Meaty Matters


Buying high-quality proteins is a cornerstone of many operators purchasing plans. John DaLoia, director of culinary and corporate executive chef for Stampede Meat, Bridgeview, Ill., gives his thoughts on trends in protein purchasing.


We asked John DaLoia, director of culinary and corporate executive chef
for Stampede Meat, Bridgeview, Ill., for his thoughts on trends in
proetin buying. Stampede Meat is a supplier of custom and branded
value-added beef and pork products.


What center-of-the-plate trends are you seeing?

Operators are feeling the economic crunch and everyone’s trying to contain costs. Our customers are requesting reduced portion sizes, choice grade meats instead of prime and more pork products. They’re also trading down to less expensive beef cuts—going from a sirloin steak to a Ranch Cut (from the chuck), for example. On the flavor front, Asian is very popular as are comfort foods like stroganoffs.

How are you helping restaurants make more cost-effective purchases?

On some of our value-added meats, we’re adding 5 to 10 percent more marination. Increasing the marinade not only can boost the meat’s weight by 15 percent, it results in a juicier product. We’re also steering them toward bone-in instead of boneless cuts; a bone-in strip provides 10 to 15 percent more plate coverage. Plus, we can build custom products that conform to a restaurant’s food costs—whether that’s $2.50 or $5 for a center-of-the-plate serving.

Are you working on other cost-saving measures?

We’re experimenting with new and different cuts that have recently been identified by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. For example, we’re working with boneless country-style beef chuck ribs since short ribs are in great demand by Korea and the price keeps going up. We’re also looking to improve cook yield and fat trim on all our product lines.

What’s the key to center-of-the-plate purchasing in this economy?

Buy it right. Few operators can afford mistakes when it comes to purchasing meat. Educate yourself to become a smarter buyer, using your supplier as a resource for new ideas, product cuttings, custom solutions and cost-saving measures.

The meat market

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 are losing money and 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.”

Wholesale prices for choice steers per pound

2006: 85.4 cents

2007: 91.9 cents

2008: 90 cents

Wholesale prices for hogs per pound

2006: 47 cents

2007: 47 cents

2008: 41 cents

Source: USDA


More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
chicken wings

We started advertising our chicken wings as halal wings with assorted sauces. Our inspiration was to inform customers of an option that was available but not widely known. By changing our approach to our marketing efforts, we were able to exponentially increase participation in the consumption of our halal menu items.

Managing Your Business
busy kitchen

While catering a wedding for a previous employer years ago, Rahul Shrivastav—now director of catering at University of Michigan—found himself in a panic when an elevator malfunction put salad service on hold. “The wedding was in a very old building and the elevator had issues,” he says. “We had 200 plated salads in the freight elevator when it got stuck. The dinner needed to start—they were doing their toasts.” In a panic, Shrivastav hustled up a plan B: His team would station a chef outside the ballroom, and he’d plate new salads right there.

Luckily, the elevator was fixed in...

Ideas and Innovation
desserts plate

We’re knocking down a wall in our bar area, which will create a more inviting atmosphere and allow us to host a coffee and dessert bar in the space on off nights when the bar is closed.

Ideas and Innovation
soup sandwich

Aside from Black Friday shoppers, there may be no crowd of people more eager to get to their bounty than wedding guests headed for the passed appetizers. While they’re surely thrilled for the bride and groom, that feeling comes second to the thrill of landing that first shrimp skewer—especially after a long ceremony. Same goes for work-related cocktail parties. Caught up in an awkward conversation? Oh look, it’s the mini-grilled cheese guy!

This month, FoodService Director takes a deep dive into catering, from the latest and greatest in menus to starting a new program at your...

FSD Resources