and New Year wishes filled their Facebook feed throughout December and into January.

Reports provided by a, “Chef’s Warehouse spokeswoman” claim,  “…the Allen Brothers’ management team, including Todd Hatoff, [great grandson and grand nephew of the founding brothers] will be retained. The big question is, will this really matter going forward?

History (Does) Repeat Itself

When businesses change ownership structure from family to conglomerate and beyond, it’s tough to keep the “q” in quality alive. Reach replaces service and diversification destroys the very brand essence from which many local and family owned businesses were built.

Looking back to the 19th centmeatpacking industry in Chicago in the 1930s364pxury, when Chicago was first being developed as a livestock mecca, there were the Armour brothers. Yes, Armour & Company was started by Philip and Herman Armour in 1867. The family owned the brand until the 1920’s when they sold to Frederick Prince, an investment banker and chairman of the Union Stockyard & Transit Company, due to financial problems. Prince continued building the meat brand and expanded into by-products, such as deodorant soap (Dial).

The Chicago slaughterhouse was eventually closed in 1959 and by the 1980’s, the Armour meat brand had morphed into two lines: “shelf-based products” (ie hash, chili, etc.)  and “refrigerated meat products”. The lines were eventually split and sold to different entities.Swiftcar

Today, the refrigerated meats brand is owned by Smithfield Foods, notorious for their use of antibiotics in pork production and most recently, the ethically suspect sale of the company to the Chinese.

Swift Brothers & Co. was also started by two brothers, Gustav and Edwin Swift, in 1878. (The company name was changed to Swift & Co. in 1885.) Gustav Swift was credited with pioneering the refrigerated rail car and the use of animal by-products in the manufacture of soap, glue, fertilizer, sundries and medical products. Swift & Co. is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Brazilian company JBS, the “world’s leading animal protein processor”.

In 1971, the doors of the UniChicagoUnionStockYardlimestonegateon Stockyards closed for good. All that remains of more than a century’s worth of rich and tumultuous industrial and labor history is its famous limestone gates.

You have to wonder what the Swift and Armour brothers would have to say about that.

Future Forecast

In an ultra fast paced global economy, it is easy to understand why Allen Brothers made the move from family run business to enterprise ownership. Maintaining market share and integrity against volume discount suppliers is challenging, to say the least.

Could Buedel compete head to head with a Smithfield? No. Nor, do we want to, because our customers deserve far better than that.

AnthonyBuedelfromVideoThis is an industry where chef, restaurant and hospitality reputations are on the line with every meal served. It is a proud, caring and passionate arena. Our customers deserve the same blood, sweat and tears they pour into every dish, delivered in every center of the plate product they buy.

Buedel Fine Meats is now the oldest family owned meat supplier left in Chicago – 2014 marks our 107th year in business. We merged old world family traditions with the best modern practices of today. Delivering premium quality meats and professional personalized services remains our sole initiative.

Pride and passion can’t be commoditized.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Wild Boar: A Unique & Delicious All Natural Meat

Wild Boar DishesWho isn’t looking for new menu ideas? How about one that’s unique, incredibly tasty, all natural, free range, humanely handled, lean and reasonably priced? Plus, how would you feel if adding this food to your menu could also ultimately help the environment?

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, it’s not, when you get to know more about Wild Boar.

Boar 101

The most common names for boar are Wild Boar, Wild Hog, Feral Pig, Feral Hog, Old World Swine, Razorback, Eurasian Wild Boar and Russian Wild Boar. Unlike domestic pork, wild boar is a bit sweeter with notes of nuttiness and a clean taste that’s neither gamey nor greasy. They are leaner than pork with one-third less fat, calories and cholesterol.

Wild boar grow to about 5 feet long and weigh up to 300 lbs. – smaller and leaner than farm raised hogs for pork production. Their diet includes acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, grass, roots, apples and just about any farmed crop they can invade. It is their diet, which gives their meat a unique flavor profile.

In Europe and Asia, boar is farmed for their meat and treasured for their taste. Called, “Sanglier”, in French, and “Cinghiale”, in Italian, boar can be commonly found in butcher shops and offered as a staple in restaurants. Boar is one of the highest priced meats in Germany and thought of as an aphrodisiac in China.

Texas Wild BoarHogs, wild or otherwise, are not native to the United States. They were first brought to the new world by Christopher Columbus who introduced them to the Caribbean.  Hernando De Soto brought them to Florida in the 1500’s, and they made their way across the Southern United States.

Early Texan settlers let pigs roam free until needed – some were never recovered. During wars and economic downturns, many settlers abandoned their homesteads and the pigs were left to fend for themselves. In the 1930s, Eurasian wild boars were brought to Texas and released for hunting. They bred with the free-ranging domestic animals adapted to the wild.

An Invasive Species

Today, most domestic wild boar, are feral hogs, which can rapidly increase their population. Sows can have up to 10 offspring per litter and are able to have two litters per year. Each piglet reaches sexual maturity at 6 months of age. They have virtually no natural predators and thrive in just about any condition.

With a population in the millions in the U.S., Wild Feral Hogs are wreaking havoc across the Southern states. Traveling alone or in packs, they devour whole fields of rice, wheat and/or vegetables. Corn Farmers have discovered that the hogs methodically trod their planted rows during the night, extracting seeds one by one – they even go after food set out for livestock.  The hogs also erode the soil and disrupt native vegetation when they tromp the ground; this also makes it easy for invasive plants to take hold.

Wild Boar TrapFree Range, All Natural & Humane

Wild Boar is a free range animal. No gestation crates, no antibiotics, no growth hormones  –  the ultimate humanely raised all natural meat.

Most domestic wild boar come from Texas where state laws require they must be taken alive and humanely handled for harvest purposes. Hunters are allowed to kill wild hogs year-round without limits. Hunters also have the option of live capture for transport to slaughterhouses to be processed and sold to grocers, butcher shops and restaurants as exotic meat.  When sold commercially as meat, wild hogs must be taken alive to one of nearly 100 statewide buying stations.

One method of capture, popularized by the A&E reality television series American Hoggers, uses trained dogs to sniff out the wild boars, chase them down and hold them by their ears. Trappers then tie them up and cart them off to holding pens for transport.

Where the reality show makes for good TV, the preferred method for capture is a lot less exciting.  Trappers simply bait a cage or a large fenced area with food attractive to the wild hogs, such as fermented corn, but not to other animals. The trapdoor is left open for several days until the hogs become comfortable with it enough to walk in and eat; the trap door then closes.

From the buying stations, the trapped hogs are taken to a processing plant overseen by USDA Inspectors and Veterinarians.  Processing includes a testing regimen for e-Coli, Salmonella, and Trichinae.  Food safety is paramount and supported by a Letter of Guarantee.

Wild Boar NutritionA Healthy Alternative Protein

Compared to pork, Wild Boar is lower in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and higher in protein – higher in protein than pork, beef, lamb and chicken, to be exact.

Wild boar comes in the same type of cuts as pork and can be substituted for pork in like dishes.  It can be smoked, barbecued, grilled, roasted, braised, fried and, marinated.  Ground Wild Boar is also popular in Italian Bolognaise.

The Food Network offers a variety of Wild Boar recipe ideas for menu inspiration. You can find the most popular Wild Boar cuts available at Buedel Fine Meats:

  • Tenderloin
  • Frenched 10 Rib Rack
  • Saddles
  • Strip Loin
  • Legs – bone in
  • Legs – boneless
  • Shoulder
  • Bellies
  • Shanks
  • Baby Back Ribs
  • St. Louis Ribs
  • Trimmings

Adding Wild Boar to your menu gives you something unique to offer your guests with the benefits of all natural, free range and humanely handled marketing. You can help the environment, offer a healthy protein and provide a delicious feature with Wild Boar. Try it!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Meat Picks | 1.10.14

Dining Awards

TribAwardsThe Chicago Tribune 2014 Dining Awards were announced earlier this week. Gleaned from the experience of “1,000 meals consumed”, throughout the Chicagoland area, this marks the “4th Annual” list produced by Trib writers, Phil Vittel, Kevin Pang and Josh Noel.

Chef of the Year was awarded to Curtis Duffy, “who made 2013 the year of Grace”. Other Chefs and Restaurants named who left “the most indelible impressions” over the last year are:

Restaurateur, Jason Chan, Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp – Chefs/Owners, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo – Owners, Fat Rice, Carlos Gaytan – Chef/owner, Mexique, Thomas Lents – Executive chef, Sixteen, Paul McGee – Partner in Three Dots and a Dash and Bub City,  Amy Morton – Owner, Found Kitchen and Social House,  Carrie and Michael Nahabedian – Owners, Brindille and Naha, Erick Williams – Executive chef, mk and County Barbeque and James Spillane – Owner, Armitage Pizzeria. See pictures and full reviews here.

Restaurant Forecast

marketshare2014logospromoNRN reports the “fast-casual segment will continue to be the disruptive force it has been for years to both quick service and casual dining,” in 2014. A recent survey of the market, provides conditions are deemed, “favorable for opportunistic brands in categories awash with independent concepts, such as pizza, coffee and tea, doughnuts, and bakery sandwiches…”. Expectations for stealing market share in these areas are qualified as positive.

Ways to Trim the Fat

Who isn’t looking for new ways to be fiscally responsible this year? Chefs often use small box and portion control programs to help reduce costs and manage their cash flow. One option that’s often overlooked 190A tenderloin optionsare steak-ready primal cuts.

When you buy steak-ready primal cuts, you can get the benefits of paying a lower price per pound compared to portion control steaks and chops, without the hidden food costs from waste generated working with whole primal cuts. Read more on our blog: How to Slim Down Your Food Costs in the New Year.

It’s Baa-aack

2014RestaurantWeekRestaurant Week grows to a full two weeks this year, up from 10 days last year. (Hashtag: CRW.) 286 restaurants served over 513,000 diners at last year’s event which produced $26.9 million in spending. The First Bites Bash will once again kick off the 14 day event, on Thursday, January 23rd at Union Station, hosted by Executive Chef, Paul Kahan.

Find the current list of participating restaurants at and buy tickets to the charity driven First Bites Bash at Eventbrite.


In case you missed it – here’s the first “official day” listing of the year. Our favorite is this Sunday: Fruitcake Toss Day. January 12th is also Marzipan Day. Is it just our imagination, or is that redundant?

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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One way to Slim Down Your Food Costs in the New Year

January marks the advent of personal resolve to shed pounds and live healthier.  For many restaurants, it also marks the start of new fiscal resolutions to cut costs, grow sales and reap higher profits.

Small box and portion control programs can help restaurants reduce costs and better manage their cash flow. One option that often goes unnoticed is steak-ready primal cuts.

189AAvoid Hidden Food Costs

People often purchase whole primal cuts of boxed beef or pork and break them down in-house to menu sized portions because they cost less per pound compared to purchasing portion control steaks or chops. For example, a whole beef tenderloin may cost between $9-$12/lb compared to $18-$24/lb for a portion cut tenderloin filet. Buying the whole beef tenderloin saves you money, right?  Well, that depends. It’s all about the finished good yield.

If you’re serving 100% of that whole tenderloin as a filet on your menu, then one could argue money is being saved. However, you’d be doing so at the expense of quality and customer satisfaction because there is a tremendous amount of fat and sinew in a whole tenderloin that your customers won’t enjoy eating. That goes for strip loins, rib eyes, pork loins, veal and lamb loins too.

In reality, if you trim off anything you won’t be serving, you will end up paying more than you thought. Many restaurants either throw the trimmings in the trash, or use them for making other items like ground beef, which they could have purchased for less than $4/lb. This is where hidden costs exist and are most often ignored in food cost accounting.

Hybrid Cost Saving Solution

190AFor those who want to purchase whole primal cuts and cut their own steaks or chops, a hybrid cost saving solution is to purchase steak-ready or chop-ready primal cuts. The most common steak-ready primal cuts are:


  • Tenderloin
  • Strip Loin
  • Rib Eye
  • Top Sirloin
  • Outer Skirt Steak
  • Flank Steak

When you buy steak-ready primal cuts, you will get the benefits of paying a lower price per pound compared to portion control steaks and chops, without the hidden food costs from waste generated working with whole primal cuts. You can also better manage your cash flow by purchasing only the quantities you need versus having to make larger cash outlays for master cases of boxed meats.

Enjoy the benefits of steak-ready primal cuts:

  • No Waste – Cut your own steaks without the yield loss.  You have the flexibility of cutting to any portion sizes you need for your menu quickly and easily without the waste and cost of inedible fat and sinew.
  • No Hidden Costs – You will eliminate the hidden costs incurred from buying whole boxed primal cuts.
  • No By-Products – You can purchase the by-products you would have generated from your supplier at a lower cost per pound: Ground Beef, Stew Meat and Fajita Meat.
  • Roast Ready – Steak-Ready primal cuts can also be roasted whole and carved tableside. This gives you more options and more flexibility for your dollar.
  • Less Cash Outlay – You can purchase just the quantities you need versus incurring the spend for whole master cases of boxed primal cuts. This can mean as much as an 85% reduction in cash outflows for meats  for your business.
  • Quicker Inventory Turns –  You may buy quantities as needed on a just-in-time basis reducing your inventory carrying costs.

Do the Math

Take a look at the following example of how the buying options for tenderloin can play out:


Key Terms To Know
As Purchased Cost:Total cost per pound of the product purchased.
Purge: Unusable, inedible materials, blood and the plastic packaging.
Yield: Amount of acceptable edible portions produced; measured by the pound.
Edible Portion: Total pounds of product that can be eaten.
Edible Portion Cost: The actual cost per edible portion.

Purchase Whole Boxed Beef Tenderloin
6# Tenderloin Purchased Cost…$11.50 lb.
Average Purge Loss 2% = 98% Yield
Actual Purchase Cost/lb before cutting: $11.50 ÷ 98% = $11.73 lb.

$11.73 lb ÷ 63% Average Yield = $18.62 lb.
37% Waste Yields 3.78# Edible Portion

Steak Ready Tenderloin: 3.78# x $18.62/lb = $70.38

Steak-Ready Beef Tenderloin
3.78# Steak-Ready Tenderloin As Purchased Cost…$18.05 lb.
No Purge Loss
Actual Purchase Cost/lb before cutting Steak-Ready Price…$18.05 lb.
No Waste 100% Yield 3.78# Edible Portion

3.78# x $18.05/lb = $68.23   3% Food Cost Savings versus Option A 

190A tenderloin options This comparative example does not take into account the excess time, labor, and inconsistencies which can incur when you opt to trim whole boxed beef primal cuts in-house which can add to your total costs.  Plug your own tenderloin prices into the formula. The methodology used above for beef tenderloin can also be applied to other cuts of beef, pork, veal and lamb.

Wrap Up

Part of our job at Buedel Fine Meats is helping our customers find the best ways to trim costs and sustain quality. If one of your goals for the new year is to cut costs and drive more profit into your business, find your hidden food costs and free up cash flow by taking a closer look into steak or chop ready primal cuts.

We wish you a very Healthy & Prosperous New Year!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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