Smithfield Foods’ Cudahy, Wisconsin, facility, which produces the company’s Patrick Cudahy brand as well as additional Smithfield branded products, has broken ground to expand its existing facility by 12,500 square feet, adding four new smokehouses and two dry rooms. The new space will increase production capacity by 3 million pounds annually and allow for four additional dry rooms when future sales demand more volume. The expansion is scheduled to be complete in March, 2016. Smithfield will continue making various salami and pepperoni products at the dry sausage facility.
This marks the second major expansion to the facility this year, as the facility also broke ground in April on a new $12 million bacon slicing plant. The 17,000-square-foot plant includes four slicing lines that will increase Smithfield’s bacon capacity by approximately 10 million pounds annually. The plant is expected to be fully operational by October.
By Micah Cheek
Bone broth, the heavily reduced stock that has been popular with various diets and health regimens, is becoming available for quick home use. Mark Cronin, Regional Grocery Buyer/Supervisor of Jimbo’s… Naturally!, says Jimbo’s started selling premade frozen broths three years ago with great results. “Customers want things that are easy for them; offering it where they can be taken home is easy. That’s part of why they’ve been so successful.” Bone broth became popular with various health-conscious groups as a minimally processed source of protein and collagen, and then its popularity exploded after Marco Canora started offering it in his restaurant restaurant, Brodo, and the New York Times took note. It has been touted as an intestinal health aid, workout beverage, and even a morning coffee alternative.
Prepackaged bone broths have found a market with people who want to enjoy the purported benefits of bone broth, but lack the time to simmer organic bones for more than 12 hours. “We have done some customer surveys. People are saying, ‘We love broth, we believe in broth, but we love that we don’t have to make it,’” says Lance Roll, Executive Chef and founder of The Flavor Chef. “There’s also the issue of handling the product. Fifty percent of people have a spouse that doesn’t enjoy the smell of broth. If you’re cooking it for 12 to 24 hours, it constantly smells your house up.”
Premade bone broths have the added convenience of a six month shelf life in the freezer. Shelf-stable broths from Pacific Foods are available in boxes as well. Cronin believes that the next step in retail bone broths should be pre-portioned ice trays or packets so that small amounts can be thawed conveniently.
A good indicator of quality for a premade bone broth is how it behaves at room temperature. The process of making bone broth aims to extract as much gelatin and collagen from bones as possible, so a good bone broth will be a loose gel when thawed. The gelatin contributes to a rich texture when the broth is consumed.
It is recommended that broths are heated in a pot on the stove, rather than in a microwave. After heating, variations are only limited by the consumer’s tastes. Traditional bone broths are crafted for sipping, with only salt added. Seasonings like fresh ginger and lemon slices or steeped herbs customize the flavor. Bone broth can also be used wherever standard broths are called for, as the liquid in braises and stews or as a base for sauces.
For those who don’t enjoy drinking broth straight, Cronin suggests cooking it with rice noodles, green onions and other vegetables to make a simple soup. Roll has recently developed a Coconut Ginger Mint and Lemon Bone Broth soup, made with 80 percent chicken bone broth.
The majority of retail bone broths are made with either beef or chicken. Many are certified organic. Organic pork broth is rarely seen because of the difficulty in finding pigs that meet organic standards. “We’re not going to be doing it any time soon, mainly because I can’t get enough good pork bone,” says Roll. As bone broth gets more attention, Cronin is looking forward to more varieties of products becoming available. “There are more and more companies jumping into it on a retail level,” he says.
By Micah Cheek
Like most new things in Chicago, Greg Laketek is on his way up. In the two years since Laketek’s West Loop Salumi opened, his client list has ballooned with the names of heavy hitting businesses. “There were always dreams of serving the customers we have,” says Laketek, “We never expected them to seek us out.” Among those seekers are famed restaurants such as Alinea and Nomi, as well as high profile market retailers, including Eataly NYC. Fueled by the stunning endorsements of traveling chefs, West Loop meats are finding their way into culinary hot spots from San Diego to Boca Raton.
Laketek, 29, opened West Loop Salumi in 2013 after spending four years training under master salumiere Massimo Spigaroli. At Spigaroli’s Antica Corte Pollavicina in Polesine Parmense, he learned the craft of curing and preserving meats with an eye for quality ingredients and Old World techniques. Laketek even took part in the processing of the British royal family’s prized Berkshire hogs. When he returned to his home town of Chicago, he saw that these traditional Italian salamis were in nowhere to be found. “I noticed in Chicago, not many people are doing salumi and charcuterie; it seemed like a good market to get into.” he says. West Loop Salumi began with a small crew and no safety net. Laketek recalls, “Last year we had a flood because we had a frozen pipe. We ended up losing about $140,000 in product. That was our first eight months, we only had three employees, and our products weren’t covered in the insurance. It was a big hit to us.” The flooded shop could not stop the flood of praise, however, and West Loop rebounded to even more critical success. Zagat has since included Laketek in its “30 under 30 2014” list, as well as “11 Chicago Food Artisans to Watch.”
West Loop Salumi takes its name from the neighborhood it occupies, a formerly industrial area that is now a dining and art hot spot. The neighborhood’s rebirth as a fine food and leisure hub, though beneficial to the city, is not without its consequences. Greg says, “West Loop was the butchering and packing area of Chicago. It’s really dying though, now this area is called Restaurant Row, there are only a few butcher shops left here. It’s really a shame. Hotels and restaurants are coming in and raising the rent.” A particular loss, Greg says, is the redevelopment of the Fulton Cold Storage building, which had operated for over 90 years. “They took all the old signage down. Google is using the building. The insulation was all horse hair; it took four months to defrost the place.”
From the start, buyers could tell something was different about West Loop’s wares. Laketek believes the contrast lies in how other American processors make charcuterie, compared to how he was trained in Italy. “Producers out here don’t understand how to make the salumi we’re making,” he says. The difference can be seen especially well in meats like culatello, a whole muscle ham cured in wine, salt and pepper for more than 12 months, which West Loop makes in the Italian style. “The thing about culatello is you can’t import it, it’s not available in the US. We’re now doing the culatello the way they did, but not many others can,” Laketek says. He found that he could avoid using nitrite, a commonly used preservative for cured meat products, in his culatello by aging it even longer, up to 16 months. This keen knowledge of the curing process sets his products apart from his competitors. “They’re cutting corners they don’t even know they’re cutting. It’s about attention to detail,” he says.
Attention to detail goes hand in hand with the extremely high quality ingredients that West Loop starts with. Berkshire and Iberian pork are heavily used, as are fresh Calabrian peppers. Laketek takes special pride in his braseola, which he formerly made with pasture-raised, grass-fed beef. “We’ve switched to just using wagyu now. We are the only producer in the US that’s allowed to make bresaola without spraying any bleach on it. We use the acidity of white wine vinegar to make it stable.”
While the lowlands of Parma are ideal for the dry curing of specialty pork, the environment of Chicago doesn’t lend itself to the process. The chill and humidity of the Midwest would make traditional open air curing impossible if not for West Loop’s state of the art curing chambers. A constantly operating computer carefully balances the humidity and heat needed to promote the right bacterial cultures and drying times.
Laketek is bucking an old trend in American eating. When looking for salami, the American diner has an expectation of glossy, razor thin slices with a distinctly chewy quality. West Loop teaches a different lesson. The texture of its product is notably soft, even delicate. The casing must be gently removed to avoid taking bits of pork with it. Portions are cut in a thick wedge, similar to a serving of cheese. The thin slices are all pieces of whole muscles, cut against the grain.
Having proven himself in classic ciauscolos and sopprassetas, Laketek has begun to try new things. His Lagunitas IPA salame features not only the hoppy beer, but toasted spent grains from brewing as well. The Finnochiona is dusted with fennel pollen before aging. The Krug Champagne and Truffle is as decadent as it sounds; finely aged Krug Grande Cuvee adds flavors of sweet barley, and pieces of Alba black truffles are hidden throughout. “A chef needs to start out with a basis of how to make the basics. You can’t just say ‘I have a crazy idea, let’s put Sriracha and plum wine into a salami,’ without any background,” Laketek says.
The USDA has declared Laketek’s salamis completely shelf stable. They travel well too, as the meats are packed with degassers and deoxygenizers. For the retail market, Laketek has a few tips for care and handling. “For salami, we just recommend they don’t keep them in the fridge or deli case. Those cases have a lot of moisture in them. Salami breathes, just like bread. We recommend taking it out of the package, letting it hang and do its thing.”
Foster Farms has released survey findings measuring Millennial’s attitudes towards food issues, grocery purchasing behavior and preferences. The 2015 data reveals that Millennial parents are driving the tidal shift in consumer demand for responsibly raised products and are largely influenced by traditional family values and peer/community feedback when making household food decisions. While availability and pricing are cited as potential challenges, nearly one-third of respondents consider “organic” or “no antibiotics” to be the most important factor in choosing fresh chicken.
Conducted in 2015, the survey of 1,872 West Coast Millennial parents found that once Millennials have children, traditional family values and peer/community influence are the primary factors influencing everything from grocery purchases to cooking and consumption habits – with 74 percent reporting their criteria has changed “a lot”due to these factors. Millennials report their purchasing standards for fresh chicken differ significantly from their parents or previous generations. Yet, while demand for these products is at an all-time high, West Coast consumers report confusion on labeling terms and perceive these products to be niche in category.
The independent survey conducted by MetrixLab also found that 85 percent of Millennial parents indicated that their criteria for buying meat and poultry has changed over the last several years; 42 percent cited having a child as the primary reason, while 32 percent credit becoming more educated on how food is produced. More than three quarters of Millennial parents surveyed agreed that they are much more concerned than their parents’ generation about chemicals, antibiotics and ingredients used to produce food, while 78 percent say they are more concerned than their parents’ generation about nutrition. Use of antibiotics in meat and poultry production (54 percent), hormones and steroids in meats, poultry or dairy products (60 percent) and food safety (68 percent) are the top three food issues that survey participants were very concerned about. Nearly four out of five of them said that buying humanely raised meat and poultry is more important to them now than it was in the past, and 81 percent of those surveyed agreed that they try to buy poultry that is raised in their state.
Four out of five respondents cook dinner at home four or more nights per week, and nearly half of respondents cited family members as having the greatest influence on cooking habits. Most said that when making decisions about the food they feed their families they rely on information from friends and family to help inform those decisions (versus expert chefs, cookbooks, blogs, and other influencers in the food category).
Overall, the survey found that West Coast Millennial parents are actively seeking more antibiotic-free and organic options, with “no antibiotics” and “organic” rank among the top three fresh chicken purchase drivers among those surveyed. However, many consumers are still uncertain of what these terms actually mean: 42 percent of those surveyed who occasionally or always purchase antibiotic-free poultry are still at least somewhat confused about the term “antibiotic-free poultry,” while 37 percent of respondents are either unsure or do not understand what “certified organic” means when it comes to poultry.
“This survey aligns with our own data emphasizing the overwhelming demand for organic products and need for more education about labeling,” noted Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “While the largest sector of organic growth is in fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry products are the next frontier for significant adoption. Foster Farms’ entry is an important step in providing greater access to USDA certified organic poultry products in mainstream grocery stores.”
Price is also perceived as a barrier to widespread adoption of antibiotic-free and organic poultry: 75 percent of West Coast Millennials view antibiotic-free chicken as expensive. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of consumers are willing to spend more: while 87 percent of those surveyed report concern about the cost of food, nearly a quarter (23 percent) said they have purchased organic chicken three or more times out of their past five purchases. In fact, 82 percent of those surveyed who purchase organic chicken do so for a routine family dinner, as opposed to a special occasion.
Availability is a priority for many of those surveyed: 60 percent believe antibiotic-free chicken is hard to find. Many consumers say it is extremely difficult to make several different grocery stops. An overwhelming majority – 94 percent – of West Coast Millennial parents agree they want as many product choices in the supermarket as possible, with 56 percent preferring to make one stop for all groceries. For many respondents, the societal expectation to choose organic foods is unsettling: 59 percent of those surveyed report feeling scrutinized over their food choices, with 29 percent feeling pressure to say they purchase organic foods often, even when they do not.
“Consumers expect a new generation of responsibly raised poultry and meat products,” said Ira Brill, Foster Farms Director of Communications. “Demand for these products is not a trend; it is an absolute priority for Millennials and for our customers who want more choices when it comes to organic, antibiotic-free, locally grown and humanely raised poultry.”
Specialities, Inc. will be introducing France’s legendary all natural Bayonne Ham at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City to complete the “trilogy” of the finest cured meats in the United States. The Bayonne Ham is crafted to the highest standards using a unique process handed down by centuries of meticulous care, time and knowledge. Bayonne Hams are the standard by which all other French hams are judged. Specalities, Inc. will be showcasing both the traditional tasting Bayonne Ham and a flavor of Bayonne Ham that has been cured and coated using France’s world famous AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) Espelette Red Peppers.
A ham can only become a Bayonne Ham if it’s produced in the very specific, clearly defined areas of the Adour basin in the heart of French Basque for salting and the south of France for rearing. All Bayonne Hams are assured by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since October 7, 1998 and protected under the European Union PGI label. The PGI label informs consumers about the specific characteristics of products and protects their geographical names from imitation and usurpation. Bayonne hams have only four ingredients; specially-bred and fed French pigs (corn and cereals), salt from the natural springs deep beneath the Pyrenees Mountains, air and the most important ingredient, time.
Bayonne Hams are air-dried, dark in color, with a very tender mild flavor with only a hint of saltiness. All Bayonne Hams have stringent levels of production requirements (breeding, slaughter and butchering, salting and distribution) all approved by officers from the Consortium du Jambon de Bayonne.
Specialities, Inc. was awarded the prized cured ham from France last July by the Delpeyrat Bayonne Ham Company based upon their expertise and experience to source, distribute and create sell-through of “Best of Class” specialty brands in the United States. After a two year approval process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put its stamp of approval to begin importing the Bayonne Ham with the first shipments arriving in August of this year.
“We are honored to have been selected as the exclusive purveyor of the Bayonne Ham in the United States,” said Richard Kessler of Specialities, Inc. “We can’t wait for show attendees to experience the exceptional taste and smooth texture of this legendary ham.
All Bayonne Hams are cured by rubbing with 100 percent all-natural Adour basin salt and then covered with a thick layer of salt and placed in the salting room. The hams are suspended in a room where they are dried at a low temperature in artificially created winter conditions. Then the hams are hung in drying rooms where the long maturing process begins, gradually enhancing their flavor, aroma and tenderness. The next step is a process in which a mixture of pork fat and flour is applied on the muscular parts of the ham, making for a gentler drying process during the long maturing period. In the last step, the ham acquires all of its qualities and revels its personality: a mild flavor, balanced saltiness and delicate aroma. Then the hams are tested by experts who define the hams’ taste qualities and are approved to wear the Bayonne branded tattoo. On average, it takes nine to 12 months to make a Bayonne Ham.
Specialities, Inc. will also be showcasing other “Best of Class” specialty brands Le Bistro French Recipe Ham, Noel Spanish Serrano, Solera Spanish Cheeses and Meats, Bellentani Deli Meats, LactAcores Portuguese cheeses and Ermitage French cheeses at its Summer Fancy Food Show booth.
Food Engineering magazine has named Smithfield Foods as its 2014 Sustainable Processor of the Year, reflecting Smithfield’s corporate commitment to sustainability as demonstrated by projects at three plants in Indiana, Illinois and North Carolina. The honor, featured in the November issue, cites successful programs to reduce wastewater, utilize biogas generated by wastewater treatment and reduce waste sent to landfills – all components of Smithfield’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact.
The magazine’s 2014 award is the first to focus on a processor with multiple plants rather than a Sustainable Plant of the Year. “This year, Food Engineering has selected Smithfield Foods as its Sustainable Processor of the Year because the processor has made it a corporate priority to improve the sustainability of all its plants and for them to give back to the communities in which they’re located,” wrote Senior Technical Editor Wayne Labs.
The award is open to any facilities that produce food for human consumption. Judging criteria includes energy usage, recovery and reuse; water usage, reuse and treatment; sustainable packaging initiatives; employee safety, comfort and health initiatives; community impact; and corporate sustainability mission statement implementation, among other criteria.
The article focuses on two initiatives at John Morrell Food Group’s Armour-Eckrich Meats in Peru, Indiana: A project to reduce the amount of wastewater sent to a public treatment plant, and the facility’s achievement of zero-waste-to-landfill status – a first within the Smithfield organization. Also recognized were the Saratoga Food Specialties operations in Bolingbrook, Illinois, where multiple initiatives reduced energy and water use and the amount of waste to landfill, and a project at Smithfield Farmland’s Tar Heel, North Carolina facility, which utilized biogas from wastewater.
“Food Engineering’s decision to feature multiple projects at Smithfield operating companies is further testament to the deep commitment to sustainability found throughout our business,” said Dennis Treacy, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Smithfield Foods. “We particularly salute our colleagues in North Carolina, Indiana, and Illinois for making us proud through the implementation of these initiatives.”
Performance Enhancing Meat Snacks, Inc., creator of Perky Jerky the world’s best tasting jerky, is adding another fun and innovative flavor to its lineup. Perky Jerky is bringing its loyal customer base the exciting taste of island paradise by taking inspiration from traditional Jamaican jerk cuisine. The upscale meat snack is packed with flavor and protein with no added preservatives, nitrites or MSG.
“Jamaican jerk has long been an admired Caribbean comfort, and we’ve worked hard to capture such a well-recognized taste in a way Jerkaholics have come to love: with awesome flavor, tender texture, and healthy perks,” says Brian Levin, Founder and CEO of Perky Jerky.
Since 2009, Perky Jerky has been delivering ultra premium products that also contain the protein needed to empower an active lifestyle. It is an all-natural, low calorie, low/no fat, low carb snack ideal for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, adventurers and busy moms (and their kids) on-the-go.
Adding the iconic Jamaican Style flavor allows Perky Jerky to continue to reach key consumer targets in the savory snacks industry. Existing flavors include Original, Sweet & Spicy, Teriyaki, and Hot & Bothered, which are all currently available at retailers across the U.S. Additionally, every bag of Perky Jerky purchased contributes to causes that can make life better for kids, including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Down Syndrome research.
By Dave Bernard
New labels that have begun appearing on packaged meats stating where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered, the result of 2013 federal legislation involving “country of origin labeling,” took one step closer to permanency when a federal appeals court recently upheld the new rules.
In a blow to some of the nation’s largest meat packers, which had asserted the new labels would yield minimal benefit to consumers while forcing costly changes in production practices, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that consumers’ right to know the country of origin of their foods, and the government’s interest in protecting public health outweighed the “minimal” intrusion on meatpacker practices. The American Meat Institute, which represents the country’s largest packers and was joined in the appeal by other meat industry groups, has not yet decided whether it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
The new law, which fits with a growing desire for awareness on the part of consumers over what they eat, could favor producers and retailers of 100 percent American-born, raised and slaughtered meat products. Consumers wary of foreign meats can now select “purely” American beef, pork and other products. With the USDA limited in its capacity to test imported foods – only about 2-3 percent of the 10 million or so international food products on U.S. retail shelves have undergone testing – Americans will now be able to readily choose more rigorously tested domestic meat products.
“Consumers today want more information, not less, about the products they are buying and feeding their families,” said Colin O’Neil, Director of Government Affairs at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. “And this ruling is an import victory for those U.S. consumers.” In a survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America, 90 percent of respondents favored requiring food sellers to indicate the country of origin of fresh meat products on the label.
While some large meatpackers are opposed to the new labeling requirements due to the expense involved in complying (for example, live animals imported from Canada, Mexico and other countries will need to be kept segregated from U.S.-born animals), many groups involved in the domestic beef and pork industry actually support the legislation.
“We view country of origin labeling as a marketing tool,” said Dale Moore, Executive Director of Public Policy for the American Farm Bureau. “Our grassroots members are confident that if consumers have a choice, they will select the American product.” Moore and others in the industry view country of origin labeling as similar in nature to designations such as Angus Beef, in which producers meeting certain criteria can receive a premium price for a much-desired product.
Another such desirous label is ‘organic,’ and some organic ranchers are equally pleased with the new labels. “We’re happy to see it. It should be on all our foods,” said George Vojkovich, Owner of Skagit River Ranch in northwest Washington state. Skagit River Ranch is an organic farm that raises cattle, pigs and poultry. “Labeling is so important, and it’s becoming more important when we see issues [instances of food contamination] abroad. People are trying to eat healthier food, and they’re aware of quality issues.”
As consumers are given more information about the foods they buy, and country of origin labeling rules have evolved, some believe that a momentum continues to build that is felt on a broader scale, over and above a consumer’s choice on which package of tenderloin to buy.
“When people find out about this, they want to know more,” said O’Neil of the expanded information on meat labels. As consumers ask more questions and take more interest in what goes into the foods on their dinner table, gourmet retailers may see new opportunities to introduce shoppers to higher-quality products across all food categories.
This story was originally published in the October 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.
The Cluck ‘n Moo Burger with Kale is a new spin on the company’s original half-chicken, half-beef burger. The Cluck ‘n Moo Burger with Kale is infused with America’s favorite superfood, kale, in the already healthier burger alternative. The product retains the flavor and juiciness of the original Cluck ‘n Moo burger while incorporating the nutritional benefits of kale, providing consumers a healthy and satisfying alternative to a typical calorie-filled beef burger.
Hip Chick Farms, a fast-growing provider of convenient, natural and organic, artisan Chicken Fingers, Chicken Meatballs and Chicken Wings produced from humanely raised and sustainably farmed ingredients, debuts all-new, freezer-friendly packaging for its popular line of frozen chicken products.
The new packaging replaces the original tubs with stackable rectangular cubes that offer more product information, including images of the product and bright, new graphics. Hip Chick Farms products are available in five varieties:
• Baked and Seasoned Chicken Wings & Drummettes, 10-ounce package
• Breaded Chicken Fingers, 8-ounce package
• Baked Chicken Meatballs, 10-ounce package
• Gluten-free Chicken Nuggets, 8-ounce package
• Organic Baked Chicken Fingers, 8-ounce package
All Hip Chick Farms products are made from humanely-raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free Mary’s Free Range Chicken. All five varieties are fully cooked, ready to heat and eat for maximum convenience. Product is contained in an interior plastic bag to ensure freshness.
“Our new packaging makes Hip Chick Farms products easier for retailers to display, and easier for consumers to find,” said Serafina Palandech, President and Co-founder of Hip Chick Farms. “The colorful graphics and product images let consumers know exactly what they are getting, while the conventional shape helps retailers stack and display the products more efficiently in their freezer cases.”
The new package was designed by McDill Associates of Soquel, California, which provides packaging, marketing and design solutions for a wide variety of food brands, among other clients. “The design challenge was to create a package that conveyed the fun, convenience and quality of Hip Chick Farms products, while meeting retailers’ demands for package efficiency,” said President and Creative Director Melissa McDill. “In this case, it was better to think inside the box, and really make it pop with fresh graphics and vibrant colors.”
Founded in 2011, Hip Chick Farms sources local, sustainably-produced ingredients to make nutritious, natural and organic and ultra-convenient entrees targeted to time-challenged families. Sourced from humanely-raised, free-range chicken without added hormones or antibiotics, artificial preservatives or fillers, its five products are made fresh in small, artisan batches, then flash frozen to preserve taste and offer superior texture. Hip Chick Farms products are available at more than 250 natural and specialty grocery stores on the West Coast. For more information, visit www.hipchickfarms.com.