Meat Merchandising │Next & Best Outlooks with Catie Beauchamp

The daughter of a hog farmer, Catie Beauchamp says she always knew she wanted to be in “AG” when she grew up. Today she is the VP of Technical Services at Colorado Premium, with a Ph.D. in Meat Safety & Quality.

Beauchamp’s3.18CPstaffpic (2) command of the beef production chain is highly astute, which includes, animal transport, harvest, carcass chilling, fabrication, grinding and storage. Her expertise in food technologies and safety is rivaled only by a laser focused passion for creating the best products for her customers.

How did you actually get into the “meat business”?

I knew I always wanted to be involved with agriculture, but on the nutrition side, which is what I started with in college. Then along the way, you meet people – in food microbiology and food production. That is how I came to do my graduate work in food science, meat science, and meat microbiology.

What do your days look like now?

From a departmental perspective, we do quality assurance, food safety, regulatory compliance, tech support for customers and R&D. We work in a high energy environment. When I started at CP [six years ago] we had 80-100 people and one production facility. Now we have three production facilities and two storage facilities. At any given time we have 30 projects in process. Our rate of commercialization is about 50% – it’s incredible!

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite area would be R&D. It’s fun to look into the future. You’re getting constant challenges, and when you resolve it, it’s a win. I love to create new products.

How do you do that with meat?

What we’re dealing with is an animal is that’s getting bigger and bigger. We have to address: How do we cut that? How should we process that? What do we need to do to have a good plate experience? You have to look at different cuts of meat in the carcass. There are other things we can use for things you wouldn’t expect.

For example, thin meats [flan3.19 CP Antimicrobial Interventionks, inside and outside skirts] are expensive, yet popular – but there’s only so much to be had because it’s such a small portion of the carcass. We can create new thin meats from other muscles that can mimic traditional thin meats. Skirts are expensive because they are in high demand and come from the small portion of the carcass. (Pictured Above: Antimicrobial Intervention Cabinet at one of Colorado Premium’s production facilities.)

Is it possible to come up with new steak cuts – like the Vegas Steak?

Yes, and no. The muscles without a lot of defects are pretty well known, but there should be a couple more ‘Vegas Steaks’ possible.

The combinations of muscles are standard in the Meat Buying Guide, but for a Packer to create a whole new SKU, break the muscles differently, etc., there has to be a market for it. You need to be able to merchandise all of it, plus find new ways to produce value.

From a steak perspective, the new novel items are going to have to be addressed in ways they haven’t been before, we need to look at fabricating. In addition to proper aging, tenderizing and injections, we’re going to have to look outside the box for processing.

Injection is a hot trend, how does that work from a production standpoint?

We marinate a lot of products, whether it’s tumble margination or injection. We do it for retail and food service. From a retail perspective, we provide products that are cook ready. From a food service perspective, we’re giving a little bit of insurance to meat drying out when cooked, especially for less than prime products.

How many speci3.19 PORK ROAST 2 - CITRUS HERBal service requests are you getting?

It depends on what market sector you’re talking about. In food service, restaurant groups are constantly reinventing themselves to stay competitive, usually on an annual basis. We work with a lot of up and coming concepts; our food service customers want to be on top of what’s new and available. (Pictured Left: Citrus Herb Pork Roast exclusively developed for a private label customer.)

In retail, the Millennials have impacted our business in a big way – they want clean labels, have more adventurous palettes, etc. Low sodium, clean labels and animal handling are key issues.

What is your definition of a ‘clean label’?

There are two sides to that question; one is the actual protein product itself. A portion of the population is interested in the use of antibiotics in animal feeding, etc. However, that’s still at a niche level and cost is also prohibitive for a lot of consumers.

The second part speaks to an ingredient perspective: people want to see things familiar to them on a retail package. (Food service is now adopting to that too.) Some ingredients are preservatives, some are for shelf life, but there’s also antimicrobials that ensure safety. Helping our customer base understand the purpose of antimicrobials is important to food safety.

What are your expectations on cattle supply?

As we start increasing the cattle supply we’ll be looking at something different – you still have areas in your prime states that don’t have water, plus other weather interferences that occur. There are people being weeded out of production groups that may never come back.

It’s very hard to project what volumes we’re going to have. The historical trends, peaks, and valleys can be thrown off trend, even when supply and demand are better. When consumers are paying higher prices, we need to produce healthy and affordable proteins. We have to get really good at how we merchandise beef.

Contact Buedel Meat Up || Website LinkedIn Twitter  Facebook  Slideshare YouTube

PDF Printer    Send article as PDF   

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

PDF    Send article as PDF   

Are You Ready for Chinese Chicken?

Coming to your table soon; processed chicken from China.Thanks to a recent USDA Department of Agriculture ruling, poultry processed in China, can now be sold in the United States. chickennuggets

Remember the Avian influenza H5N1, aka “Bird Flu” – that highly pathogenic virus that first infected humans during a poultry outbreak in China? A new strain of bird flu, H7N9, from chicken flocks, infected humans this year and has already killed 45 people. It started in …You guessed it, China. 

Next question: Why would the USDA Department of Agriculture allow processed chicken from China into the United States?  

How It Evolved

In one word: politics. If we want access to Chinese markets, we need to grant China access to ours. 

The U.S. last year exported $354.1 million worth of poultry products to China, representing about 7 percent of total U.S. poultry exports, according to Census Bureau data. This granted access stems from a 2004 request from China to the USDA to audit its processing plants so poultry could be exported to the United States.   

Pursuant to five years of audits, Congress lifted the ban on processed poultry from China in 2009, on the basis that China’s facilities were equivalent to those in the U.S. Over the next four years, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) worked with China, to certify their food safety inspection system for processed poultry met the United States standard for equivalency.

Under the terms of the tradBirdFluOutbreakShanghaie agreement, the imported processed chicken from China must be fully cooked to an internal temperature of 165.2°F prior to export and processed only from chickens slaughtered in the U.S. or Canada and exported to China for processing.  No chickens raised or slaughtered in China are eligible for export to the United States. The USDA would also conduct border inspections and China’s processing facilities would be audited annually.

What You Don’t Know, Can Hurt You

You probably won’t know if you’re eating cooked chicken products that came from China such as chicken wings, chicken nuggets, or chicken noodle soup because currently, processed foods do not require Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). 

Country of Origin Labeling is a labeling law that requires retailers notify their customers with information on the label regarding the source of certain foods. Under the current law, where chicken is concerned, only raw muscle cuts and ground chicken are included. 

In our global economy, U.S. poultry companies enjoy access to the Chinese market. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. broiler chicken product exports in 2010 were 6.8 billion pounds, worth $3.1 billion, about 18% of all U.S. production. About $680 million went to China. Of course, China expects reciprocation – but at what cost?  

Since 2007, we have seen from China: tainted baby formula, evidence of melamine in pet food and eggs, and, shrimp, catfish and carp with illegal antibiotics and chemicals. This year, 580 dogs in the U.S. have died after eating chicken jerky treats made in China.

Wrap Up

Is the USDA’s newest ruling BuedelLocalLogoTMthe first step in opening the door for China to export Chinese raised poultry to the United States? Given China’s food safety track record, that’s the fear of many, including Food & Water Watch, a non-profit organization that works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced.

The good news is the Local, Natural & Sustainable movement continues to gain momentum within our domestic food industry. Expect more and more consumers to support its growth.

Related Reading: Sustainable Agriculture: The Short Course   What Makes Meat Natural?  Why Local is Hot   How To Buy Local   Antibiotics & Pork Production

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

PDF Download    Send article as PDF   

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:                                            http://blog.highplainsbison.com/categories                                         http://www.bisonbasics.com/recipes/recipelist.html  http://tenderbison.ndnatural.com/Nutrition.aspx

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 info@buedelfinemeats.com.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Free PDF    Send article as PDF   

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.  

Feedlot

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

PDF Creator    Send article as PDF   

Antibiotics & Pork Production

antibiotics-for-agricultureLast week news broke on China’s pending acquisition of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. The United States pork industry harvests slightly over 100 million pigs annually, about 59 pounds per capita in pork consumption. Smithfield produces about 26 million pigs per year, over 20% of the U.S. total harvest. China’s pork industry consumes over 700 million pigs annually, about 80 pounds per capita in pork consumption.

More than 700,000 tons of pork are imported to China per year to keep up with its growing demand. The billion+ Chinese population has an insatiable appetite for pork, so much so it was announced last week that a meat company in China is willing to pay $4.7 billion for Smithfield Foods. Though Smithfield already exports to China, the acquirer will likely increase pork production volumes to help secure the food supply.

Antibiotics manufacturers may be the most happy about the acquisition because 80% of the antibiotics manufactured are used on livestock and China uses four times the amount of veterinary antibiotics than the United States.   

The Evolution of Antibiotics in Production

The discovery of antibiotics by Sir Alexander Fleming in the late 1920’s transformed medicine and changed the world in remarkable ways. Fleming’s discovery ultimately became Penicillin, the antibiotic that saved lives by curing bacterial infections. It was mass produced during World War II for therapeutic use to treat our troops and became known as “The Wonder Drug” in medicine. Medical scientists continued research, and the 1940’s discovered other naturally occurring antibiotics such as Tetracycline could be used therapeutically to cure infection.

In the late 1940’s, the poultry industry discovered that feeding the fermentation byproducts of Tetracycline antibiotics to chickens improved their growth – thus began the “sub therapeutic” use of antibiotics: purposely adding low levels of antibiotics as growth promoters to increase yield. 

The U.S. post World War II economic boom brought about industrial farming. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) were built to mass produce chicken and pork. Smithfield Foods operates Concentrated Animal Fecafoeding Operations (CAFOs) to mass produce pork.

CAFOs house thousands of animals confined in pens where they are mass fed to fatten them up as quickly as possible. Pigs are crammed into giant buildings in stalls so small they can’t turn around. Unable to express their natural behavior in these stalls, their muscles become weak. Pigs’ immune systems in these overpopulated environments are so weakened that disease and infection spread rapidly amongst them.

The sub therapeutic use of antibiotics in CAFOs serves a dual purpose: Accelerating animal growth and staving off the increased propensity for disease and infection. This type of antibiotic administration in low doses also facilitates the rapid evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Some bacteria develop mutations that make them immune to the same drugs meant to kill them.  

An example of this type of mutation is MRSA ST398, a potentially deadly form of MRSA that has jumped from farm animals to humans. This strain has developed resistance to modern drugs while living in farm animals reared with antibiotics.  It has now leapt back from the farm animals to people and is resistant to common antibiotic drugs used to treat MRSA. 

This strain, sometimes called pig MRSA, has been detected in 47% of the meat samples in the U.S. across pigs, turkeys, cattle, and other livestock. A study published in 2011 by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGRI) showed that MRSA was finding its way into our meats. Researchers analyzed 136 samples of beef, poultry and pork from 36 supermarkets in California, Illinois, Florida, Arizona and Washington, D.C. Nearly one-quarter of the samples tested positive for MRSA. TGRI’s Dr. Paul Keim cautions, “It is our inappropriate use of antibiotics that is now coming back to haunt us.”

The overuse of sub therapeutic antibiotics also causes concern for drug residues that leach into our food supply. These residues can cause an allergic reaction and promote resistant strains of bacteria in our bodies. 

Antibiotic Manufacturers

Drug companies continually work to develop new antibiotics to kill new strains of bacteria such as pig MRSA that become immune to the previous antibiotic meant to kill them. That means big money for the drug manufacturers when a new drug is developed and approved for sale. It is also important to note there are no legal limitations in place policing the amount of antibiotics given to animals.  Eli Lilly’s Elanco Animal Health unit is one of the leading producers of medicated feed additives and represented nearly one-tenth of the company’s $22.6 billion in revenues in 2012.

China’s acquisition of Smithfield Foods may bring even more substantial money for drug companies. The Smithfield acquisition portends to increase their pork production, and that means more CAFOs to produce more pigs. More CAFOs means more pigs and more antibiotic purchase orders. This stands to reason why the drug companies may be the most happy about China’s acquisition of Smithfield Foods.

Antibiotic Free Pork

Buyers who want to avoid pork raised with antibiotics need to gain a clear understanding of label jargon and USDA guidelines. One term that often causes confusion is the word “Natural”. The USDA’s definition of Natural is:

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).

The USDA approved use of Natural on the label does not speak to the exclusion of administered antibiotics. An example of this can be found on the label of Smithfield All Natural Fresh Pork: Product of the USA; No added steroids or hormones; No artificial ingredients or preservatives; USDA Process Verified.

Smithfield’s claims for its All Natural Fresh Pork is void of key claims such as “raised without antibiotics”, or “never administered antibiotics”, but does include “no artificial ingredients” as required by the USDA guidelines. It is also important to note that “hormones” by law, are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry! Producers will often add such jargon to make their products appear better wherever possible.

For those interested in a finely defined natural product that is, in fact, free of antibiotics there are stricter label definitions. Highly defined all Natural meats usually come with one or more of the following package statements: Never Administered Antibiotics; Raised Without Antibiotics, and when applicable, Raised Without Added Hormones. Products with these highly defined claims on their labels confirm that the animals were never administered antibiotics or growth hormones to accelerate weight gain and speed to market during their lifetime.

Look for companies like Niman Ranch who prohibit the use of antibiotics and CAFOs in their hog raising protocols, which they make common public knowledge. For more resources, check our complete line of antibiotic free meats.

Sources used:

http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Antibiotic_Use_for_Farm_Animals

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-antibiotics-residue-20130526,0,4432412.story

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0530-china-food-20130530,0,7044429.story

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/02/11/chinas-overuse-of-antibiotics-in-livestock-may-threaten-human-health

http://books.google.com/books?id=OIwNri9k3vgC&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=tetracycline+fermentation+byproducts&source=bl&ots=FEsPKhSkLk&sig=zXKmP7o19r7__4-Y_Q6571zLFXk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9QuqUfGGLqi7ywHw74HoAQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=tetracycline%20fermentation%20byproducts&f=false

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/02/11/chinas-overuse-of-antibiotics-in-livestock-may-threaten-human-health

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/science/drug-proof-pig-mrsa-makes-leap-736987

http://www.choicesmagazine.org/2003-3/2003-3-01.pdf

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine MeatsFacebook  Buedel Fan Page 

Create PDF    Send article as PDF   

Hashtag NRA Show

There’s something special about the #NRAShow [National Restaurant Association Show]. Billed as an “international foodservice marketplace”, the NRA Show is big news to a lot of people, perhaps because nearly one in 10 American workers are employed in the restaurant industry – ‘big’, to say the least. More than 60,000 buyers and suppliers are expected to attend the four day event at McCormick Plachydroponic_image_250pxe beginning this Saturday, May 18th.

There will be loads of educational sessions, guest speakers, (Starbuck’s CEO, Howard Schultz, will be doing the keynote), celebrity chefs, and numerous special exhibits such as a “fully functioning hydroponic garden that will grow local, all-natural, pesticide-free produce – on the show floor”. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a water and mineral nutrient solution without soil.

Show Local Supportshowbooth - small

We are equally excited to be an exhibitor at the show again this year. In the meat industry this year’s hottest trends are: gourmet burgers, grass fed beef and local.

The definitions of “local” and “sustainable” are changing rapidly and expanding beyond environmental concerns as the marketplace responds to consumer interest for healthier eating, humane animal treatment and better food quality. ‘Local’ points to these issues and more – food safety, family farmers and sustainable agriculture – to name a few.

BuedelLocalLogoTMOur company is a family owned business and in honor of all local and family owned businesses we are launching a new program in show of support at the NRA Show. (Please feel free to use our local logo to share in the cause!) We’ve also put together a great little cheat sheet on How to Buy Local explaining the basics of what to look for when buying local and sustainable foods. Stop by the Buedel booth at the show for more information, #7864!

Fun Foods

Part of the fun at the NRA Show is of course, the food. The exhibit halls are filled with new products to sample. Here are some of the new items we’ve put on our must see list:

Ditka Hot Beef Polish Sausage – an eight inch long, 1/3 lb. spicy sausage from Vienna Beef tditkasausagehat’s geared to be a “Grabowski” classic.

Upland Cress – just one of several specialty greens from family farmed and  sustainable, Living Water Farms in Strawn, Illinois.

tspwillieTeaspoon Willies Everything Sauce – a gourmet, all natural, organic tomato based sauce to be used as a staple condiment at every meal. (We have to try it, just because of the name!)

Grandpa G’s Jalapeno Butter Mustard – noted as a “relish”, Grandpa G’s has  ProductLarge4981.jpgfresh grated jalapenos mixed in with sugar tangy mustard. 

All Butter Croissant Roll Round – round shaped croissants for sandwiches; great idea!

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page 

PDF Printer    Send article as PDF   

Embrace Trends for the Win-Win-Win

What could be more exciting than bringing a new brand of healthy burgers to the grocery checkout line? Nothing (in our humble book of meat feats)!  Breaking ground in new markets is always an exciting thing, especially when it helps bring notoriety to your own city.

Here’s the breaking news:

Local Meat Men Lasso East Coast
Healthy burgers on their way to Mid Atlantic & Southeast by way of Chicago

Local Meat Companies Tallgrass Beef and Buedel Fine Meats have teamed up to design and deliver a healthier burger alternative for supermarket giant Delhaize America. Over 1,000 stores across the Mid Atlantic and Southeast region will receive first shipments this week at Delhaize Food Lion, Hannaford and Sweetbay locations.

Delhaize is a global retailer with a company-wide initiative in place for sustainable business and healthy eating. They decided to partner with Tallgrass Beef to develop a burger made from, “100% grass-fed beef with no additives or imitation ingredients to deliver and educate customers on the best and most healthy options in the marketplace.”

Anytime “better choices” are brought to the marketplace it’s a good thing for consumers, and in this case, better for health, local, sustainability and the humane treatment of animals. “The new product line,” offers Tallgrass President, Bill Kurtis, “also provides Delhaize customers with the ability to show support for animals raised naturally void of added hormones and antibiotics.”

The appetite for healthy, local and sustainable foods is strong and growing. In an article published by the University of Chicago’s Environment, Agriculture & Food blog, the interest in knowing where our food comes from and the humane treatment of animals is becoming increasingly important not only to consumers but to restaurants and chefs as well.

Delhaize says they believe, “Tallgrass Burgers gives a healthy and amazing tasting product that people can feed their families while knowing without a doubt that they are buying the safest, healthiest and most nutritious beef possible!” Partnering with Tallgrass makes perfect sense for Delhaize; it also demonstrates the need for our industry to be proactive in meeting the demand for these types of food options.

The working relationship between Tallgrass, as meat provider and Buedel as purveyor and distributor on this project, exemplifies how our industry can come together in the ways we bring beef to market. When you factor in the opportunity to build Chicago as an emerging go to resource for healthy beef choices, it’s a win-win-win for the city, economy and consumers.

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page 

PDF    Send article as PDF   

Helping Change the Way We Eat at the Good Food Festival & Conference

I was honored to participate at the Good Food Festival & Conference (GFFC) in Chicago late last week. The annual event is organized by Family Farmed.org under the leadership of Jim Slama, the organization’s president and local food movement passionate.

The Family Farmed mission is to expand the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of our communities. Having healthy good food produced as close to home as possible by family farmers and producers that use sustainable, humane and fair practices is a core objective.

The GFFC provides a platform to link local farmers and family-owned producers of food and farm products with the public, trade buyers and industry leaders to foster relationships and facilitate growth of local food systems. Unlike traditional food shows, Good Food is geared to connect the often disparate functions of food finance, policy, education and farming.

Good Food Finance

Day One of the GFFC is dedicated to the business side of food production at the Financing Conference. National and regional leaders in farming, food production and finance provide education and help create channels for small farms and local businesses to access capital for financing growth.

One of the educational presentations given this year was by Erin Guyer of Whole Foods Market. Guyer talked about the company’s $8 million social investment program providing low interest loans to small-scale and start-up food producers for expansion. Local businesses also learned about financing options such as Crowd Funding, the Chicago Community Loan Fund and First Farm Credit Services. Many attendees would not normally have the opportunity to learn about such things if not for the conference.

The second part of Day One is spent at the Good Food Financing Fair. Designed in a walk-around format, the fair provides a dynamic environment where farms and food businesses can meet one-on-one with investors, economic development specialists and other experts to develop relationships. Companies may also set up tables to showcase their products for investors to learn more. Contacts are made, and knowledge is shared in one convenient setting.

Good Food Symposium & Policy Summit

Day Two brings together national and local business leaders to share their experiences in taking the Good Food Movement to a higher level.

Major announcements were made last week by foodservice directors from the Chicago Public Schools, McCormick Place and Midway Airport on new commitments to purchase local food and anti-biotic free meat and poultry.

Recognition was also made for Good Food Business Leadership to Bob Scaman from Goodness Greeness for supporting local farmers and organic food. Farmer of the Year awards were given to farmers, Alex Needham and Alison Parker of Radical Rood Farm, and farm mentors, Matt and Peg Sheaffer of Sandhill Family Farms.

The quest to improve access for Chicago residents to culturally appropriate nutritionally sound and affordable food grown through environmentally sustainable ways is led by the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council.

Food policy focus was made on building urban farms and community food systems to use local food as an economic tool. Keynote speakers discussed methods to engage the community to improve healthy neighborhood food options. Ideally, if a local community can connect to the local Good Food Movement in an organized manner everyone benefits from the symbiotic relationship. The Policy Summit facilitates these connections and provides the tools to leverage them.

Good Food Trade Show

More than 300 local farmers, distributors and artisanal food producers exhibited at the Trade Show on the last two days of the festival. Sponsor support from Organic Valley, Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition  and others, helped promote the Good Food Community and provide a platform for food producers to present their products to trade buyers and other stakeholders.

Buedel Fine Meats partnered with sponsor/exhibitor Red Meat Market, an online/offline social marketplace where meat buyers easily source and order local sustainable meat in one place from multiple local providers. Red Meat showcases all natural, organic and grass-fed beef, pork and lamb products raised in SW Wisconsin and Northern Illinois from over 100 family farms.

We featured live butcher and cooking demos in our booth geared to show people how they can easily butcher and cook local meats for tasty and economical meals at home. Our line-up was extensive: Ben Harrison of Whole Foods Market showed how to breakdown a leg of lamb provided by local Slagel Family Farm, Chef Ryan Hutmacher of the Centered Chef  showed how to make delicious lamb kabob gyros on whole wheat pita, Buedel’s own “Pete the Butcher” (Peter Heflin) demonstrated how to breakdown grass fed beef tenderloin and roll & tie a grass fed beef rib roast provided by Red Meat Market, Chef Alex Lee showed how to cook a simple pan fry with a unique salsa verde and Joe Parajecki, head butcher at  Standard Market and award winning sausage maker, prepared a special St. Patrick’s Day sausage recipe.  (To say that we had a fun, and eventful food experience at our booth would be an understatement.)

Good Food Events & Workshops

The last day of the GFFC is traditionally filled with a plethora of knowledge workshops and events geared to public awareness. This year attendees could choose from adventures such as the, Urban & Vertical Farm Tours, Home Cheese Making and the Kimchi Challenge which pitted Chicago Chefs against one other in the art of fermentation. (Elizabeth David of Green Zebra is now the new champion.) Other local Chefs, such as, Rick Bayless (Xoxo, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo), Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) and Paul Virant (Perennial Virant, Vie) conducted cooking demonstrations pairing local farmers’ products with their own uniquely creative culinary skills.

The Good Food Festival & Conference started in 2004. Each year it grows larger as more of us take the time to understand where our food comes from and interest in supporting local communities.

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

PDF Download    Send article as PDF   

Beta Agonists: The Dummying Down of Commodity Beef?

Our nation’s cattle supply is at a 60 year low, yet we are producing more edible beef today than sixty years ago. U.S. cattle numbers in 1980 were 111 million head producing 21 billion pounds of beef. In 2011, U.S. cattle numbers were 92 million head producing over 26 billion pounds of beef.

How do you get 19% more beef with 18% less cattle?  

Advances in genetics for breeding animals with higher carcass weights can be attributed in part to this issue. However, most of the responsibility of the more beef from less cattle debate points toward the use of growth promoters, such as growth hormones or steroids used on cattle.

While consumer demand for “all natural” animal proteins (without added hormones or antibiotics) has dramatically increased over the last five years, over 30 FDA approved growth-promoting products are currently being used in livestock production. Of these, there is increasing use of a class of growth promoting agents called “beta agonists” that are neither growth hormones nor antibiotics.

Beta Agonists in Cattle Production

Originally developed for the treatment of asthma in humans (think about that a moment), beta agonists were first approved by the FDA for use in cattle ten years ago. They are a growth promoter which mimics the effect of naturally occurring hormones at the cellular level but do not affect the hormone status of the animal.

Beta agonists act as a repartitioning agent in livestock changing the metabolism of the animal by converting feed energy into muscle versus fat. Animals pack on the pounds in result – as much as 25-30% more lean mass than fat. The two most common beta agonists used on beef cattle are:

Optaflexx™ (ractopamine hyperchloride) and Zilmax™ (zilpaterol hydrochloride).

Cattle nearing maturity naturally begin to deposit additional fat and less muscle during the final days of the feeding period.

Cattle who are fed Zilmax™ or Optaflexx™ during the last 20-40 days of their finishing period, demonstrate a feed-to-gain ratio increase of 10-25%; their muscle gain increases while their fat deposition reduces at the same time.

In other words, these animals swell up fast with muscle versus fat. Their weight goes up, but the quality of the meat arguably goes down.

Good Beef Economics vs. Lower Beef Quality

Feedlot operators who use beta agonists in feed are able to produce more meat without more feed in less time. On average, 30+ extra pounds of meat per animal which translates to as much as $30 more per head when sold to beef packers. Higher production output in less time and at less expense drives the economy of scale.

Today’s major beef packers, Tyson, JBS, Cargill and National Beef, all accept cattle that are fed beta agonists. These companies supply about 85% of the commodity beef in the marketplace. They determine how much to pay for cattle based on factors such as cattle weight and fattiness. The more lean muscle versus fat, the more they will pay for an animal because that is where they can make the most money.

While beta agonists may be good for the economics of beef, many believe they are bad for the quality and flavor of beef. The most notable affects to quality being, marbling and loin size.

Marbling Cattle fed beta agonists generally produce more lean muscle but with less marbling, taste and juiciness. When there is more intramuscular marbling, the USDA grade is higher; the higher the USDA grade, the better the flavor, tenderness and eating experience.

Common use of beta agonists may result in the marginalization of beef into higher percentages of lower choice and select grades. This in turn, may drive up prices for desirable higher choice and prime grades that are preferred by fine restaurants and steak lovers.

Loin Size Most chefs and restaurateurs want to serve a nice thick juicy steak while at the same time using portion control to manage food costs. Bigger cattle have bigger muscles; bigger muscles give you thinner steaks with portion control cuts.

The average weights of middle meats, such as rib eyes, strip loins and short loins, have been increasing over the years. (You can get a thicker 16 oz. steak from lighter loin than from heavier loin.) When cattle are heavier, it becomes harder to find lighter sized loins in the commodity beef market. In this scenario consumers will pay more for smaller sized loins because they will be in less supply.

Are Beta Agonists Here to Stay?

The FDA approved the use of beta agonists in swine back in 1999, for cattle in 2003 and for turkeys in 2008. Unlike swine or poultry whose litters have short maturation periods, cows are only able to have one calf at a time over a nine month gestation time frame. It takes another two years then for that calf to reach maturity. Consequently, it takes a long time to build a herd of cattle.  The use of beta agonists accelerates beef production somewhat compensating for the natural slow growth time.

To date, there are over 160 countries including Russia, China and the European Union, which have banned ractopamine the active ingredient in Optaflexx™. There are 20+ other countries, such as Japan, South Korea and the United States, which continue the approved use of beta agonists.

Whether beta agonists are a better way to feed the masses or simply a vehicle for making more money with blander beef remains debatable. Consumer demand will ultimately decide the fate of the use of beta agonists in livestock. If demand for commodity beef remains constant or increases, the use of beta agonists are likely here to stay.

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

Free PDF    Send article as PDF   

Trend | Why Local is Hot

Local, Natural, Pasture Raised and Humane are some of the hottest buzz words used these days by the media, chefs, purveyors and consumers. Few discussions about healthy eating, the environment and social responsibility take place without them.

The team at Buedel Fine Meats & Provisions spends a lot of time discussing these trends with customers – local, natural, pasture raised and humane – they are all mutually exclusive topics which overlap. In a recent post, we wrote about What Makes Meat “Natural”?, but what does ‘Local’ mean when it comes to all foods?

Locality vs. Reality

Speaking in a geographical sense, there is no standard definition of local. Some define local as a food source within 250 miles of your proximity. Others say a local food source is within a day’s drive away, and yet other schools of thought say it depends on the types of food and that local can also be “regional” – like blueberries from Michigan to Chicago. This can get confusing, to say the least.

The whole notion of “local”, when it comes to food, in reality is more about healthy eating, supporting family farmers, sustainable agriculture, humane animal treatment, care for the environment, and fresher food, than it is about the exact distance from a food source to your door.

Historical Look

Part of the post World War II economic boom in our country was within agriculture. There was money to be made by feeding the masses with livestock and seed farmed commodities both domestically and overseas.

Large companies such as Cargill were out to feed the world and industrial farming grew at the expense of the independent family farmer. By the 1960’s the rural economy began struggling and many independents were losing their farms.

“The American farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything he buys at retail, sells everything he sells at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” – John F. Kennedy

The use of newly developed chemical pesticides, growth hormones and genetic modification science proliferated to increase yields and speed time to market and profit grew over time. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) were developed to bring more livestock to market faster in order to, quite literally, feed the demands for food and financial profits for commodities traders and industrial farming companies.

The by-products of these industrialized farming methods were water and air pollution. Inorganic fertilizers deteriorate soil, toxic ground water runoff affects rivers and lakes, increases in green-house gasses affect air quality and ozone.

Many of these issues are regulated much better today than they had been in the past, but still exist.

How Local Re-Evolved

In the mid 1980’s forward thinking food retailers like Whole Foods and Wild Oats Market began to emerge touting natural foods which were “better for you” and the environment.

Farmer’s Markets in urban areas soon began to grow in popularity where small farmers brought their harvest into urban communities for direct purchase by the consumer. Their food was produced naturally; it was fresher, better tasting, and healthier for consumers. The urban platform also provided an income for small farmers.

Today’s Local

Better food retailers have steadily increased consumer awareness of the benefits of natural foods and demand for them across the board.  Many consumers today are willing to pay higher prices for these foods because of the health and socioeconomic benefits attached to them.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2012 Survey, the top two hottest restaurant trends are: 1) Locally sourced meats and seafood. 2) Locally grown produce.

Why?

More of today’s consumers want to know where their food comes from and how healthy it is. Chefs and Restaurateurs want to meet the increasing demand for fresher and natural foods while supporting their local communities.

The locally sourced movement creates a symbiotic relationship between farmers, businesses and consumers, while helping the local economy and environment with transparency into the way the food was produced.

Local farmers that raise their crops without harmful toxins and practice livestock-pasture/seed-crop rotation each year are sustaining the environment. They have a market for their harvest with local buyers such as retailers, chef and restaurateurs.

Local retailers, chefs and restaurateurs get transparency from the local farmers into how these foods have been farmed. They purchase them for their freshness and healthfulness for the betterment of their local business thus helping the local Farmer and offering more to their customers.

Local consumers seeking the benefits of healthier, environmentally friendly food patronize these local retailers and restaurants helping the local businesses. It is through this continuing cycle of economics and demand where everyone benefits.

This is Local when it comes to food: Healthy Eating, Supporting Family Farmers, Sustainable Agriculture, Care for the Environment, Fresher food.

Local is Near and Far

Depending on where you live it may not be possible or desirable to have locally farmed foods. You may not find or desire locally farmed blueberries in Nebraska as much as you would in Michigan, nor seek or want locally farmed beef in Michigan as much as you would in Nebraska. However, in both cases you can support Family Farms and the ecosystem of local farming even though they may not be physically “local” to your own proximity.

For example, Niman Ranch, a cooperative of over 750 family farmers across the country, requires their family farmers to raise livestock without hormones or antibiotics using humane and sustainable farming practices. In return, Niman Ranch guarantees to purchase 100% of their herds allowing these small family farmers to maintain a living and preserve their farms for future generations.

Educated buyers understand the importance of local based alliances such as Niman. They get that while you may not be able to buy local lobster in Illinois, you can choose to purchase seafood from a purveyor who works with family fisheries.

By supporting “local” food producers we can enhance the social, economic and environmental interrelationships of a community. And that’s stellar.

___________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

PDF Creator    Send article as PDF   

Air Chilled Chicken: Taste Above the Rest

If you’ve yet to experience the rich flavor of tender Air Chilled Chicken, you’re missing out on the enjoyment of some the best tasting all natural chicken you’ll ever have.

Production 101

Chicken processed at a poultry plant are subject to USDA inspection, just like beef or pork, and temperature control is an important part of the process.

The temperature of chicken carcasses after processing is about 100°F. Per USDA regulations, the carcasses need to be quickly chilled to 40°F or less for four to six hours to prevent growth of bacteria that cause it to spoil.

The whole processed chicken carcasses are then aged under refrigerated conditions to allow muscle fibers to relax which helps make chicken become more tender.

Water Chilling

Most chicken processors in the U.S. use a process called water chilling to quickly cool down the chicken.

Post inspection, the chickens are immersed in an ice cold bath of water mixed with chlorine and remain there for about an hour. The water in the bath is continually refreshed and it takes an average of seven gallons of water to process each chicken.

A chicken can absorb as much as 12% of its weight in added moisture during the water chilling process.  This is why there is little sponge like pads in fresh chicken packages – they are put there to absorb leaky water.

Consumers ultimately pay for this extra water weight which evaporates during the cooking process.

Air Chilling

An alternative cool down process called Air Chilling, standard in Europe and other parts of the world for decades, is now gaining popularity in the U.S.

In Air Chilling, chickens are individually hung by their feet to a rail system which moves through refrigerated chambers to quickly cool them down with cold dry air. The chickens “ride the rails” for over two hours and tenderize during the process.

Cleaner, Better Taste

Prior to cooking, Air Chilled Chickens look different with a more matte appearance and tighter skin. They have a cleaner taste that people describe as, “tasting like the way chicken used to taste”.

Research shows that air chilling leads to a better quality of breast filet meat. “In addition to improving meat quality,” says Dr. Julie Northcutt of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, “air chilling [also] provided higher cooked-meat yields than immersion chilling. Color and texture of skinless breast fillets were similar for both chilling methods.”

Northcutt’s research team believes that the lower cooked yield of the immersion-chilled fillets is the result of high moisture absorption during chilling, which is later cooked out of the product.

Air Chilling also reduces the spread of bacteria because the chickens are separated from each other when hung on the rails. It is estimated that air chilling saves about 30,000 gallons of chlorinated water a day. Roughly, 4.5 billion gallons of water per year could be saved if all chickens processed in the USA were air chilled – a definite plus for the environment.

Where to Buy

There are only a small number of companies that produce Air Chilled Chicken today so it can be hard to find in some areas. Consumers can buy it at specialty grocers such as Whole Foods Market, and through select boutique internet retailers.

Buedel Fine Meats & Provisions serves the commercial markets with Bell and Evans Air Chilled Chicken. We choose to represent them because their poultry is superior in quality and because they raise their chickens humanely in minimal-stress environments without hormones or antibiotics. Bell and Evans also has one of the most sophisticated air chilling systems in the country.

According to the National Chicken Council, the average American eats more than 90 pounds of chicken a year, yet many of us have yet to experience the natural flavor of Air Chilled Chicken. Restaurants can merchandise Air Chilled Chicken as a premium menu item; it has a unique story that will upgrade your poultry offerings as well as your profits.

Differentiate yourself with Air Chilled Chicken.

___________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

Create PDF    Send article as PDF   

What’s Your Beef? | How to Combat the Rising Fallout Cost of Drought

Higher food prices are now predicted from a perfect storm of conditions due to this year’s drought. Recent accounts report there hasn’t been a drought as strong since the 1950’s. Now is the time to reflect upon your purchase strategy.

Trickle Down Affects

The corn and soy bean crops suffered severely from the drought driving up their prices. Higher feed prices mean higher costs to feed livestock forcing feed lots to push through animals faster. At the same time new cattle on feed is 19% lower than last year which means there will be less beef supply down the road.

The reduced corn and soy harvest will also affect the dairy, pork and poultry markets which also rely on these crops for feed. The USDA predicts food prices to rise by as much as 4% by the end of the year.

The Laws of Supply and Demand will also contribute to the situation. If demand remains steady [most likely, it will] or increases, higher food prices will result.

Go On the Offense

What can you do to combat higher prices when it comes to beef and pork? Here are some of our prime suggestions:

  • Lock-in current prices with your supplier. Commit your weekly volume to your supplier now and lock-in a price or, “not to exceed” price.

If your supplier knows your volume and has your commitment to purchase they can plan ahead for your needs. Having a predictable committed customer is a value to your supplier that helps them with their planning. For the operator, having a locked-in food cost allows you to lock-in your margins and menu prices.

  • If you can use frozen product, purchase a percentage of your forecasted volume now and freeze it. Today’s prices are hedge against higher future prices. Your frozen hedge can dollar cost average down your overall spend.
  • Take advantage of value cuts which you can offer on your menu at a lower price, yet deliver the same or higher margins for your operation. An example of these would be hanger steaks, bistro steaks and double bone pork chops.
  • Consider purchasing All Natural products such as Niman Ranch or Tallgrass Beef, which ride their own market for pricing and tend to be more price stable than the commodity market.

…and one more savings tip from our resident Chef, Russ Kramer:

One way to save and still keep product quality intact can be to do some portion size adjustments as a means of saving center of the plate cost. For example, by reducing the portion by 1 ounce from an item that costs $25.00 per lb, it will save them $1.56 in the plate cost. Slight specification adjustments can help save money as well.

Plan now. The best defense really is a good offense – even with meat!

___________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

PDF Printer    Send article as PDF   

Farm to Fork | One Part Food, Two Parts Community

Farm to Fork, (aka Farm to Table) is one of the hottest trends around. What makes this food movement so trés chic is its passionate attachment to community.

Rutgers defines Farm to Fork as a “community food system” in which:  food production, processing, distribution and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place.

One of the success leaders in Farm to Fork integration is the Niman Ranch. A network of over 700 independent farmers and ranchers, Niman members adhere to strict guidelines and quality standards set forth by their organized leadership and followed within each of their own communities.

The Niman Experience

Earlier this month, the Niman “Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner” was hosted by Paul Willis. Willis, who started the hog farming network in 1995 with Bill Niman, holds the annual event at his Iowa farm (Niman Ranch #1) to pay homage to hog farmers, promote industry awareness and raise money for agricultural education.

To date, more than $140,000 in scholarships has been awarded by the Niman “Next Generation Scholarship Fund” to rural students wishing to study sustainable and environmental practices.

Niman started the education fund in 2006 with the help of industry partners and supporters. Chipolte Mexican Grill, Whole Foods and Buedel Fine Meats, among other food vendors and purveyors, contributed to this year’s scholarship distributions.

Chefs from around the country also participate every year by donating their time and talents to creating incredible fresh harvest and pork rich meals throughout the weekend festivities.

Commitment Personified

Now in its 14th year, the annual event has become an industry poster child for Farm to Fork learning. Having personally attended the ‘Appreciation Dinner’ last year, I’ve seen firsthand how Niman Ranch farmers embody a Farm to Fork community. Several Buedel team members made the pilgrimage to Iowa this year and came back more than overwhelmed by the experience:

The dedication of the [farm] families was amazing – they all have the same ideology. We have never seen the type of passion these people have for what they do, from generation to generation. They told us, “We know we’re doing the right thing”. When you think about it, people want to do the right thing, and to be honest, factory farmers, just don’t express these types of sentiments simply because even if they wanted to, they can’t.

Farm to Fork is sustainability – ethical treatment of the land, animals and workers, profitability and community development. It is a working partnership of agricultural and food system practices.

___________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PDF    Send article as PDF   

What Makes Meat Natural?

Many consumers assume that when a meat label says “Natural”, it is better for you, better for the environment and that the animals involved were raised without growth hormones or antibiotics in their natural environments.  However this is not necessarily always the case.  Many national brands loosely use the term “Natural” on their products without any of the above attributes being met – and it is perfectly legal to do so.

The USDA provides clear and specific definitions for “Natural” and “Organic” product labeling. It is important to understand that foods which meet USDA organic certification are authorized to use the “USDA Organic” seal, which has the word ‘organic’ on it. “Natural” labeling requirements per the USDA are quite different.

What the USDA Means by Natural

The definition of “Natural” according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency responsible for ensuring truthfulness and accuracy in labeling of meat and poultry products is as follows:

NATURAL  A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means the product is processed in a manner which does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).

Food labeling can be ambiguous and tough to digest at times (pardon the pun). The easiest way to grasp a firm comprehension for industry terms is to connect the dots between definition and application.

The USDA definition of Natural for fresh meats, such as beef, pork, veal and lamb, means the meat is processed (harvested at the packing plant) without using food additives during processing such as: flavor enhancers, food colorings, binders, nitrites, phosphates, and the like.  Again: USDA Natural means that meat was harvested at a packaging plant without using food additives.

Fresh meat packing plants that harvest beef, pork, veal or lamb and fabricate them into sub primal cuts for retail and food service, do so without fundamentally altering the meat with artificial ingredients or added colorings – this is standard practice today.

Technically then, meat packers can label many of their brands Natural and many do. This is evidenced by the plethora of brand names in the market today making natural claims on their labels poised with pictures and stories of beautiful farms and green pastures making you feel warm and fuzzy about the product you’re purchasing.

What You Expect from Natural …is probably missing

The USDA’s definition of “Natural” does not speak to the exclusion of growth hormones and antibiotics, or humane animal treatment or sustainable farming practices. But that’s what most consumers, Restaurateurs and Chefs are looking for when they want truly “Natural” meats.

How to Find the Natural You (Really) Want

For those looking for a more complete natural product, there are stricter label definitions for “Natural”  to keep watch for. Highly defined all Natural meats usually come with one or more of the following package statements:

Never/Ever Growth Hormones or Antibiotics  Animals raised in this program were never, ever, given growth hormones to accelerate weight gain and speed to market, nor were the animals given antibiotics during their lifetime. These animals are raised on an all natural 100% vegetarian diet up to harvest.

Humanely Raised  Animals are raised outdoors in open pastures where they are free to roam with plenty of access to food and water.  As compared to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, “CAFOs”, where animals are raised in confined indoor industrial farming pens.

Sustainably Raised  These animals are raised in harmony with farming practices that preserve the land and water for future generations such as seasonal crop rotation and fewer animals per acre.  (The Chipolte restaurant chain presented an excellent illustration of sustainable practice in their last Super Bowl commercial.)

Quality, Cost & Satisfaction

One of the easiest ways to shop for high quality Natural meats is to become familiar with the brands which produce at this level.  Niman Ranch and Tallgrass Beef  are two industry leaders who employ the stricter definition of Natural. These types of brands do cost more than commodity meats and those brands claiming the lesser USDA definition of “Natural” on their label because it costs more to raise the animals these ways.

There is a growing trend for “Farm to Fork” foods and meats.  To make sure your values and needs are being met when choosing “Natural” meats, match your desires to the appropriate label definitions.

___________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

 

PDF Download    Send article as PDF   

Is 100 Percent Grass Fed Beef Better?

There’s a growing interest in 100% grass fed beef. Many believe it’s better for you, better for the environment, better for the animals and tastes the way beef was meant to taste.

Cattles’ stomachs are designed to eat forages such as grass and legumes. Farmers raising cattle for the beef industry supplement their diet with additional vegetarian feed such as barley, oats and grain (corn) to fatten them up faster than if they just remained on grass.

Cattle raised on grass only need a lot more land to feed on and take twice as long to finish than cattle supplemented with additional vegetarian feeds.  This makes grass fed beef more expensive to bring to market and increases the price to consumers.

Is grass fed worth it? Consider these facts from the Tallgrass Beef Company:

Better for you

More Vitamin A Is Better

Beta-Carotene is converted to Vitamin A (retinol) by the human body, and grass fed beef contains 10 times the Beta-Carotene of grain-fed beef. 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.

More Vitamin E Is Better

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 Right Balance of Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids Is Better

The ratio of Omega-3 fatty acids to Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet plays an important 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 one to four parts Omega-6 to one part Omega-3. However, the cereal grains typically fed to cattle have very low levels of Omega-3 and much higher levels of Omega-6. Feeding grass to cattle increases the Omega-3 content of the meat by 60% and produces a much more favorable Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio.

More Dietary Protein Is Better

Grass fed beef is leaner and higher in protein that grain-fed beef. In fact, grass fed beef 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.

Better for the Animals

Diet Is Better

Grass is the natural diet of cattle. Cattle raised on grass tend to be healthier because it is their natural food.  When cattle raised on grain ingest excessive quantities they can develop a digestive tract condition called acidosis, “grain overload”, where their natural pH is thrown off balance causing pain and reduced consumption. The animal must then be given antibiotics in order to prevent infection and death.

Life Is Better

Cattle raised on grass graze the prairie in communal groups, as cattle naturally do. The animals graze completely through one area before moving on to the next; this also helps improve the quality of the grass that grows back.

Better for the Environment

Farmers and ranchers of grass fed beef contribute daily to the reduction of carbonfootprint in our atmosphere through the simple process of growing grass. Grass removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and uses it to grow. The grass above ground is eaten by the cattle, but the CO2 used to grow the roots is held in the soil. This is called “carbon sequestration” and it is the process that produced, through the centuries, the deep, rich soil of the great American Grasslands.

The natural process of cattle grazing on open pasture can be used to clean carbon from the air released from fossil fuel burning, and put it back underground as part of the soil.

Better for Business

Restaurants that offer grass fed beef item(s) are able to appeal to health conscience customers. Promoting the health benefits of grass fed beef on menus provides the advantage of alternative choice. Restaurants who offer grass feed beef as a specialty item may also reap the benefits to be gained from higher menu margins.

Better for Taste?

This is the subjective part. “You are what you eat” as the saying goes and grass fed beef tastes different  than grain fed beef. Our palates are generally accustomed to the rich flavor of grain feed beef due to its higher marbling. Grass fed beef is less marbled and would be comparable to USDA Select grades of beef. The lower marbling levels of grass fed beef are offset by a unique and complex natural beef flavor.

When properly aged, grass feed beef is tender and delicious. Some say it is the way beef was meant to taste. Give grass fed beef a try and decide for yourself!

___________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

Free PDF    Send article as PDF