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The Meaty Truth

As a chef and lover of all things delicious, I want to explore with you the differences between grocery store supply chains and restaurant supply chains. Let me tell you, the differences are huge!

When I first left the restaurant business and got into private cheffing, one of the biggest challenges I faced was sourcing products that were as high quality as what I was used to from the restaurant business. I found that things weren't as tender, flavors weren't as rich, and the butchery was subpar. Grocery store meat is nothing special; it's purely a utility for the grocery store. The meat department at the grocery store is often used as a "loss leader" to attract customers and drive sales. Meat is a popular choice for this because it's a staple food that most people consume regularly, and it gets you in the store when you otherwise wouldn't need to go. How to shop for groceries and where to shop is an entirely different subject that probably deserves its own post.

Let's talk for a second about sourcing. My two sources for all my meat are Premier Meat and West Coast Prime Meats, both companies are based in Los Angeles. Butcher/packers like Premier Meat and West Coast Prime Meat are specialty meat purveyors that typically offer high-quality, premium meats to restaurants, caterers, hotels, and other foodservice establishments ONLY. These companies often source their meat from smaller, independent farms and ranches that use sustainable and humane farming practices. Because they specialize in meat, these companies often have a greater level of expertise and attention to detail when it comes to sourcing, handling, and processing meat.

In contrast, grocery stores often source from larger, more generalized suppliers who prioritize quantity over quality. This can result in lower quality products that have been raised or caught (seafood) in suboptimal conditions, thus indirectly supporting the environmental damage caused by these factory farms. Grocery store chains typically have a centralized distribution system, where products are transported from regional warehouses to individual stores. This system allows them to take advantage of economies of scale and streamline their supply chain, but it can also result in more food miles and handling of the product compared to a more decentralized system. With a centralized distribution system like this, meat products may need to be transported over long distances from the processing plant to the warehouse, and then from the warehouse to individual stores. This can result in more food miles, which means more energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and potential for damage or spoilage during transportation. Additionally, with a centralized distribution system, the meat may need to be handled and processed more before it reaches the grocery store shelves. This can result in more opportunities for contamination or mishandling, which can impact the quality and safety of the meat. Which is my next topic.

Handling. This is a HUGE factor that should go into your thought process behind the meat that you and your family consume. Butcher/packers like Premier Meat and West Coast Prime Meat typically have higher standards for handling meat compared to grocery store meat departments. These companies specialize in meat and have a greater level of expertise when it comes to the sourcing, handling, and processing. There is a greater level of attention to detail. Butcher/packers often employ skilled butchers who have extensive knowledge of meat and know how to handle it properly to ensure maximum flavor and tenderness. These butchers carefully inspect each piece of meat to ensure it meets their quality standards before processing and packaging it. Then I inspect it one last time before I receive it, which means that every piece you receive is always perfect. Grocery store meat departments may receive pre-cut and pre-packaged meat from a central processing facility, which can result in meat that has been handled more and may not be as fresh. Butcher/packers typically receive whole carcasses or large cuts of meat, which are then processed in-house by skilled butchers. This allows them to control the quality of the meat and ensure it is as fresh as possible. It also allows for custom cuts and off cuts that you can’t get at the retail level.

Finally, butcher/packers like Premier Meat and West Coast Prime Meat often use specialized equipment and techniques to process and package meat. For example, they may use dry aging or wet aging techniques to improve the flavor and tenderness of the meat, and they use vacuum-sealing to preserve the meat's freshness right up until you want to eat it. Overall, the handling at the butcher/packers level is typically more specialized, meticulous, and focused on quality compared to grocery store meat departments, which often prioritize efficiency and convenience and which are overseen by whoever is on shift.

My main goal with Market Forager is to move you up the food chain. This is a direct-to-consumer service, supplying meats and seafoods that are delivered straight from the source to ensure that you are getting the best possible product for you and your family. I believe that quality is worth paying for. I’m confident that once you try these meats, you'll never want to go back! If you care about the sourcing & quality of the protein you feed your family, give me a call.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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