The Answer to How Safe is Your Ground Beef? is VERY!

Much is a buzz over the Consumer Reports article How Safe is Your Beef? where 300 samples of retail ground were analyzed for bacteria between grass and grain fed beef highlighting best results as “sustainable” beef.

When a CBS Morning News anchor asked Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D. & Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety & Sustainability at Consumer Reports, “Shouldn’t we suspect some bacteria in any beef?”, her answer was all telling, “Absolutely”. So, what’s the beef with ground?

Buedel Fine MeatsPictured above: Three different headlines tell the same story. Kudos to CBS News (center) for taking the high road!

Getting the Facts Straight

Let’s get one thing straight: all raw meat has bacteria on it. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) documents the following:

1. Some of that bacteria [found in the report] such as certain types of Enterococci, are not pathogens and are actually beneficial like probiotics in yogurt. Clostridium perfringens and Staphylococcus aureus are typically associated with time and temperature abuse of cooked products and generally come from contamination after food is handled. All bacteria, antibiotic resistant or not, are killed with proper cooking to the recommended temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. The bacteria identified in the Consumer Reports testing is not the bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and generic E. coli are commonly found in the environment and are not pathogenic bacteria, meaning they do not cause foodborne illness. The primary pathogens of concern in raw ground beef are Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). These are not mentioned or reported in their findings.

3. The number one industry priority is producing the safest meat and poultry possible. This is done by focusing attention on bacteria which are most likely to make people sick, particularly E. coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. It is telling that Consumer Reports did not highlight finding these bacteria on products they tested as a strong indication of the overall safety of beef.

It’s also important to note Consumer Reports did not approach the industry for scientific data on the subject material nor make their data available to the industry for evaluation.

Safety in Numbers

Rangan went on to say, “The question here is, can we get it better?”

NAMI says the Consumer Reports data is staggeringly inconsistent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) data which shows that E. coli O157:H7 occurs at a rate of less than one tenth of one percent in ground beef products. This has been reduced 93 percent since 2000.

You’d think a 90+ percentage improvement rate should be something to talk about. But the report makes no mention of that, or the highly regulated nature of the industry when it comes to food safety to begin with.

Federal compliance via on site inspectors takes place daily in meat plants to ensure food safety rules and technologies used to destroy bacteria are all in place and working. Some companies, like Buedel, also add a third layer of independent audits to their safety protocols.

Between regulating agencies and the industry itself, what kind of ‘better’ is Ms. Rangan really angling for here?

Cause Reporting

Throughout the news segment, Rangan compared each study finding between conventional beef [grain fed] and non-conventional beef [“sustainable, organic, natural and grass-fed”] to demonstrate conventional beef always had more bacteria.

NAMI also points out the use of, “Organic, Natural and Grass-fed are marketing terms that are not an accurate indicator of either sustainability or safety. All beef production models can be sustainable. The path to more sustainable beef is to ensure that every beef producer is utilizing the resources available in their part of the country to the best of their ability – whether grass, grain or other locally-produced renewable feeds like distillers grains.”

A quick visit to the Consumer Reports Facebook page reveals an ulterior agenda:

Buedel Fine MeatsFor those of you who aren’t familiar, Consumers Union (CU), is the non-profit “policy and action division” of Consumer Reports – a magazine published by Consumers Union. CU describes themselves as, “an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.

Herein lies a huge problem for readers today, when cause masquerades as media.

To be an ‘expert’ in anything you need to have a deep command of the knowledge base on all fronts. This article is filled with quotes from Consumer Reports own department heads, Grass-fed cattle farmers, and an epidemiologist from the CDC.

There were no quotes from actual food scientists (federal or corporate) nor grain fed cattle farmers, food retailers, industry media, leaders, professional groups and the like. Talking to the Department of Agriculture should have been a slam dunk at the very least.

There is also no mention of the politically based Facebook post in the online published article either. Other than this social nudge: We urge you to #BuyBetterBeef and continue the conversation with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine.

Wrap Up

If you’re still not sure whether How Safe is Your Ground Beef? is a valued news or views piece, perhaps their article disclaimer will help:

Editor’s Note: Funding for this project was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Any views expressed are those of Consumer Reports and its policy and advocacy arm, Consumers Union and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The takeaway on this is threefold: 1) Food safety is alive and well in the beef industry. 2) Always cook your beef to 160°. 3) Beware of expert media crusading cause.

Additional Reads & Resources

https://www.meatinstitute.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/106823/pid/106823

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/data-collection-and-reports/microbiology/ec/e-coli-o157h7-year-to-date/ecoli-o157-raw-beef-testing-data-ytd

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/news-releases-statements-transcripts

http://meatmythcrushers.com/myths/myth-grass-fed-beef-is-safer-than-corn-fed-beef.php

http://meatmythcrushers.com/myths/myth-superbugs-are-on-most-meat-and-poultry.php

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8 More Beef Cuts Make the AHA Grade

Heart Check MarkBIG NEWS – eight more fresh beef cuts have passed the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart-Check test!

Meeting the AHA’s criteria for heart-healthy foods as “part of an overall healthy dietary pattern” is no small task. Given the fact the news broke during National Heart Month, it couldn’t have been better timed.

What does it take to get a lean stamp of approval?

The criteria used for heart-healthy consideration is based on science evaluations of nutritional requirements, values, and dietary recommendations. Here’s a look at the AHA guidelines set forth for lean meat:

Total Fat: Less than 5 g (also per 100 g*)

Saturated Fat: Less than 2 g (also per 100 g*)

Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.

Cholesterol: Less than 95 mg (also per 100 g*)

Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category:  up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*.  (See Sodium Limits by Category for details.)

Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring or historically fortified): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)

lean burgersThe latest cuts to make the grade are all considered “extra lean beef options”:

Extra Lean Ground Beef (96% Lean, 4% Fat)

Bottom Round Steak (USDA Select Grade)

Sirloin Tip Steak (USDA Select Grade)

Boneless Top Sirloin Petite Roast (USDA Select Grade)

Top Sirloin Strips (USDA Select Grade)

Top Sirloin Filet (USDA Select Grade)

Top Sirloin Kabob (USDA Select Grade)

Center Cut Boneless Top Sirloin Steak (USDA Select Grade)

What does this mean for you?

Creating a dining experience that encourages your customers to perceive your food as healthy is vital to your success in today’s market. –Alan Philips, QSR Magazine

Retail studies show the use of AHA Heart Check labels on qualifying meats and poultry items boost sales on average by 5%. Restaurants and hospitality who embrace health marketing strategies may want to add this to their mix.

grass fed steakMeat as a legitimate healthy dining option has enjoyed a boost in recent years too. Food Nazis were more than rattled last year when The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet hit the New York Times Bestseller List and won numerous awards.

According to the NRA, over 70% of adults are trying to eat healthier at restaurants more now than ever before. Incorporating heart-check appropriate notes on the menu could be a great way to enhance your healthy marketing options further.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 12.16.14

The Dawn of New Trends

L20 foodIf you haven’t heard about L20’s “reconcept” yet, check out Chicago Eater’s summative. The famed LEYE Michelin-starred seafood restaurant will close at the end of the year for redesign and reopen next February as Intro.

What makes this particular restaurant close so newsworthy is its next-gen objective: rotating chefs. When Intro opens next year, Rich Mellman, the undisputable Godfather of restaurant entrepreneurialism, will have created one of the freshest concepts to hit the Chicago market in recent years.

“Visiting” chefs will work two to three month stints at the new restaurant. The goal is to bring in top talent who operate at the executive chef level, but don’t have ownership. As Mellman described to Crain’s, “We’re going to introduce some of the bright young chefs in the country to Chicago and introduce chefs to a balanced way to think about business.”

Intro will also be the first LEY restaurant to embrace Tock, the cutting edge restaurant ticketing software developed by Restaurateur, Nick Kokonas of Alinea/Next/Aviary fame. LEY plans to “…initially sell pre-paid tickets, like Next and Alinea, costing between $65 and $95 per dinner, excluding taxes, gratuity and beverages.”

Mellman’s concept has all the makings of a home run if all pans out as expected – LEYE partners will have the opportunity to test new concepts and personnel, up and coming chefs will get the educational and exposure opportunity of a lifetime and customers will delight in a consistent flow of new offerings. The Intro stage is set for an ultimate Win-Win-Win.

It’s All Relativehandshake

In a recent Restaurant News post on How To Create Successful Relationships with Your Food Suppliers, buyers sound off on purchasing relationships.

One restaurant operator describes the procurement relationship “like a marriage” where there’s, “love, hate and everything between”. Another says that just shopping prices aren’t the way to succeed, “…building relationships with suppliers is crucial. If they’re not completely on your side, your product is affected.”

If you look up “relativity”, their sentiments make perfect sense: the state of being dependent for existence on or determined in nature, value or quality by relation to something else.

Limiting the number of suppliers you use, maintaining open communication and negotiable product pricing, are some of the top suggestions offered for building profitable, long-term and trustworthy relationships with your suppliers.

Social Outlooks

social graphicIt’s tough to keep up with the pace of digital media; frequency, relevancy and technology can quickly drive any business owner to drink!

True to the pace, social media marketers are consistently challenged by new tech and rapidly changing media platforms. For example, you can (finally) edit captions on Instagram and Twitter now offers the capability of being able to search every public tweet made since the platform’s inception in 2006 –that one, could be scary.

For more updates on these platforms and others (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+), read the Trib’s recent social media outlook post.

P.S. If the thought of dealing with all this “social stuff” stresses you out, check out this Forbes piece on How Successful People Handle Stress – great tips for getting through the holiday season too!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Life After BBQ Pitmasters | Robby Royal’s Secret Sauce for Success

What do professional Pitmasters have for Holiday dinners? At Robby Royal’s house, they smoke a turkey and “do a ham” on Thanksgiving to go along with cornbread, dressing, deviled eggs, gravy, butter beans and sweet corn. “I inject it [the turkey] with creole seasoning and smoke it ‘low ‘n slow’ overnight at 225,” attests Royal. “On Christmas, we usually grill steaks, prime rib roast, or fry fish.”

Royal says they grill year round. His wife Stephanie cooks at least twice a week on their Green Mountain Smoker or Holland [gas-burning] Grill – even when it’s “32”, which Royal notes is cold for them in Georgia.

12.4BigPigJigRescue Ratings

The Rescue Smokers competition team has racked up 89 1st Place rankings over the last five years among countless other wins. Since claiming the Season 5 BBQ Pitmasters title last June, Royal and his partner, Raymond Poor, have met with unexpected notoriety and new opportunities.

At a recent Georgia “cook” a 9-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl from Tampa made a beeline for the team’s trailer to meet the guys who won BBQ Pitmasters. A Dad from Lakeland, Florida, drove his kids, 10 and 13-year-old junior barbeque competitors, up north to shadow the team for a weekend. Surprised but delighted by the unexpected attention, Robby is quick to point out the kids on Junior BBQ teams absolutely “know what they are doing. They are great young Pitmasters,” he subscribes.

While there aren’t many junior level competitions (yet), Robby likes the idea of kids cooking outside versus being glued to “indoor technology” for hours on end. “I grew up around the grill – grew up hand-churning ice cream – we were outside all the time. Kids need to get out again!”

Royal has three grown daughters, 22, 25 and 26, and two granddaughters, ages, 5 and 7; Poor has two children, ages 14 and 19. Both men feel very fortunate to have “great wives” who support the competition lifestyle. Royal says his granddaughters are starting to show participatory interest, (and possibly a son-in-law), but is quick to warn, “when you start cooking 28-30 times a year, you may want to back off, so you can keep it fun.”

New Avenues

Outside of the competition circuit, the team is busy “ tweaking flavor profiles” for their own bottled sauce slated to come out next year in four varieties: Original, Sweet Heat, Mustard and Vinegar. Royal says the mustard sauce is inspired by his partner’s restaurant chicken dish. “Ray’s restaurant is doing very well – we have seen a wider variety of people coming in [since their TV win]. There’re only 9,500 people in our county, but Ray has lots of great reviews on Yelp from people travelling through!”

Royal and Poor also created a weekend barbeque school model to help others develop competitive skills. They had their first session last September, where they talked about the quality of rubs, sauces, and meats, demonstrated a variety of tried and true techniques and cooked eight different products over the course of the weekend.

CookingClass“We can cut the 3-4 year learning curve it normally takes to be competitive and potentially save people 30-40 thousand dollars in the process. Every competition you go to, costs – you pay for travel, entry fees, ingredients, etc. So you’re investing about $1,000 on average every time you go to a competition.”

Poor and Royal have spent as much as $10,000 on one competition – something he says they didn’t realize would be quite that expensive until they were fully committed to it.

They hope to offer the weekend session two to three times a year, and are looking to do the next class sometime in the Spring. Royal says they couldn’t do it without the help of Butcher BBQ, Stub’s BBQ, Swamp Boys, and others, who sent samples of their products to use for their first session. “They’re all great; we help each other.”

Helping others is what “it’s all about” according to Robby. “If we can help someone else get in the top 10, or get a win. To see folks get their first call, see them walk the stage for the first time… it’s about wanting to win, but also being happy for others.”

Strategic Differences

Royal feels the biggest difference for him between backyard and competitive cooks is that he isn’t necessarily cooking what he likes to eat in competition. “Judges lean toward the sweeter side. I put Montreal steak seasoning on my ribs and a little bit of butter – I want to taste the meat.”

When it comes to Dry Ribs, Royal claims they don’t compete well. “Judges are trained for sauce – they’re judging for flavor – even if they know that’s not what they want, they’re judging what’s in front of them.”

On the subject of sauce, Robby offers the main difference between tomato, mustard and vinegar based sauces is strictly, “100% regional. It boils down to what you were brought up on. We do sweet/vinegar sauce. The Carolinas and Virginia are going to be vinegar; in South Carolina and Kentucky they like mustard based sauces.”

RS TENTRobby professes if he and Ray had cooked just for Myron [Mixon aka The Winningest Man in BBQ] they wouldn’t have won. They tried to cook with a more Mid-Western flair (Kansas City, Iowa, Colorado) to appeal to Tuffy’s and Moe’s backgrounds because they needed to consistently win over two of the three judges on the show. Their “secret sauce” was strategy.

Wrap Up

Would they want to do Pitmasters again? Royal says he’d love the opportunity and would like to see an all stars version of the show. “If they call, we’d absolutely go!”

The team will always do their home cook, the Big Pig Jig, which they’ve won before, in addition to an annual KCB event in the area Royal currently organizes. He doesn’t think they’ll quit, but may scale back. He forecasts they’ll probably do 8-10 events next year, but quickly hedges over the fact there are 15 to 20 events in Georgia they still haven’t done.

Robby feels he and Ray have been very blessed. They are extremely appreciative of the support they have from friends, family and sponsors. He feels strongly about being proud of others and enjoying seeing them be happy.

“There are a lot of Pitmasters that love to see people do well and others that don’t like to see others win. We shake everyone’s hand even when we’re bummed we didn’t win. Be proud of others and enjoy yourself seeing other folks happy!”

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Why is it so hard to cut a thick steak these days?

With the bumper corn crop this year and record high cattle prices, feedlot operators are bulking up cattle to make more money. Great for them – not so much for restaurants.

buedel website steakWhile menu trends have “beefed up” in recent years, ‘bulking up’ makes it tough for restaurants that want nice thick steaks on plates while adhering to portion control sizes.

It’s important to know that restaurants don’t always have unilateral control over how thick steaks can be when cutting to a specific portion weight. This leaves many chefs wondering, Why can’t I get thicker cuts of my favorite rib eyes or strips in the portion sizes I want?

The Dilemma

Heavier cattle, also means larger muscles. Rib Eyes, for example, are commonly running over 16 pounds in size when in years past the average was 12 to 13 pounds. At the same time restaurants like to plate nice thick steaks, usually 1.5″ or thicker while keeping to the portion control weight that best controls their food costs.

The increased average size of cattle makes it harder and harder for restaurants to get the portion size they want in conjunction with the thickness they want. The dilemma leaves many to choose between serving thicker steaks that are higher in portion weight, or properly portion weighted steaks that end up very thin and wide making for a less than desirable plate presentation.

Why Size Matters

Let’s say your goal is to serve a 1.5” thick 14 oz portion cut steak. The size of the loin that you start with will largely determine if both your goals can be met.

14oz CutLineImagine you have two whole rib eye loins. One loin is smaller; one loin is larger. As you can see from the picture above, your cut line will be in a different place depending on the size of the loin to achieve a 14 oz portion. Consequently, the larger loin will yield a much thinner 14 oz steak, and the smaller loin will yield a much thicker 14 oz steak.

Price Buyers Beware

The obvious solution would be then to purchase smaller size loins, right? Technically yes, but smaller size loins, or “downs” as we call them in the meat industry, are getting harder to come by and thus, usually carry a higher price.

Price shoppers who buy the lowest cost boxed beef to cut their own steaks will likely be getting random sized loins. Lowest priced commodity boxed beef often comes with higher loin weights from the larger loins of heavier cattle as opposed to lighter loins harvested in years past.

The problem steakhouses then have in offering smaller (lower ounce) sized steaks like Rib Eyes and NY Strips, is that smaller sizes would look like pancakes on the plate because the muscles are so large. People are accustomed to large, thick and juicy steaks –thin cuts are just less impressive on the plate. Steakhouses would be embarrassed to serve steaks in this fashion.

Alternative Solutions

Hand Selecting

If you’re cutting your own steaks and want thicker steaks without giving away portion control, request that your meat supplier hand select lighter loins or pick lighter master case weights to fill your boxed beef orders.

RibEyeWhile hand selecting is sometimes impossible with large broad line distributors, specialized meat purveyors like Buedel Fine Meats can usually accommodate such requests. This helps you deal with the problem before your meat comes in the door.

You can also achieve a nice balance between price, steak thickness and lighter portion weights by being a bit creative with your trim specification and merchandising on your menu. Try using the Boston Cut.

Boston Cuts

You can take a large loin size, say 15+ lbs, and cut it in half lengthwise making two 7.5 lb pieces. From each half then you can cut a thick small portion weight steak.

Boston CutWe call them “Boston Cuts” and they make a beautiful plate presentation for smaller ounce steaks. Boston Cut steaks are becoming more popular for a la carte menus and banquets.

These cuts are trending now for several reasons. Diet conscious people who prefer eating in moderation can still enjoy a smaller portion size with the luxury of a hearty looking delicious steak. Chefs can enjoy consistent sizes and cooking times while having a more attractive way to serve smaller portion sized steaks.

Boston Cuts of Rib Eye and Sirloin Strip are also great alternatives to higher priced tenderloin filets for banquet menus and split plates.

ABF Natural Beef

Another way to battle record high beef prices is to retreat from commodity cattle weights – specifically those getting heavier due to the increased use of added growth hormones, antibiotics and beta-agonists in the feed. Consider purchasing beef that was raised without added growth hormones or antibiotics.

True All Natural Beef such as, Niman Ranch and Creekstone Farms Premium Angus, which come from cattle raised without added growth hormones or administered antibiotics and tend to be smaller in size.

Don’t be fooled by the USDA’s generic definition of “natural” [a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed] either. Pretty much all conventional beef fit this description today. Rather, look for brands that publish their handling protocols which specifically state never-ever policies.

The nation’s low cattle supply will portend the current state of all time high beef prices a few more years before things return to normal. Or, perhaps what is happening today may indeed be the new normal. The good news is, you do have options to get the thicker steaks you want.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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It’s Okay to Chew the Fat!

BigFatSurprise2Have you heard about “The Big Fat Surprise” yet? It’s a new book which takes to task over a half century’s worth of bad fat rap.

Pursuant to nine years of trailing the research and conducting expert interviews, author Nina Teicholz’s challenging revelations on Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet is rattling the cage of many a diet guru and medical pundit.

Good Fat/Bad Fat

An independent investigative journalist, Teicholz relentlessly pursued a tedious journey of facts and fiction which began with a post-World War II rise in heart disease in America. Triggered in part by President Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack, a WSJ review recounts Teicholz’s tracking of (government backed and tainted) clinical study results which were irrevocably embraced by the media and echoed forward by food manufacturers.

Teicholz describes the trail of historical data as “the blood sport of nutrition science” suggesting that decades of scientists would use extreme measures to shield their findings over contradictory others. Some of Teicholz’s provocative conclusions include:

* The health benefits of eating red meat high in saturated fat outweigh the benefits of eating lean red meat with less saturated fat.

* Red Meat is the only food which improves good HDL cholesterol levels

* Diets which are void of the saturated fats in meat, eggs and dairy have ultimately increased carbohydrate consumption thus contributing to diabetes and obesity

As you can imagine, contemporary proponents of cardiovascular health are quick to contradict. In a CNN interview, Doc du Jour, Dean Ornish, professes, “If you eat a diet that is high in animal protein, your risk of dying from everything goes up considerably. If you eat a plant-based diet, which is naturally low in fats and refined carbs, a whole foods plant-based diet, the disease risk decreases.”

Industry pub, Meating Place, notes that Teichholz’s book comes at a time when the 2015 issue of the DGA (Dietary Guidelines for Americans) is looming in the wings. Interestingly enough, no less than 20 government agencies (see the full list here) legislate and rely upon the DGA.

The odds of reversing current DGA guidelines from low intake of saturated fat echoed further (and lower) by the American Heart Association by next January are pretty slim.

Food for Thought

Ornish also says Teicholz’s book is “dangerous” because it tells “people what they want to hear.” And there’s the AMEN moment –who doesn’t want to eat bacon with great abandon?

You can’t help but wonder if the Atkins Diet wasn’t closer to the mark than decades of critics would have us think. Everyone I’ve ever known who tries it loses weight quickly—but as soon as they stop “doing Atkins,” they gain it all back.

Where swapping out sugar for fat may be a great accelerant for weight loss, it still always comes down to balance. Low fat, doesn’t mean no fat, and bacon, will always rule!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience | Part II

TASTESFLAVORSIn Part 1 of our article, we examined what factors affect the way we perceive the taste and flavor of beef. (Remember, flavor is the quality of something you can taste.) We also talked about how beef with higher marbling (intramuscular fat) usually wins the taste test.

There are certain cuts of beef which may be more marbled than others and/or more tender. There are also ways of adding more flavor to beef with Marinades, Rubs and Brines and also increase tenderness.

Adding More Flavor

Marinade is a seasoned liquid that adds flavor and in some cases increases tenderness. Less tender beef cuts, such as several from the chuck, round, flank and skirt, benefit from a marinade with tenderizing ingredients such as food acids or enzymes combined with a long marinating time of 6 to 24 hours.

Tender beef cuts are marinated only to add flavor and, therefore, require short marinate times – 15 minutes to 2 hours. Less acidic marinade ingredients should be used since their tenderizing effects are not required.

Acidic marinade ingredients Marinadeinclude citrus juices, vinegar, vinaigrettes, salsa, yogurt and wine. Fresh ginger, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and figs, also contain natural tenderizing enzymes.

A highly acidic marinade can actually toughen meat fibers similar to overcooking.

Rubs are dry or paste-type seasoning mixtures used for flavoring applied to the surfaces of roasts, steaks and ground beef patties just prior to cooking, they often form a delicious crust during cooking.

Dry rubs consist of herbs, spices and other seasonings that are pressed onto the beef’s surface. Paste-type rubs are spread over the beef and use small amounts of wet ingredients, such as oil, crushed garlic, mustard, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, to bind the dry seasonings.

Cures & Brines rely on salt mixtures/solutions. For dry cures, salt and sodium nitrate are applied directly to the beef’s surface. Beef is also cured by immersing it in pickling or brining solutions that may or may not contain nitrates.

Originally developed as a form of meat preservation, these methods are mainly used to produce distinctive flavors, such as in corned beef and pastrami today.

Flavor Pairings

When beef is paired with two or more uEpic Burgermami tastes, it creates an explosion of savory, delicious flavors in your mouth.

Popular umami accoutrements to beef are aged cheeses, bacon, barbeque sauce, mushrooms, garlic, onions, red wine, soy sauce, and tomatoes.  Burgers are highly indicative of this practice – cheese and bacon are among the most preferred toppers today. (Pictured above left: Epic Burger)

Less Than Perfect Flavors

There may be times when you experience less than desirable beef flavor. Some of the terms I’ve heard used to describe this are, “livery”, “irony” and “warmed over”. Here are some tips on what you can do to avoid these situations.

Livery Flavor in beef is a complex occurrence without one clear cause, but there are ways to minimize livery flavors. 1. Red blood cells contain iron which has notes of liver flavor. A proper purge of blood during processing will help remedy the situation. 2. Avoid too much aging. Beef does become more flavorful and tender with age, but too much age can also cause a liver flavor. One reason may be that fat oxidizes during the aging process and the affects of oxidation appear to accentuate the liver flavor. If possible, avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness.

Irony Flavor or a Metallic mouth feel or iron taste is attributed to high myoglobin and hemoglobin contents which release iron during cooking. This off-flavor may be reduced by cooking beef to a lower degree of doneness.

takeoutcontainerWarmed Over Flavor occurs from reheating previously cooked meat. (Like when you reheat that doggie bagged steak in the microwave from last night’s dinner.) This undesirable flavor is caused by cooking to a high degree of doneness, improper storage, microbial contamination and exposure of cooked meat to oxygen. Consider having leftovers cold in sandwiches or salads to help minimize the problem.

Flavor Wrap

The taste of beef can be enhanced. Here are our top five flavor tips for getting the most out of your next meal:

1. Choose higher grades of beef, USDA Prime or USDA Choice, that have more marbling  (the marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade)

2. Opt for Properly Aged beef – anywhere between 14-28 days depending on the cut

3. Keep your beef properly chilled under 40°F until cooking and avoid freezing/thawing

4. Avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness and reheating

5. Experiment with complimentary umami flavors to create a flavor explosion.

Enjoy the taste of beef and savor the flavor!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

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How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience | Part I

CreekstoneBeeffiletThe words taste and flavor are commonly used interchangeably to describe eating sensation but in reality they are very different. Appearance, smell, and personal judgment can also affect our beef experience. (Pictured right: Creekstone Farms Filet.)

Triggers & Sensations

If you were in grade school before the late 1990’s, you learned about the basic taste receptors on your tongue for sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In the late 1990’s a fifth taste receptor was confirmed as umami which is the way our body interprets and senses protein or savory taste.

Receptors on our tongue send signals to our brains when we experience certain tastes. The ability to detect these five tastes is instrumental to our decision making. We may decide something is too bitter, or nicely sweet, and then decide to keep eating it or to avoid it in the future.

How our innate survival instinct relates to our taste sensors directing us towards certain foods and away from others is further important. For example, sweet indicates energy-giving carbohydrates; sour indicates potential danger from spoilage; bitter indicates potential toxins.

Flavor is the quality UmamiTongueof something you can taste. It is the combination of the taste, plus the other sensations that influence our perception of food, such as aroma, texture, juiciness, color and feel in your mouth.

People sometimes use words such as, rich, buttery, silky, pungent and earthy, when describing something they eat or drink. When doing so, they are actually speaking of flavor. You may have used the term “off-flavor” when something didn’t taste quite right. That’s because the combination of taste and the other influences were not what you expected or experienced before.

Beef + Fat = Flavor

Beef without fat lacks flavor. Fat imparts juiciness and flavor in beef but all fat with meat is not equal. There are three types of fat in meat:

  • Subcutaneous or External fat that covers the outside of a carcass
  • Seam or Intermuscular fat that runs between muscles
  • Marbling or Intramuscular fat that is found within muscles

Marbling is the visible flecks of fat within muscles that are directly related to the flavor and juiciness of cooked beef. Marbling affects flavor in two ways. First, fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) experience chemical changes during cooking and produce potent flavor compounds. Second, fat acts as a container for aromatic compounds that are released during cooking. Many beef flavor components are found in these aromatic compounds.

There are ten degrees BeefFlavorBlogof marbling USDA graders use for evaluation, from Very Abundant to Practically Devoid. The marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade.   USDA Prime has the most abundant marbling, USDA Select has the least marbling and USDA Choice is right in the middle.

Part 1 Wrap Up

Our eating and flavor preferences can be altered by the ways we see, smell, taste and even think about foods. In a study conducted by the University of Nebraska, consumer opinion was put to the test with steak:

70% of respondents visually preferred low marbled steaks, but high marbled steaks were rated juicier, more flavorful and taste acceptable.

What’s most interesting about this result is the inertia between a visual and actual taste. By sight, lower marbled steaks may have been perceived as the better alternative, but it was the flavor profile of higher marbled steak that won out.

From a market perspective, grain fed beef tends to have more marbling whereas grass fed beef tends to have less marbling. Consequently the flavor of the beef is quite different.

Read on: How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience Part II 

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook 

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Why Relationships Build Value

By Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA, ACE

True story.

A professional contact of mine wanted to educate his staff on beef primals – where the cuts come off the animal. He went to his purchasing department to get the cuts of beef he needed to do a class, and they told him, “you can’t get that.” Still, he urged them to try; they did and the big purveyors said, “There’s no SKU for that.”

Case closed, right? Not so fast.

Determined to make this happe3-28Food For Thought  Meat 101 Trainingn, the Chef called me to ask if I knew anyone who could help. I immediately thought of John (Cecala). My contact was ecstatic and ultimately decided to have Buedel Fine Meats do the training for his staff.

The Big Guys love to say, I don’t have a SKU # for that. Every time I call John, he can get it done. (Pictured above, the primal training John Cecala led for Chef Reed’s contact.)

Building Value

What I love about this culinary tale is that it demonstrates the power of relationships. My contact thought well enough of me to seek help, I thought well enough of John for resolve.

This is what networking does. It also helps those who don’t get out from behind the desk – they’re used to people coming to their back door, but they don’t know people like John or me.

If you ask John why Buedel provides free personalized trainings and presentations, he’ll tell you it’s because they value “long term mutually beneficial relationships over individual sales transactions.”

Being able to call on someone at any time for help, makes relationships priceless. Many sales people (and Big Guys) don’t get that – they just sell, sell, sell.

Relationship Laggards

When you can go to a professional resource and say, ‘Here’s what I need to find out – do you have any info that you’re willing to share to help me with this problem?’, it’s absolutely empowering. Unfortunately, 25-35 year old decision makers in the current marketplace, tend to reign on the laggard side of networked relationships, knee deep in an old school/new school conundrJohnandJohnatWindyCityAnnualGala downsizedum. (Pictured Left: Chef Reed and John Cecala at the annual ACF Windy City Culinarian’s gala.)

Gen X and Millenials grew up being pounded with information. They surf smart phones and tablets for answers – they have hundreds of articles (and photos) at their fingertips. Access is quick, but no one actually knows how to process the information.

You can watch umpteen videos, but it won’t unleash the skills needed to execute. Things may look easy to assimilate, but until you actually experience use, there’s no intuitive or emotional tie. The same holds true for connecting with investors, buying equipment, choosing suppliers, etc. – when the humanistic piece is missing, you miss out.

18 years ago, I was part of an educational discussion on providing online culinary degrees. As you can imagine, there was great debate about the pros and cons of doing so. Ultimately, seeing how someone works in the kitchen was just too high a value stake to dismiss – you have to be able to quantify certification and expertise.

Anybody can up open a hotdog hut and call themselves an Executive Chef or sell commodities with prime beef as quality service. Without the ability to verify and relate to professional expertise, we all miss out.

Wrap Up

johnreednewsletterThere’s (still) a whole generation of chefs out there who saw kids coming out of school who had to be there – be on the line and learn how to cook. Information was shared, and career building (and long term) relationships were made.

Ultimately, when you want to bring someone or something to the next level in your business, you may call your client or boss and tell them, ‘We need to bring so ‘n so in …’. Ideally, your relationships will do the same in return.

Professionals learn how to walk before they run, bounce ideas off others, share new discoveries and provide help whenever possible. It is unfortunate that societal trends are diminishing the types of professional models that inspire value relationships.

Chef Reed is the current president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) local chapter, Windy City Professional Culinarians, in Chicago and the President of Customized Culinary Solutions.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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On the Cutting Edge of Culinary Ed with EHS

100_0282Last month, the 13th annual Illinois ProStart® Invitational, was hosted by the Illinois Restaurant Association at Kendall College. High school teams from across the state competed for culinary and hospitality management titles. It was also the second year in a row the Elgin High School Culinary Team won the management part of the competition.

What is Pro Start?

ProStart® is an educational foundation program of the National Restaurant Association. It is a two-year curriculum plan that combines classroom learning and real-life experience aimed to skill build, develop talent and spur future restaurant and foodservice leaders. Over 90,000 students from 1,700 high schools in 47 states currently participate in the program, including students from U.S. Military bases and in Guam.

One of the core elements to this program is its working relationship between industry and education.  It is the hands on support from restaurant and hospitality professionals, food service companies, suppliers and state level restaurant associations in tandem with educators that provide this recipe for success.

IMG_3578The Hospitality Management part of the competition consists of developing a restaurant concept from scratch. Students analyze local demographics, develop marketing initiatives, design interiors, create menus and literally everything else that goes into launching and operating a restaurant. They have to prepare a 10 minute presentation for culinary teachers and professional chefs and field questions from the judging authorities.

The culinary part of the competition is equally challenging. Student teams have one hour to produce a three course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for two, using only two portable camping oven/burners.

The Proof is in the Pudding

We asked the winning Elgin High School (EHS) team what they thought about the experience and knowledge they’ve gained from participating in their school’s culinary program and competitions. The team of four seniors had much to say – get ready, their enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring.

DSC04268Yahaira Bonilla told us she learned how to work as a team and develop speaking skills because they had to present in front of teachers and professional chefs. She also learned how to use more computer skills and do a PowerPoint presentation. “I can take this somewhere – doing this made me think of going for culinary or hospitality management in college – it has kind of guided me. ”

Bonilla is also in the culinary program and feels the “hands on experience” has really helped her.  “We have catering events outside of school and do a restaurant at school once a week.”

Louis Maldonado says he was “up and down” about getting involved because of the commitment level.  “There are a lot of practices, and I took Food 1,2,3,4 [classes]. Ms. Leider gave me the opportunity to go to competitions, and it helped me. There is a lot of writing and thinking. I was introduced to the President of Rosati’s Pizza last year at the competition, and she gave me a summer job – ProStart® really helps. It’s great to see this industry; I am going into theIMG_3649 hospitality side.”

Eduardo Rios says the program and competition experience made him put his English and school skills to the test. “It made things interesting for me. Running a restaurant has been so interesting – it made me think, ‘What are my opportunities in the future?’ Culinary Arts or Restaurant Management is what I think I want to do. With hospitality, I serve people and make people them happy – that is one of the most attractive things.”

Colin Flanagan echoed his teammates’ sentiments on learning and opportunity. “In the classroom we learn about food safety, how to cook things properly and what goes on in the background of a restaurant. I have friends that think this program is amazing because it gets you ready for college – they don’t have these kinds of classes at their schools. A lot of kids would just like to learn some basic cooking skills too.”

Learning from Those that Do

Equally refreshing, is the pride and positive energy the team’s teacher, Ann Leider, has for the program and her students. “We teach them all aspects of what goes into it and how to be successful in the industry,” she described. “They are exposed to all culinary – to its math, food costs, preparation, how to treat customers, front of house, back of house, safety, sanitation, how to keep employees happy …”.

100_0222If it sounds like Leider genuinely knows what she’s talking about, she does – Ann is also a culinary professional. She began working in restaurants as a young teen, earned her degree in hospitality,  worked as a line cook, prep cook, café manager, and in catering and event planning.

Five years ago she was offered the opportunity to take over the program. “I am certified to teach hospitality,” she explained, “my certificate is based off my industry experience.” Leider is also taking  classes at night to expand the status of her expertise.

Ann says she does the competitions “because it’s beneficial to the students.” She lets the student team set the hours and how much they want to practice. Her current team was dedicated to 3-4 hours after school and 8 hours on Saturdays.

In addition to the competitions, ProStart® also provides access to scholarships and job shadows. “We’ve done all day job shadows at TGI Fridays, Morton’s, Chili’s and Key Lime Cove.” Leider says a lot schools don’t have catering or hosting elements to their programs, curricula she’s equally proud of.

DSC04208How does the Elgin in-school restaurant work? “Our culinary classroom is the restaurant.” On Thursdays, the students spend the last 3 periods of the day flipping their classroom into a full serve restaurant, The Clumsy Chef. This week’s entrée of the day was Baked Tilapia Veracruz with Cilantro Lime Rice. Patrons can dine in or carry out.

School events and meThisWeek'sMenuetings also take place at the Clumsy Chef and catering is available: We cater anything from small box lunch meetings to continental breakfast for 100! Let us know your needs and budget, and we can work together to come up with the best options for you.

The culinary students rely on support from the faculty, student and parent populations for their restaurant and, successfully so as the Clumsy Chef is self-sustaining.

Community Outreach

Leider’s culinary teams have consistently placed in the top three statewide positions, in one or both categories, over the last four years – for as long as they have been competing. That’s a remarkable track record, to say the least.

100_0272This May, the EHS team, will be competing at the National ProStart Invitational® in Minneapolis. Last year, the EHS team, placed 10th at nationals in Baltimore. Funds are currently being raised to send the team to this year’s national competition with proper supplies, uniforms and equipment.

Cash, gift cards and other items are needed for raffle fund raising efforts. Large donations will be recognized on the team’s competition shirts by company logo. (Buedel is helping the team out this year with a donation of steak gift boxes for their silent auction.) If you would like to lend support to the students, please contact Ann Leider (soon!) by phone at 630-400-4064 or by email: AnnLeider@u-46.org.

Good luck EHS!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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