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Where "is" the Beef... and Pork and...!

post #1 of 25
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What have we come to. I mean our food situation. It's all wrong in my opinion. Not the first rant or comment on this subject here and probably not the last but........

First let me say........I understand I can be opinionated about things and mine is not the "end all" of opinions. I also understand that through communications with others (or lack there of with several that I have reached out to or been in contact with) I may be perceived as sort of a loose cannon (off the wall nut)....... Yet, we as a group can be very opinionated and very "off the wall". Not everyone can be another's "cup of tea" that is for certain and we all have baggage. I have mine as well as several influences, some with no control of at times. Yet..... I think in my case it has to do more with experiences as well as a great deal to do with having been a Chef. I believe that you pick up so much, often times conflicting views, when you are exposed to as many regional ways as we have been exposed to around the country as well as when running a kitchen or any restaurant/food operation, you have to have a strong opinion, direction and be a bit of a loose cannon to get things done to your liking. I certainly put on no "airs" and what you read here is exactly how I am in person. What you see is what you get. Basically I will say the same things but......I have to say this......typing things does give me the chance to fine tune my response. Sometimes it works and then again........

Anyway, it can be a double edge sword, especially when you no longer run a kitchen. I guess you have to express yourself and that opinion somewhere and this is as good a place as any.

So, I took my daughter shopping today for groceries. Not a big supply since we started storing things in the pantry, and both our refrigerators. Yet I wanted to get a couple meat items. Most of the meats were beef and of the 3 stores we went to......not one had a selection of Choice meats.....especially roasts! Everything was Select!

Wal-Mart was the worst violator since they have removed all Choice meat from the store we use. As a disclaimer.....I really hate to use Wal-Mart and the recent decision to remove Choice as an option only reinforces that but we have had a couple rough months here and....well......funds are tight.

Anyhow, I just don't get it and I had to try and explain to my daughter why I was tossing packages of meat aside....especially ones she thought looked perfectly fine. That was the tough part yet I did my best. Basically I told her that it's all greed. Suppliers can get more for the good foods by selling them to foreign buyers and that leaves us with the crap. I doesn't make sense right ow but it will some day.

Personally, at no time in my life or in the stories I was told and remember......have I have ever been so lost. Maybe it's a single perception....(I doubt it) but has there ever been such a bastardization of our food as what is being done now. We've experienced more than a dozen economic downturns in the last 90 years and never has there been a shift to replace quality food products with sh!t products. At the least not since we started inspecting foods and instituted policies to protect consumers.There's just no excuse in this day and age. Yet there are a thousand bogus ones out there.

We've all seen the documentaries, read the articles, watched the discussions......yet I still wonder where the truth is. Each side of the fight scores points but they are as extreme in hype and in division or words as our own leaders in Washertown. Between profits, conspiracies, marketing hype, world domination accusations, BS free-markets or whatever the bloody reason......... every time we go to the store I get more and more frustrated.

I'm willing the spend the money when we have it and I'll make the budgets to reflect that but where can or how far should I have to drive to shop? Whole Foods has it's issues, and even for all the "good" they sling........it's a 80 mile round-trip drive. Our local Ukrop's may become a Harris Teeter but for now they keep reducing available products, quality and services. Food Lion is outright the worst store I have even been in and in many ways is just as crappy as wal-mart or Kroger or ????????. Costco is a 45 mile drive round trip and some things they sell.....well we don't need that much of those things. Sam's Club? that's just a bulk style wal-mart. Nothing is any better.

We don't purchase much processed foods....and after all..... all food is processed in one fashion or another so by processed I mean the meals in a box, frozen meals, canned sauces and meals or even the meals that the store provides. We make our own sauces, most often grinding our own meats, cut our own steaks, bake bread when we have the ability but there are some things in the convenience group that just make life easier. To try and quote a line from a show, I don't mind things being hard, makes it worth something. But I would just like things to be a little easier. Unfortunately I don't have the physical ability to do everything that I personally feel I need to do to feed my family properly. Not whining......just a cold, hard truth.

We're in trouble and the beef is only the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately we're probably in more trouble than anyone.....even me.......... knows.

Well,....I may be outspoken and a perceived a lunatic or bit condescending (something I really am not) but as long as I have an opinion and there are places like this to express it...........I will and passionately. Maybe I need to also find a way to get that expressed opinion to change things and start making a difference! That said this come to mind "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off"........"and to provide new Guards for their future security."** Most would say a thought that is bit extreme but............ is it really?

** Discreetly edited since the original statement portrays a different sentiment than what I think is needed for this discussion.(well??????) Plus I don't want any knocks on the door in the middle of the night. ;)
post #2 of 25
I have no problem finding Choice meats. But I have more store choices in a closer range.

I hope things look up for you soon.

Phil
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 25
I've experienced the same frustration re quality. Like most people, this economy has cut into my discretionary income a bit but I still don't want to buy crap. A few times this summer I've driven all over the city looking for a decent steak, to no avail. Nothing but Select. :eek::confused: And I run into the same blank stares and "I dunno, the steaks look good to me" from my family.

Most of the time I shop sales, deciding what to make for dinner based on what the store has the best deal on. Luckily, having spent most of my adult life as a chef it's no great hardship to have to cook my own meals!:beer::chef: But occasionally I want to fire up the grill and have a good steak. Sadly, in my area Sam's Club actually has about the best steaks, except for one local meat market. Sadly, the specialty place's prices are off the charts, considerably more for choice than I would consider even for prime.

And while I'm ranting, I've spent the entire summer searching for cold water lobster to no avail! And forget live ones. All I can find are warm water tails, and those are being sold at at-least cold water prices. And this is a town of 130,000. Ultimately I'm gonna just order them from a reputable vendor online.

Part of it does seem to be simple greed. If stores can pull the old switcheroo and swap out a cheaper grade but charge the same they can maintain the same margines as before (or close). And why not? Even in this recession, to drive around the city you'd think no one in town has a kitchen. Even the mid-level chains are on a wait on Monday nights.

At least restaurants don't seem to be trying this, at least not where I live. My joint wouldn't consider using anything less than choice. The only time I can recall doing that was when I did a lot of banquets at a hotel. There I did sometimes use no-rolls for buffets. But never for the restaurant menu.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #4 of 25
Times have changed and so has greed and standards. The government specs on grading meat has changed over the years. Truth in labeling laws are to loose, and no standardazation. Examplle meat labeled London Broil (underneith it says Chuck) when true London Broil comes from the Flank. Most people dont know. Young split chicken (frosted) which is 1 0r 2 degrees over frozen'
Greed --= Pasta 12 ounce instead of 16 ice cream 1 1/2 qts instead of 1/2 gallon. Be ready for the 2 litre soda bottle to go down next(coke already changed shape of bottle ,content is next) and qt. of milk containing 30 ounces, like a 32 ounce jar of mayo now 30 ounces.
Quality== There are hardly any USDA inspectors in the field anymore inspecting meat packers or slaughterhouses The government has told them all that they are on self inspection(yea sure) Our meat and fish and veges arrive from every country. The fish imported to the Florida ports last year only about 20% was inspected.
Be aware as the economy worsens so will quality.
There are very few meat packers and producers left in the US. Look at your old neighborhoods, where are the fish stores and butcher shops ? They are all but gone. This is called progress!!
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post #5 of 25
Old School, I suspect this might be a localized problem by you.

I live in a rural area, where it's hard to find any quality foods. But the supermarkets here all offer choice beef. One chain even makes a point of advertising that that's all they sell.

On the other hand, there are meat counters I know of where they sell unrolled beef. Their schtick is lower costs, is why. And they know that the average consumer doesn't understand the grading system. "Meat is meat," is the way they think of it.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 25
In regard to meat....I rely more on what I see than how its labeled.....at home we almost never see filet mignon, NY strip, or Ribeyes......Chuck, Flat Iron, Skirt, etc......as far as seafood and produce? I've begun to notice you find the best in pricey upscale areas and, in contrast, very poor rural areas....
Having a Mexican wife....our meals teeter back and forth....tamales, taquitos,
carne al pastor, tinga, etc, to fried porkchops, white rice and gravy, pickled cucumbers, Roast beef, fried mullet, etc....we really have no prepared foods in the freezer or pantry...no pizzas, eggos, hot pockets, canned tomato sauce, salad dressings, etc. Most everything is made from scratch. My kids??? Most people ask why they are so skinny.....I am often in awe at the size of many children these days.....and sadly...its because of the processed foods and lack of exercise....guess I am rambling on.....take care old school....
post #7 of 25
Just another reason to find and support small, local butchers and meat shops. They usually have better quality product, IMHO.
post #8 of 25
Another problem is the way they are cutting steaks and roasts. It is impossible to find a thick steak these days and most roasts are as thin as a steak.
post #9 of 25
There has been a move away from USDA to store standards for beef. At the switchover, they usually say their standards are guaranteed to meet or exceed Choice. But after a while when people are used to it, they've been dumbing down the standard into the select range and pocketing the difference.

Actually, my main local grocer added a prime dry aged display and has been doing quite well with it. They're just a local chain, not a national one.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #10 of 25
I'd like to understand the logistics of that, Phil.

As I recall, virtually all the unrolled beef (and that's what it would have to be if it's not inspected) that reaches the retail market is the equivalent of Select. So who, at the market, is upgrading it to Choice equivalency?

If it exceeds Choice that puts it into the Prime category. There's just not that much Prime produced, period, and virtually all of it is reserved for the trade. You never see Prime at retail.

Just seems to me that so-called store standards are a shuck.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 25
Take a look at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getf...STELDEV3056687, which describes the "voluntary" grading program in some detail.
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post #12 of 25
Within each USDA grade is a range of possible marbling and so on. While it isn't necessarily a wide range, the stores mean their beef meets that lowest level or higher.

The USDA doesn't grade all beef. It claims it inspects all beef for wholesomeness (but see Ed's comments).

It makes no sense to buy USDA graded choice or select beef and then regrade it for the store brand. They are buying ungraded beef. My understanding is that more and more beef is ungraded as the cost and time for USDA grading is becoming more and more prohibitive. Some numbers I've seen indicate that over 50% of the beef coming to market meet Choice standards. But how much is actually graded or ungraded I don't know. Most of the local Kroger affiliates are using a house brand.

Ungraded beef could meet any standard and as a consumer you'd have to rely on what the store says their standards are. When store standards are introduced, my experience is that they say they follow the USDA but save on the grading cost by doing it themselves. But after a time, those standards are often slipped.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #13 of 25
>Some numbers I've seen indicate that over 50% of the beef coming to market meet Choice standards.<

Sez who? If the beef isn't being inspected, than how does anyone know what grade it is?

The idea that the retailers can grade meat less expensively than USDA has to rank among the world's great bits of misinformation. Do you really believe that Kroger, say, can inspect meat for less than 40 cents per carcass by using it's own people? If they can, then their standards must be awfully loose.

From where I sit, it's rather a way for them to buy unrolled beef, apply a store brand that infers a set of standards that are either meaningless or so broad as to be the next best thing, and thereby convince the public that they're getting a better deal because they're saving the cost of government inspection.

I'm not necessarily in favor of government involvement in anything. But I want to see the private enterprise operation that can save me significant money over standards that cost them approximately 1/20th of a cent for a pound of meat.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 25
While I've never encountered "Select" in the Twin Cities stores,
soon all we'll all have to remember is:

"Tuesday is Soylent Green Day".

doc
post #15 of 25
Thanks for the link, Pete.

I already knew that USDA inspection was voluntary. That wasn't the issue. What's at stake is the quality of a steak if stores are allowed to use the same terms, when using their own "standards" as are used by USDA.

Let's say that a store---call it Smiths Market--develops its own standards, and calls what would be USDA select "Smiths Prime." That would be an obvious attemp to confuse the buying public into believing that it's purchasing Prime meat at unrolled prices.

The fact that it's all but impossible to buy a decent piece of beef at most supermarket chains seems to support my contention.

I have no problem with the concept of uninspected beef. All I'm saying is that we call a spade a spade, especially in an industry that has a long history of being unable to regulate itself.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 25
inspection of beef for sanitary / wholesomeness is mandatory at done by USDA inspectors at no cost to the processing house. there is no requirement that every slaughterhouse have a 24x7 USDA inspector.

grading to USDA standards is not mandatory and costs the processing house - fees pay the inspectors/USDA. processors are not permitted to say "Well, he graded the last ten Choice, but the USDA grader went home for the day so we'll just call all these next 50 Choice as well."

that smeared bluish stamp you sometimes see on meat belongs to the USDA grading inspector, not the producer.

processors, wholesalers and retailers can put any "grade" they like in the window / on the label - but if they associate any of the USDA defined grade terms - prime, choice, etc. - with the letters "USDA" and the meat has not been graded by a USDA inspector to the standards indicated, they're fixing to go to jail.

the reasons such simple rules turn into tons of paper is because the less than honest types keep trying to find ways around the law. every time some knucklehead succeeds, the government puts out another 300 pages of "rules" to stop the practice.

your local supermarket cannot buy junk meat and label it "Our Grade meets USDA Choice" or any other such malarkey. a lot of companies have paid a lot of fines in their attempts to "wordsmith" the labels into "fooling" customers.
post #17 of 25
USDA BEEF GRADES
Beef Quality Grades. A quality grade is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor). ...
meat.tamu.edu/beefgrading.html - Cached - Similar -

SEE THIS SITE ON THE WEB
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post #18 of 25
Perhaps I've been misinformed, but I do not believe FDA has any authority for meat inspection until after it exits a U.S.D.A. inspected processing facility, see: CPG Sec. 565.100 FDA Jurisdiction Over Meat and Poultry Products (CPG 7111.01)
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post #19 of 25
phil, see usda beef grades on google:)
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post #20 of 25
oops. do believe you're right - I get them two mashed sometimes.... going to edit.
post #21 of 25
My initial flippant response, of no value to anyone, is to say that those who shop at WalMart deserve what they get. Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.

I'll agree, finding good quality meat is getting more and more difficult. Stuff that is suitable, not that bad, etc. is readily available. One thing I like is beef short ribs. The megamart a few blocks from my house (Smith's, a subsidiary of Kroger now) usually has some that are good enough for browning and then making broth, but fall short of being meaty enough to actually serve as beef short ribs. They don't always have the best cuts.

I did luck out the other day - they had some packages of pork 'shoulder butt' roasts for $1.29/lb in the case - it took me something like 2.73 seconds to realize they were actually bone-in loin roasts, one of my favorite cuts. I should have bought them all and made room in the freezer. Had I pointed out the error to the meat manager, I bet I would have gotten a blank stare and some useless babble. I kept quiet and got some good eats.

PHatch does mention a Utah grocery chain that carries dry aged beef, I imagine he's talking about the Bob and Randy place. I go to the one at the Brickyard from time to time and drool over the cooler of beef and the variety of fresh sausage. But the Salt Lake valley has a population on the order of a million people or so, enough to support some sort of places that try to provide higher quality stuff. I still can't find any white anchovies in town, though, drat.

The situation is not limited to food. It has been nearly four years since I had a real job, but I do work part time doing British car repair, what was once just a hobby of mine. When it comes to parts and service, quality, price, customer expectations and such issues they are not really much different than some of the ideas and opinions expressed in this thread.

I'd like to get a job working a meat counter at a major market so I could try and educate average consumers about what, exactly, it is they are consuming. Then again the frustration level would, no doubt, be pretty high.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #22 of 25
For meat I have a choice of WalMart, Hyvee(midwest grocery chain), and County Fair(local grocery chain). County Fair gets 99% of my business because the meat manager will deal on whole cuts and on case buys. WalMart's pork and beef is "enhanced", at the Hyvee all the pork is enhanced. No local meat lockers anymore so I have very limited choices.
post #23 of 25
I don't as a rule buy meat in stores as we raise our own. Once in a very great while there's something I want that I don't have in the freezer and I'll buy it in the store on a trip to town. I'm rarely impressed with quality when this happens. We never produced meat here on the ranch for profit officially. This is a rare breed sheep wool, show dairy goat and horse operation. We've always raised a few steers, goats, sheep and pigs for our own consumption and shared the excess essentially at cost with neighbors and friends. Somebody wants a quarter of a steer and they go find friends who'll take the other three quarters and it's a done deal. I usually charge live weight market price and processing is up to the buyer. No killing here beyond what we consume ourselves. Buy it and take it to the processor. Recently we've begun getting lots of calls from people we've never heard of wanting to buy beef, lamb and chevon and willing to pay top dollar for it so I am looking into developing a relationship with inspected processors who can handle the retail end of things. I am reclusive enough to not be interested in bright eyed foodies trooping out here to buy meat and pissing off my dogs, while at the same time smart enough to see the forest for the trees. The crappy meat at retail outlets that spent it's last eight weeks standing hock deep in it's own **** being stuffed full of corn (a plant that ruminants were NEVER intended to eat) packed full of antibiotics and bloat medications due to this unnatural feeding, and who died full of adrenaline on a killing floor is doing the local food movement a world of good. People are starting to realize that good meat can be had almost anywhere in this country if one is willing to develop relationships with farmers and small processors. You'll pay more. Big deal. Eat less. You eat too much meat anyhow. Local meat is better. It has to be. There may be a learning curve in cooking technique if you're switching to grass fed meat that isn't 40% fat, so experiment and learn. There is NO downside to buying your meat from local producers as long as price isn't your primary concern.
I've been accused of being opinionated too, but I don't necessarily agree with the idiots who say that stuff.:talk:
post #24 of 25
Having worked with inspectors from the USDA and having a retired one as a best friend ,I can tell you there is no method to their grading. On a given morning after a good night with his wife or girlfriend the carcasses are graded high. On a morning where the night did not go so good they are graded low, they just splatter the grape juice on.:)

Grape juice is used to make the dye or ink that is used to mark the carcass.
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post #25 of 25
That would be the one.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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