This is my first blog attempt, so I hope this will be one of many useful postings for you as I share my vast knowledge of the the meat business.
I have spent over 35 years in the the foodservice business starting as a dishwasher at the Harbor House in Annapolis in high school back in 1976. Then I worked my way up the ladder to attending The Culinary Institue of America in Hyde Park, New York (CIA), graduating in1980.
Soon after the CIA, I realized nights, weekends and holidays for a young man wasn't going to cut it for me (pardon the pun) so I landed a sales position in a restaurant distribution business selling to high-end steakhouses, country clubs, and hotels in Washington and N. Virginia. Not wanting to be left speechless during a sales call, I strove to learn all I could about what I was selling, especially since I was meeting with Executive Chefs and owners of restaurants like Blackies House of Beef and Sam and Harry's in DC. I stayed late after work and spent many hours in the meat cutting rooms asking questions and eventually had some hands on practice.
I still ask questions, never stop. Now I'm the owner and have a responsibilty to my valued customers to give out the right information. Being honest about what we have to offer is priority one to me at My Butcher and More. I'm a "go to" person for fresh meat information. Do I know everything? NO. Can I offer good advice about grilling? YES.
This first blog entry is about choosing the best cuts - what to look for in both the best quality and the worst.
Beef for Consumption (steer) vs. Dairy cattle (cow).
1. Steers are raised from birth to slaughter for consumption only.
A . The fat is very white in color, the muscle (red portion) is pink to light red, and the steak or chop is stocky in width hand length.
B. A natural beef flavor exists and the texture should be free of grainy, stringy or chewy bites.
C. A steer is a naturally stocky animal that is fattened for consumption.
2. Diary Cattle (cow)
A. The fat is less white to yellow in color, the muscle is most times darker red to almost light purple, and the steak or chop is long and narrow. If you have every seen a dairy cow, you'll notice it's narrow in width and its belly hangs low. That's from the years of milking. These cows are milked out then fed grain to fatten for consumption. The USDA can grade this inferior product as USDA Prime or Choice if it meets the criteria of the marbling (fleck of fat) score in the muscle (red meat) that is required to authenticate the proper grade standards.
B. The flavor is grassy with texture being grainy, stringy and sometimes chewy. "You can put a fur coat on a cow but it's still a cow!"
A. Look carefully at what you're buying. Many of my customers tell me most of the pork and chicken sold in your average grocery stores are marinated or pumped with a sodium solution. This is done to give the product a longer shelf life, add flavor and or make it tender. So in turn you're getting a lesser quality product that's been adulterated to make better profits. I recommend you shop at a health-conscious store like My Butcher and More or another locally owned small business who cares about their valued customer's health.
B. What is a USDA Grade? It's a requirement by the US Department of Agriculture to hold the farmers accountable for marketing their product for its true value for quality.
Top Grade to the Lowest sold in grocery stores and butcher shops:
USDA Prime - USDA Choice - USDA Select.
Other grades lower than USDA Select go into TV dinners, canned products, and pet food.
Next week's blog will be about tips for grilling middle meats (higher end cuts) and outside meats (economy cuts).
Email me with any of your questions at email@example.com.
Until next week - happy eating!