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

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

Managing Your Business
umass amherst food

Restaurateurs in Amherst, Mass., aren’t happy with UMass Dining .

Registered dietitian Dianne Sutherland told local NBC affiliate WWLP News in May that the high quality of food served on campus means students aren’t visiting neighborhood eateries as frequently as those businesses might like.

“Even our vendors who we work with, they get complaints from the restaurants that students are staying on campus,” she said. “They are already paying for the food; why should they [go] off campus to eat?” More than 19,000 Amherst students are on a meal plan—6,000 of whom live off campus...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

FSD Resources