Waste not...

May 11, 2012

My recent trip to Ohio to attend the grand opening of the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) Culinary Center was a true test of my good-old-fashioned meat and potatoes taste buds. While the two-day event did in fact offer lots of meat options, primarily beef as expected, the cooking creations I had the pleasure of sampling were far from any meat and potato fantasy I could have ever dreamed up.

And, rest assured, I can dream up a pretty good Ribeye or New York!

But along with testing my taste buds, it was obvious that industry groups, like CAB, are working diligently with partners, be it restaurants, grocery stores, packers or consumers, to offer new and creative options to increase the bottom line for producers. And, I might add, most of them have been very successful.

The first night of my culinary journey included visiting three restaurants in Cleveland. Two of the three took my food boundaries and walked right over them with bone marrow and barbequed pig head.

The first served our group of about 30, eight different appetizers, saving the most creative for last.

After two servers came out carrying a board with what I was sure were dog bones, I watched in surprise as several of the non-ag media in attendance jumped right in and started scooping out the marrow to spread it on the toast. Of course, always up for a challenge, I sure wasn’t going to let these cityfolk show me up, and followed suit … after I asked one for a lesson in marrow spreading.

At the second, we were treated to 10 of their menu specialties, including half of a pig head, barbeque style, minus the eyeball and brains, but teeth intact. While I’m sure the mental visual is enough to ruin many appetites, it didn’t slow me down a bit. Out of the 10 items, our group of about 30 adventurous souls cleaned up the Ribeye and Strip Steak entrees with our “no steak left behind” motto that would eventually cause me to examine one of the seven deadly sins before the weekend was over.

Saturday’s events primarily took place at CAB’s new culinary event center, and proved to be a mouthwatering protein parade.

During a highly charged meat cutting class by CAB’s very own Dr. Phil, I learned about cuts of meat that I didn’t even know existed. Have you ever heard of the Spinalis? I would love to get a count on how many ranchers know where the Spinalis comes from. I may just have to conduct my own official survey. “This is Traci, from Western Livestock Journal. Just calling to see where your Spinalis is?” After a Tri-Tip lunch, we spent the afternoon at a local ranch, and then headed back for our fourcourse dinner, created by four different chefs, and served with a creative flare that turned all of us into photographic geniuses, trying to capture the height of the creation, or the color, or if possible, the flavor, so we could taste it again later.

And of course, the Spinalis was on the menu. It was rolled, using a protein meat glue, and then sliced, with the end result looking a bit like a fillet, but much tastier! Incidentally, the protein meat glue is a potential hot topic that we will be watching. See Kerry’s story on it in this issue, along with a photo of the delicious Spinalis. The product has the potential to end up on media’s top list of exaggerations and lies.

While I have no doubt that CAB believes their brand is the best, and a great one it is, but I did not hear any negativity about other breeds or production practices. In fact, quite the opposite. While they are busy promoting the CAB brand, they are also advocating for the beef industry as a whole. Whether a consumer prefers to pick up that wellmarbled steak or a lean grass-fed steak, choices are good, for the consumer and for the industry.

While most industry partners see the benefits of promoting beef as a whole, along with all the great choices, there are a few that stay on their rebel bandwagon. “It seems that many large profit driven corporate beef and pork producers are doing whatever it takes to increase their bottom line. Many of today’s corporate producers are grossly misusing animal antibiotics,” reads a custom processor’s website in Texas.

This is a comment I would expect to come from outside of the industry, not within it. This particular processor could learn something from some of our industry organizations! After all, we’re not politicians, we are an industry. Let’s leave the smear campaigns to the politicians. — TRACI EATHERTON