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.
JBS USA has launched SwiftBeef.com, an interactive website highlighting Swift’s history of excellence while serving as a resource for retail and foodservice operators, as well as an easy-to-use source of information for today’s discerning consumer.
“SwiftBeef.com is an influential source of knowledge, from product information to recipes,” said John Flynn, JBS USA Beef Sales and Marketing team lead. “It is essential that our customers are able to easily navigate brand information and selling tools that can help strengthen their operations.”
Consumers are increasingly inquisitive about their food purchases and beef is no exception. The Swift website provides information about how the Swift brand first developed, and details the brand’s history of excellence since 1855. From boxed beef to value-added items, the Swift website presents the brand’s comprehensive product offering, which has strengthened through the years to accommodate the needs of customers. SwiftBeef.com also serves as a resource for delicious and convenient meals with its user-friendly recipe page.
“Research shows that consumers want more information about how to select or prepare beef and that they rely heavily on digital resources for guidance,” said Alexandria Tyre, Marketing Manager at JBS USA. “In addition to appetizing recipes, SwiftBeef.com features frequently asked questions, covering topics from cooking temperatures to where specific beef cuts come from.”
SwiftBeef.com gives consumers easy access to the information they desire and creates an open doorway of connectivity. The website is compatible with all portable devices, making it a convenient resource for retail and foodservice customers, as well as consumers who want to access the site on-the-go.
Swift Beef is a product of JBS USA, an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of JBS S.A., the world’s leading animal protein processor. JBS USA is a leading processor of beef, pork and lamb in the U.S., a leading processor of beef in Canada and a leading processor of beef and lamb in Australia. JBS USA processes, prepares, packages and delivers fresh, further-processed and value-added beef and pork products for sale to customers in more than 100 countries on five continents. JBS USA is also a majority shareholder of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the second largest poultry company in the U.S. For more information, visit www.jbssa.com.
By Lucas Witman
When a guest walks into Urban Butcher, a co-located restaurant and specialty meats shop in Silver Springs, Md., he or she is greeted by a giant glass wall revealing the store’s expansive meat cellar. Customers marvel at loins of pork, sides of beef, salamis and more, all hanging prominently, begging to be admired. It is immediately clear that the owners of any shop where aging meat is displayed as if it were fine art are deeply passionate about the craft of butchery. And listening to Head Butcher Matt Levere discuss his love of the craft, it is impossible not to become infected with a similar appreciation for the skill and creativity that go into producing gourmet specialty meats.
“It’s so much fun as a butcher and as a chef – learning and creating,” said Levere. “When you’re putting these things out to customers and coming up with brand new items, it’s an experience for them as well.”
Started just a few short months ago in December 2013, Urban Butcher has quickly made a name for itself as the place to go in the Washington, D.C.-area for expertly crafted raw meat and charcuterie. However, it is the fact that Urban Butcher operates simultaneously as a butcher shop, a retail space and a full-service restaurant, that makes this space particularly unique.
In terms of drawing in customers, Urban Butcher benefits from the fact that it brings in both restaurant guests and grocery shoppers. However, very often, guests who come in to eat at the restaurant end up leaving with a filled grocery bag. And those who come in to pick up a steak end up sticking around for a gourmet meal. This is because, as the restaurant utilizes the meats directly from the butcher case, impressed dinner guests are encouraged to take the product home to experiment with in their own kitchens. And for shoppers seen marveling at the butcher shop offerings, the store offers to take the product into the restaurant’s kitchen where it can be immediately cooked up and served for dinner.
From a logistical standpoint, Levere argues that there is a unique benefit to operating a retail shop in conjunction with a restaurant. At Urban Butcher, product moves fast and is continually replenished. “It’s awesome, because we can sell our products in the retail case and also in the restaurant. Everything we butcher goes right into the menu,” Levere said. “Everything is always fresh … It’s nice to see that aspect of it. It helps move product.”
For Levere, who has worked in restaurant kitchens and grocery store meat departments, he finds his work at Urban Butcher, which combines elements of both positions, as particularly rewarding. This is because, for him, when a chef and a butcher work together, they can create magic. “I think it’s a great relationship between the chef and I, because I know how to butcher so well. I know meat like the back of my hand and that’s what I specialize in. Here’s a guy that has been cooking for his entire life. And he knows that like the back of his hand,” he said. For Levere, butchery is truly an artform. And by combining his technical expertise with the chef’s creative vision, Urban Butcher is able to offer its customers something they would never find anywhere else.
The specialty meats offered at Urban Butcher are endless, and the store is constantly adding innovative new products to its meat cases. There is hickory-smoked bacon, handmade salami, pâté, prosciutto, sausage and marinated chicken. The store produces a broad selection of authentic European charcuterie, including lomo, bresola, filleto and more. And the shop’s 30-day aged beef short loin and aged ribeyes are cut to order, allowing the customer to choose the precise thickness that best meets his or her needs.
One standout among Urban Butcher’s offerings is a unique Greek sausage called loukanika. Levere argues that if one is to try only a single product from the store’s meat case, it is that one. “The loukanika is outstanding,” he said. “It’s a spicy lamb salami with flavors of fennel and orange zest. You get the fennel and then you get the orange immediately. And then right at the end the cayenne pepper hits your tongue. It’s a really nice experience.”
Urban Butcher focuses on sourcing all of its meat from local farms, including Autumn Olive Farms in Virginia, Creek View Farms in West Virginia, Piemonte Farms in Maryland and Shenandoah Meat Co-op in the Shenandoah Valley. For Levere, the quality of the animals is immediately apparent in the butchered product. “The quality is incredibly better than anything we can get anywhere else. The supermarket does not compare. The flavor is so much better. The customer can really tell the difference between the massively bred animals compared to the small batch animals,” he said. In addition, because the animals are all pasture-raised by small farmers, customers can feel confident that the salamis they are snacking on are made from animals that led stress-free lives.
Although currently enjoying its first year in operation, Urban Butcher has big plans for its future life. The store is currently expanding into local farmers markets, bringing its products to shoppers all over the D.C. area. In addition, Levere said the store also has plans to expand physically, eventually opening up a new, larger butcher production area.
For those who think a steak is a steak and a salami is a salami, Urban Butcher works to show its customers that a great deal of craft is involved in producing these items. When a skilled butcher and a skilled chef are involved, an animal can be transformed in any number of ways. According to Levere, “If you really understand the animal and what it has to offer, the possibilities are endless.”
By Lorrie Baumann
The British government settled its own controversy about the sanitation of cheeses aged on wood a decade ago, and government regulators there have come down on the side of permitting cheese makers to age their cheeses as they think best, says the Right Honorable Owen Paterson, British Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. “It should be the cheese manufacturers who decide what to do. They’ve got a long history,” he said. “We believe very strongly that people should be responsible for their own production systems. What counts is the outcome.”
The outcomes that count should be that food should be safe to eat and it should taste good, and the British government has decided that the way to achieve that is to let the experts who are making the products decide how to get to that goal, and the government learned that through its own missteps in trying to regulate cheese production methods, he said. “Cheese is not suited to being produced on plastic. It sweats,” he said. “It’s a natural product, and it sweats.”
Paterson stopped in to promote British food at the Summer Fancy Food Show on his way to a meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, with whom he’s negotiating a trade agreement that he says he’s “mad keen” to get through as a step in opening up the American market to more food imports from the European Union. He says that British food producers are well positioned to capitalize on access to the American market. Americans ar already enthusiastic about British products and are already purchasing $3.5 billion/year worth of British food products — about 10 percent of British food exports. British food production is a $170 billion/year industry that employs just under 4 million people. “It’s by far the most innovated food sector in Europe,” Paterson said. As an example of how fast British food production is growing, he points to Walkers, which has gone from a small family bakery with 16 employees baking shortbread cookies to a large enterprise that currently employs 1,600 people in a business that’s based primarily on exports. And shortbread isn’t the only Scottish product that’s enjoying the world’s good opinion, he said. “The French drink more Scotch whisky in a month than the French drink French cognac in a year,” he said. “We’ve got more varieties of cheese than the French have.”
The British dairy industry has been deregulated and is poised for growth at a time when world demand for dairy products is growing hugely, Paterson said. “We’re ideally placed to take advantage of it,” he said. “I opened the world’s largest fresh milk dairy inn Aylesbury last week.” Britain is home to the only USDA cheese producer in Europe, which introduced the Kingdom brand of cheddar cheese in the U.S. late last year. The milk in Kingdom Cheddar comes from a small group of organic family farmers in South-West England, where cheddar cheesemaking first began in the 12th century. “We use old-world artisan techniques, conducted under today’s exacting organic standards, which makes for an exceptional product,” said Nicola Turner, Export and Marketing Director at the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo,) the largest organic dairy farmers’ co-operative in the UK. OMSCo manages the production of Kingdom Cheddar.
Paterson recommends the Kingdom Cheddar along with other British cheeses, which are made with a long history of cheese production, very modern plants with rigorous production standards and a great deal of innovation in presenting new varieties and flavors of cheeses onto the market, he said. “These guys are really motoring, and there’s potentially a huge market.”
Along with cheese, Paterson aims to provide new opportunities for British meat exports into the U.S. Americans are ready to eat British beef again, he said. “They love eating British beef when they come to London,” he said. Britain has the landscape and the beef breeds, including the Aberdeen Angus, to export high-quality grass-fed beef to an American public that will welcome it, he said. And after he’s gotten beef coming to America, his next step will be to follow up with lamb. “There are a lot of Americans of Scottish descent who are being prevented from exercising their ancestral right to eat haggis,” he said.
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine kicks off its 10th anniversary season with new picnics, sandwiches and salads, plus small production wine and beer pairings that have all been thoughtfully selected and created to celebrate summer in Chicago. Pastoral’s new summer offerings are available at all three store locations and also include cheese and charcuterie plates-to-go, plus a selection of handcrafted sides, sodas, locally made sweets, confections and accompaniments which can all be enjoyed on-the-go or at Pastoral’s al fresco dining patios open now throughout the season. Pastoral’s picnic offerings are ideal for two people to share, and designed with Chicago’s summer concert season and outdoor festivals in mind.
“This summer marks Pastoral’s 10th anniversary in business, and we took this milestone as a chance to create our favorite summer menu to date—picnics, sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, drink pairings and more that showcase some of Pastoral’s most delicious offerings and favorite culinary producers that have worked with us since we opened in 2004,” said Greg O’Neill, Co-founder and Co-proprietor of Pastoral and Bar Pastoral. “Every menu item reflects our commitment to bring customers the best small production and specialty products available from the most wonderful and talented culinary producers near and far. We want guests to taste this effort in every bite and sip from Pastoral this summer.”
Pastoral’s new picnics are designed for two people to enjoy together, and all include a wine or beer pairing recommendation from Pastoral’s team of experts. New picnics include:
Decadent Picnic (Heirloom Tamworth Prosciutto (Iowa), indulgent Brillat Savarin triple crème (FR – cow), smooth and seasonal Snowfields (Wis. – raw cow), rich and complex 5-Year Gouda (NL – cow), pate de fruits Jugglers (Ill.), rich and fair trade Madecasse Mini Bar (MG), handmade caramels from Katherine Anne Confections (Ill.), plus soft and delicious cookies house-made at Pastoral);
Bavarian Picnic (tangy house-made pimento cheese featuring two Wisconsin cheddars (cow), fresh and creamy Quark (Wis. – cow), Alsatian-style Saucisson d’Alsace salami (Ore.), La Fournette Bakery’s original recipe soft Bretzel (Ill.), plus Pastoral’s house-made toastettes, pickled cauliflower and grainy mustard);
Francophile Picnic (country-style Pig and Fig Terrine (Ind.), buttery Spring Brook Raclette (Vt. – raw, cow), herbed Prairie Fruits Farm chevre (Ill. – goat), fruity and bright Zingerman’s Manchester (Mich. – cow), single varietal Ames Mini Honey (Minn.), Pastoral’s house-made artichoke tapenade, cornichons and grainy mustard);
Quesophile Picnic (buttery Spring Brook Raclette (Vt. – cow, raw), Pecorino Fioretto (IT – sheep), tangy Clock Shadow Creamery chevre (Wis. – goat), Salemville Blue (Wis. – cow), smooth and seasonal Snowfields (Wis. – cow, raw), traditional and award-winning 1655 Gruyere (SZ – cow, raw), Pastoral’s own house-made spiced almonds and fig preserves);
Taste of the Midwest Picnic (Borsellino Salami (Iowa.), silky smooth Mortadella from Smoking Goose (Ind.), creamy and slightly funky Aged Widmer’s Brick (Wis. – cow), subtly smoky Marieke Smoked Cumin Gouda (Wisc. – cow, raw), tangy Clock Shadow Creamery chevre (Wis. – goat), shallot confit and dried Michigan cherries);
Carnivore’s Feast Picnic (dry-cured Salametti (Calif.), spice-cured aged Coppa (N.Y.), intense and rich Jamon Serrano (SP), silky smooth Mortadella (Ind.), Pastoral’s house-made pimento cheese featuring two Wisconsin cheddars (cow), cornichons, pickled vegetables and grainy mustard);
Grand Picnic (smooth and silky Prosciutto San Daniele (IT), Dodge City Salume from Smoking Goose Meatery (Ind.), fruity and complex Prairie Breeze (Iowa – cow), buttery and rich Brabander Gouda (NL – goat), bold and nutty Maxx Extra (SZ – cow, raw), smooth and lemony Driftless (Wisc. – sheep), single varietal Ames Mini Honey (Minn.), sweet and salty Effie’s Mini Oatcakes (Mass.), Pastoral’s house-made spiced almonds and a duo of handmade truffles from Chicago’s own Katherine Anne Confections.
Vegetarian options are available for select Pastoral picnics. All picnics are $39.99 with the exception of the Grand Picnic which is $69.99 and features some of Pastoral’s most indulgent products.
All Pastoral’s picnics are eco-friendly with biodegradable packaging including plates and utensils made from potato starch, recyclable paper bags and napkins. Additionally, many of Pastoral’s wines, beers, ciders and spirits focus on organic, biodynamic or sustainably produced selections that are both food- and earth-friendly.
The Pastoral team is available to help customers pair a bottle of small production wine, craft beer or cider with their picnics from the shop’s thoughtfully-selected collection of wines, beers, ciders and spirits. Pastoral’s beverage director, Mark Wrobel, has selected his favorite bottles for summer 2014, most of which feature a screw top or champagne-style stopper⎯no corkscrew required⎯making these selections ideal for summer concert and festival season.
Building on last month’s announcement of a $28 million dollar investment in its Bayfront facility, to increase manufacturing capacity for its slow-cured salame, Columbus Foods has expanded its deli meat production capabilities through a new partnership with industry leader Harris Ranch. Family-owned and located in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Harris Ranch has been producing superior meats for more than 50 years. To ensure consistency and quality during the transition, the two manufacturers spent more than a year planning, testing and duplicating Columbus’ time-tested consumer favorite deli meat recipes within this new modern facility.
“Like Columbus, Harris Ranch is dedicated to producing the highest quality products with the utmost dedication to food safety,” said David Wood, Chairman and CEO of Harris Ranch Beef Company. “This is a good fit for both of our companies – and the synergies between Harris Ranch and Columbus will ensure a seamless production transition.”
Significant investment between both companies of more than $10 million dollars was made to ensure the implementation of a state of the art deli meat processing facility to support this venture. The current layout was built to produce an initial volume production of 25 million pounds of deli meat cooking and processing, but can be expanded to another 50 million pounds of capacity with minimal disruption to operations.
“Columbus’ deli cooking facility in South San Francisco is landlocked and necessitated we find a solution to provide for capacity expansion on our branded deli meat growth,” said Timothy Fallon, CEO and President at Columbus Foods. “By partnering with Harris Ranch we’re well-positioned to continue to provide the quality and taste that consumers and our retail customers expect from Columbus and meet continued growth in the coming years.”
The Imperial line is carefully crafted under the guidance of master chorizo-maker Dr. Antonio Libran, a veterinarian expert with more than 30 years of experience in the food and Spanish cured meats industries. The team sources premium American pork meat, the world’s best Spanish paprika and only the finest hand-selected spices. Each features a lengthy, dry-curing process to ensure all natural ingredients season slowly to lend each chub the authentic flair and flavor of old Spain. This Spanish artisan technique produces a signature bouquet and texture not found in mass-produced chorizo varieties, both domestic and imported.
Kretschmar® Premium Deli Meats & Cheeses has just launched Kretschmar Master’s Cut, a line of super-premium bulk deli items. The line features unique flavors of turkey, ham and chicken that use the highest quality, cleanest ingredients. It is available at deli counters across the country.
Kretschmar Master’s Cut Deli Meats feature sweet, smoky, savory and robust flavors, which were inspired by consumer culinary trends. Flavors include Sweet Smoked Ham, Black Pepper & Jalapeno Ham, Sweet Molasses Ham, Mesquite & Bourbon Turkey Breast, Santa Fe Turkey Breast, Sun Dried Tomato Turkey Breast, Cajun Style Turkey Breast, Pastrami Seasoned Turkey Breast and Chipotle Barbeque Chicken. All products are gluten free, and contain no added MSG, added nitrites or nitrates or added hormones. Each product also meets criteria for a heart-healthy food, as certified by the American Heart Association.
“We are extremely excited about the launch of Kretschmar Master’s Cut,” said Michael Sargent, brand manager for Kretschmar. “Its unique flavors and unparalleled quality have raised the bar for premium deli meats.”
For the product launch, Kretschmar enlisted Certified Master Chef Brian Beland as a brand ambassador. Chef Beland received his Certified Master Chef accreditation from the American Culinary Federation in 2010 following an eight-day cooking exam at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y. He is currently the Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage at the Country Club of Detroit and is also a Chef Instructor at Schoolcraft College in Michigan.
As a brand ambassador, Chef Beland created five original recipes using Kretschmar Master’s Cut and will make appearances on behalf of Kretschmar throughout 2014 at trade shows, public relations events, and consumer events. Additionally, Kretschmar will execute a sweepstakes in which consumers can enter for a chance to win a trip for two to The Culinary Institute of Americain Napa Valley where Chef Beland will give them a personal cooking tutorial.
“I’m thrilled to share with everyone Kretschmar’s newest product line, Master’s Cut,” said Certified Master Chef Brian Beland. “Its wide array of flavors and quality ingredients provide tons of possibilities in the kitchen. I’ve really enjoyed cooking with the meats and developing new recipes for Kretschmar. I know that consumers will appreciate its versatility and top-notch taste in their recipes as well.”
For more information on Kretschmar Master’s Cut, Chef Brian Beland, or to view new Kretschmar Master’s Cut recipes, log onto www.kretschmardeli.com and find the company on Facebook at Facebook.com/Kretschmardeli.