You would think working in the beef community would make me a pro in the grocery store. You’d be surpised…
Being a (fairly recent) college student, most of my meat supply has been the lowest end. Think large bags of chicken parts from Walmart and those 10 lb rolls of hamburger meat. The hamburger meat really seems to get my Dad, who seemed horrified that the packaging allows absolutely no visual inspection before purchase. But hey, buying in bulk, and buying blindly, is the only way I’d get it!
I’m not a great cook. Mostly I make things like hamburger helper, or bake chicken that I pour some salad dressing on 30 seconds before placing in the oven. I might make a veggie for the side. But I really enjoy nice food. Steaks. Balanced healthy meals with real substance that didn’t come out of the microwave. And in the spirit of Heart Healthy Month (And I heart Beef Month), I figured it was time to get more familiar with my food to make sure that the way I eat my red meat is actually healthy, instead of drenching it in over-processed powder-to-liquid foods that battle all the nutritious merit beef has to offer.
So I ventured to Kroger’s meat counter this week, and thought it would be fitting for me to write about it, in case there are others out there equally terrified of having to communicate their cooking intentions to a stranger in a hairnet without going full detail into a recipe.
I did, however, go in with a recipe. This one & this one, to be exact. I made a little grocery list of all the items I didn’t have, which included a tri-tip roast (never heard of it) and beef tenderloin steak.
First I just went to the meat section, hoping to avoid an ackward encounter with a person who would soon find out I had no idea what I really wanted him to do. Plus, I figured it would be cheaper to find the cuts without the guy having to slice it. I found beef tenderloin steaks for $24. Waaaaaaaay more than I have ever EVER spent on an entire shopping trip on meat alone. But I figure what the hell, it’s just me and I can easily get about 8 meals out of this package.
No tri-tip to be found. I spent an unusually long amount of time looking through all the t-bones & ground beef trying desperately to have a label jump out with TRI TIP written all over it. But somehow I feel that all the grocery stores I ever go to never word the cut of meat exactly as a recipe calls for it. Is that just me??
Next I went to the meat counter. No sign for tri-tip. But now I sort of had to say something to the guy behind the counter. I asked him. He told me to check the regular meat area. So I did again. Just as thoroughly. I went back and just picked something that had ‘tip’ in the name: Beef Round Tip Steak. Now I know, round circles and triangles are not related, so these cuts probably aren’t either. Give me a break, it was either that or filet mignon. I asked for 3 lbs, an entirely unscientifically thought out number. I got 2.8 lbs for about $8.50. I even got brave & asked him to slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices so I could go home and freeze individual amounts. I got about 9 steaks out of it. For $8.50. Now we’re talking!! I’ll be visiting the guy at the counter much more frequently. Turns out he doesn’t laugh at you for being entirely clueless, which is an added bonus to the economic factor.
The whole ordeal probably took about 25 minutes. I’m sure you could survive on more like 5, but I get unnaturally shy & slow about things that I don’t know and feel should be very self explanatory. Especially in the case that I work with meat animals, you’d think I’d know how to eat it more knowledgeably. Oddly, the cows don’t walk around with the cuts of beef written on them, so alas, I’m clueless.
Beef: It’s what’s for dinner has an incredibly helpful website (I’m only just now realizing how helpful!). I encourage you to check it out. I plan to explore it further and use it to become a little more educated so I can make grocery shopping a little less stressful & a little more time efficient.
What’s your experience in the grocery store? Do you feel clueless at the meat counter, or are you knowledgeable enough to venture out of your normal 2 cuts of meat? Feel free to share any fun stories or insights, I could use the advice to help me in the kitchen!
As I am exploring Agriculture and therefore the origins of my food, I am becoming more and more aware of nutrition and all the buzz that surrounds it. While America has been on the alert for many years now (as obesity rates are climbing), at 116 pounds soaking wet, I really wasn’t that interested. I enjoyed veggies and salads, but I also downed 10-12 Oreos every day after school or class. I knew that eventually, my weight would start to catch up to me, and I was pretty worried how that would affect my lack of self discipline in the kitchen. Now that I’m cooking for myself, I have taken a more vested interest in my nutrition. The healthier I eat, the better I feel. And strangely, the more active I am, the more I actually crave the healthy foods. I begin to gravitate towards carrots as an after class snack, for example.
In all of this personal nutrition research and development, I even occasionally read the nutrition facts on a label or an article about healthy foods (Hey, I’m not totally reformed). When I began working in the beef industry, I began learning how nutritious beef is in a balanced diet. Protein, Zinc, B vitamins, Iron…you name it! The most interesting fact I learned about meat as a nutrition source vs veggies is the organic chemistry of it all. Now, that was not my best subject, so many of the details have since been forgotten, but the point will forever be ingrained with me: The actual molecular structure of meat is more conducive to human digestion than many vegetables of equal nutrient level. So…say vegetable A has x grams of protein, and meat A has the same x grams. Given the shape and form (molecularly) of the two, your body is able to absorb MORE protein from the meat than from the vegetable. (Maybe someone more in-tune with OChem or human nutrition can help me with some concrete facts??)
Either way, whether you are an avid meat lover like me, or a passionate vegetarian, these differences are important to realize. They are NOT explained on a nutrition label (if there isn’t enough space for one valuable Ochem lecture in my brain, there certainly isn’t enough space on a 2″x2″ label). So if it is essential to your beliefs to cut out something, make sure you are doing all the research you can. And try to look at both pro-your-choice articles and against-your-choice and make your answer as smart and unbiased as it can be. Before I preach about beef, I often look at vegetarian and animal rights activists articles and ponder whether or not their information challenges mine in a way I need to re-evaluate or research further.
When it comes to food, I believe that being a varied omnivore is the best way to achieve all the nutrients your body needs. I don’t believe in diets that cut things out…whether that be carbs, meats, or even sugars. And I weigh 116 lbs remember, so despite my scientific back up, I’d say I have a reasonable handle on the concept. Nature works so well together because each part of it has different pros and cons and compliment and balance another. Eat meat. Eat beef. But don’t trade a salad for a burger at every meal. I was always told the more color you have on your plate, the better you are doing at reflecting nature and therefore achieving the best balance your body can ask of you.