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Red Meat: Product Cutting

Product Cutting

Center cut baseball top sirloin

Conducted by Tom McAliney
Executive chef, Brandt Beef
Brawley, California


The boneless, center-cut sirloin is cut from the top butt; it’s a single muscle devoid of any sinew. It resembles a filet mignon in appearance but is a better value, averaging 25 percent food cost. Brandt’s cattle are corn-fed for 365 days without growth promotants, producing steaks that are tender with rich, concentrated beef flavor.

  1. Note the packaging. Look for a clean, tight seal on the bag with no evidence of blood purge. This can indicate poor handling, improper temperature control or contaminated product.
  2. Remove the meat and note appearance and aroma. A cut steak should have clean, closely trimmed white fat on the outside muscle and marbling should be distributed throughout. The meat should have a rosy hue unless it’s been further aged. No foul odors should be released when the bag is opened; texture should not be mushy.
  3. Cook the steak. I recommend simple grilling over medium-high heat to desired doneness without any pre-seasoning or marinade. Once cooked, a little sea salt and crushed black pepper enhances the rich, complex flavor.
  4. Taste the steak. The meat should have an immediate ‘pop’ of beefiness. The real depth of flavor becomes more apparent with each bite. Your mouth should be left with a clean taste—not a cloying or ‘fatty’ sensation.

Market outlook

Decreased supply is the big story as we move into the second half of 2008 and look ahead to 2009. The USDA’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook published by the Economic Research Service in February forecasts lower cattle inventories and reduced beef supplies; beef imports will also decline as a weak dollar lowers demand.

Similar scenarios are unfolding with other red meat animals. After consecutive increases in 2005 and 2006, sheep inventory has declined over the past two years, states the report. While 2008 pork production is five percent above last year’s, prices are averaging 15 percent below 2007 levels. Many hog producers have announced cutbacks in production in order to make ends meet, but “reducing inventory is a slow process,” says Bill Lapp of Advanced Economic Solutions.

Overall food price inflation and high feed costs are keeping most wholesale meat prices high, but Lapp warns that 2009 will be the year of “protein sticker shock.”

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