December 8, 2017 at 10:20 pm #10082December 9, 2017 at 5:37 am #10085
Interesting… I’ve been working behind the meat counter at Whole Foods for about a month. For some cuts – NY strip, ribeyes, porterhouse, we generally cut thicker. I put some in the cooler that were about two inches the other day.
We will also cut to order and when people ask for something they usually ask for an inch.
Some of our beef is from grass fed cattle but most of it is not.December 9, 2017 at 11:42 am #10091
The best meat counter I’ve seen in many years is at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville PA. (There are 2 or 3 other McGinnis Sisters locations in the Pittsburgh area, too.) However, I think the meat and especially the poultry shop at the North Market in Columbus Ohio may be even better. I haven’t actually ordered meat or poultry at the North Market, so I’m just going by how it looks, but when we were there last December they had at least 3 different kinds of whole duck in the case, plus duck breasts, duck thighs, duck leg confit and rendered duck fat. It’s probably a good thing Columbus Ohio isn’t close, I could spend a fortune there!
I have not been impressed with the meat counter at our Whole Foods, and most of the other supermarkets in town don’t cut their meat on premises, but we have a new Fareway Meat Market that I’ve been quite impressed with. Fareway is a chain based in Des Moines, most of their stores are full-service grocery stores in small towns but they have a meat, cheese and wine/liquor store in Omaha and just opened one in Lincoln. They had veal foreshanks in stock and at least 2 kinds of veal in the display case. They can order veal hindshanks if I want them.
I haven’t bought steaks from them yet, but I have bought several types of roasts, (frozen) duck breasts, and pork chops, as well as the veal shanks and some beef shanks, both of which are in the freezer for the next time I make stocks.
I like most steaks about 1 1/2 inches thick, and I’m sure they can cut them to that thickness. When I was in there this week, I asked and they can order chicken backs, as long as I’ll take a 40 pound case of them (about $27.) But that’d make a lot of chicken stock, as I’d split it up into 3 or more smaller packages and freeze what I can’t use right away.
BTW, for those who haven’t read the article I posted the link to, the reasons steaks are getting thinner is because the individual muscles are getting larger. So in order keep the weight the same (for restaurant service, for example), they have to be cut thinner. Some cuts, like ribeye, can be separated into separate muscle groups, ie, a ribeye cap and a ribeye loin.December 9, 2017 at 11:22 pm #10122
I think about the poor butchers who have to lug those big heavy carcasses to the cutting block. When I was in high school in the late 1960’s I worked an after school job at a butcher shop. Seeing those guys carrying a side of beef to the cutting block was enough for me to know what I didn’t want to do when I grew up. So now those sides are even larger and heavier.December 10, 2017 at 8:08 am #10126
I cannot speak to all Whole Foods but as much as we try to have them consistent they vary from store to store. Even in my town we have two WFMs within a mile of each other and they still have differences because of size of store and staff. I was listening to my butchers yesterday and they said the former manager used to rush the meat of the dry-aged case before it was ready. Our current boss insists it sit there at least 21 days which the butchers there say is the minimum amount of time necessary to properly dry age beef (I haven’t done any research into it). So one person can make a big difference.
It’s surprising that a town in Nebraska would not have fantastic meat counters.
Len, my grandfather worked for years in the Stockyards hauling those sides of beef around. It was not easy on him and he died young.December 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm #10129
Dry aging beef is an art form, it’s essentially a carefully controlled decay. Properly dry-aged beef will lose up to 25% of its usable weight, as it loses water and the outermost edges have to be trimmed off because they’re too dry.
According to the Wall Street Journal, millennials who are tired of the corporate world are turning to skills like meat butchery, so it is regaining favor in some parts of the country, but Nebraska retail stores aren’t one of them yet. Despite or perhaps because of the fact that there are several large beef, pork and poultry processors in the state, in many chains use primarily meat that is cut into retail portions off-site and wrapped, about the only thing the local store does (and I’m not 100% sure of even that) is price it. One exception to this is ground beef, they do tend to grind that on site. (I’ve been working on a blog post about buying and using ground beef, it’ll probably be out in early 2018.)
Even places that cut meat on site tend to buy it in already cut and vacuum packed into primal and sub-primal sections weighing anywhere from a few pounds to 30 pounds. If they don’t happen to buy the primals that have the cuts you want, good luck finding those cuts. I make my own beef stock from beef shanks, but finding beef shanks or soup bones (knuckle bones or neck bones) from around the middle of April until mid or late September is challenging. It’s almost like cattle don’t have legs for 6 months of the year!
One interesting result of the off-site cutting and packaging is that they can inject pure nitrogen or even carbon monoxide into the package as they wrap it, which helps it stay bright red in the package for a week or longer. It also retards spoilage, I think.December 11, 2017 at 8:21 am #10152
Interesting. We get big (50lb+) cuts. No sides of beef that I’ve seen but we also do not have the room to store them or break them down. But we will get an entire rib cage. They offered to teach me how to use the band saw and break things down but I have to admit to being a little intimidated. It’s also incredibly loud and no one wears ear protection. If you were using the same thing in a wood shop you’d have your ears covered.
We have shanks every week if not every day. Usually beef and lamb and sometimes pork. We always have bones in the freezer from the meet we cut. Yesterday we even had pork jowl which I have never seen except on a living pig.
We’re far from perfect but the thing I like about the place I work and the store where I shopped before I started working is that there are people who are passionate about what they do. It’s a mission for them and they take pride in what they do. There are not a lot of grocery stores around here like that.
And there are some folks in grocery who know nothing about what is in the baking aisle and tell customers that there is no real difference between cake flour and AP flour but I am working on that. 😉December 11, 2017 at 11:26 am #10154
When I was a sophomore in high school, my father bought a raffle ticket from a man in his car pool whose son was in the marching band. One of the prizes was a side of beef–and my father had the winning ticket. That was what my mother needed to persuade my father to buy a full upright freezer for the garage. (It was southern California, so that was an ok location.) The meat came pre-cut. As I come from a large family, I am sure that my mother used every bit of it, but I do not recall what we ate or how it was prepared. I’ve come a long way in my attention to food. Back then, my focus was completely on baking cookies or banana bread.December 11, 2017 at 12:04 pm #10155
My mother would buy a quarter every few years, it always seemed like it was 2/3 ground beef.December 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm #10176
A brief article about dry aging meat:
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