Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Times Are Hard. Where’s The Beef?

Is it possible to beat their meat?

As a lover of domestic and wild meat we usually have enough meat in the garage fridge to last at least a month without buying much other than potatoes or fresh vegetables. If necessary. We do not own a dedicated deep freeze, that’s what the extra refrigerator/freezer in the garage is for. And yes, we do have a backup generator in case the power grid fails.

With food prices climbing, all we do here at the ol’ country bunker is what we’ve always done. Buy in bulk when meat prices are low. In addition I catch and shoot enough wild game to have a large supply of meat frozen and stocked. When freezing meat of any kind, we vacu-seal it all in marked and portioned plastic bags. Most of it will last at least one year without freezer burn and tastes nearly as good as fresh.

During the past month I have been hording chicken wings bought in bulk for (I kid you not) 69¢ - 99¢ per pound locally. That is less than half of the regular retail price. I now have enough to grill wings marinated in siraracha sauce all summer long and some leftovers to have a few tailgates. My guess is there is at least 30 lbs. of trimmed wings in the freezer right now. Hawww!

In addition we have some fine looking walleye and perch filets leftover from last year. Maybe this weekend we will have a nice fish fry. We still have a few bags of venison, pheasant and quail in the freezer as well.

This morning a large full-color ad appeared in my local newspaper. Why, it’s a “Spring Beef Bonanza”!! Eat The Best For Less they claim.

Skeptic that I am I noticed that the beef being offered is referred to as “Black Angus” which is a marketing scheme to either charge more $ per pound or convince the consumer that they are getting premium meat for less. It’s usually a hoax.

Here’s the skinny on the ANgUS beef myth.

Red Poll is said to be the standard breed of consumable beef livestock that is raised, cooked and eaten in America. Read about them here.

The ad may or may not be legit and this essay is not intended to mislead potential customers. These are my opinions purely based on a printed newspaper ad, not on my personal experience. I am all in favor of operating a business and making money. More power to them.

The ad placed in my local paper today has the visual appearance of an ad from a used car dealer or a TV infomercial (but wait, there’s more…) and there’s a lot to be said of that. In retail marketing it is a fact that if your ad does not look like a bargain it is less likely the retailer will get a positive response or increased sales from the unwashed masses seeking the Holy Grail of bargains.

A few clues caused me to be skeptical of this incredible limited time offer (LTO for those in the biz).

First, they offer 25 FREE ribeyes and 25 FREE top sirloins simply for opening an account. No disclaimer if these FREE steaks are angus or not.

Second. Would I be getting quality black angus choice meat or an inferior select grade of cattle? They say all meat is cut in my presence by appointment only but do I get to select the steer and see it slaughtered? That still makes it mystery steer as far as I can tell. Could I trust them?

Most folks do not have a dedicated deep freeze so this outfit makes the incredible offer of a 7 cubic foot freezer for $99. with a $300. bulk beef purchase. This is a nice enticement. I looked at sears.com to discover that this most likely is a good deal if it’s a quality brand that isn’t made in China and will fail after a year or so. They don’t mention the brand in this ad. Sears offers a Kenmore 6.9 cu.ft on sale for $199.74. I don’t know if a 7 CU.FT. freezer can hold 300 lbs. of beef or not. My guess is no.

CHARGE IT! 90 days to pay with no interest. Sounds good but what percentage of their customers do you think will exceed the 90 days? Probably enough to easily make up for that $99. freezer offer in interest on the balance after 90 days. Probably a lot more.

Another enticement is a $20. gasoline discount for out-of-town customers. They fail to define how far out-of-town a customer must travel to or from.

They tip it in for me on the #6 family pack for $36.73 per month plan (how did they arrive at that number?). They call it the “Year Round Food Plan”. It includes cuts of strip, ribeye, sirloin, t-bone, porterhouse (so far so good) but they lose me at the delmonico (huh?), oven roast, pot roast, ground beef and stew meat (no thanks). But wait, there’s more…

The same package includes pork chops, country ribs (not on my grill) bacon, sausage, ham and ham slices. But wait, there’s more…

With this package you get chicken!!! Boneless breast, bone-in breast, leg quarter (only one?) whole chicken, cut chicken, and the ever popular processed chicken nuggets. And if you order now you also get…

They’ll include frozen vegetables like broccoli (ugh) mixed veggies (yikes), onion rings, corn, steak fries, cauliflower and get this…a “California blend”. Someone spent a lot of time creating this business and marketing plan, that’s for sure. And, I am also sure they will draw in a lot of customers who are suddenly hurting to pay their grocery bills.

Here are my thoughts.

When you purchase beef in bulk such as a butchered ¼, ½ or whole steer you take a huge chance. If it is an inferior steer you get stuck with the whole damn thing. Imagine having to gag down a whole freezer full of tough steaks and roasts. That’s when I would pull out my meat grinder and turn it all into ground beef for burgers, tacos and enchiladas. Is that a good deal? Then again, if you do get quality bulk beef all turns out well. The same goes for winning the lotto.

Some friends and relatives I have known bought a bulk freezer beef deal only to regret it. Others will swear by it.

Look for meat on sale at the local grocery, buy a steak or roast and go home to try it. If it’s good go back to buy it in bulk then vacu-seal it in measured portions and freeze it to get a real bargain. But don't spend a lot on inflated fuel to get there and back.

Since this is the first time I have seen this specific ad it appears they are taking advantage of the tough times for many people who are not accustomed to living frugally when it comes to purchasing groceries and storing bulk meat in general.

My advice? Buyer beware. And go with God.


Dan from Madison said...

This is awesomely ridiculous. The fine print is absolutely mind boggling. "Free steak based on 4 oz portion". That is a quarter pounder, hilarious! I am going to analyze this further for sure. And this reminds me, our first steer goes in two weeks from now. Of course, that will have a post of its own.

Gerry from Valpo said...

I anxiously await the outcome of your Scottish cattle experiment : )

Dan from Madison said...

Well, they are in demand. We have had offers from a farmers market and a local butcher to buy the beef for the sole reason that is is grass fed. With a tiny farm like ours we don't have to be "certified" organic BUT they can say we are (and charge a premium) and it is all marketing and trust at that point ("sure Mrs. Olson, you can drive by the farm and see the cows happily grazing on the hill").

Madison and all that.

Could be tough as shoe leather, but I guess I don't care as long as they buy it. It will be interesting and the cows keep our property zoned ag until our house gets built there this year. My guess is that this beef will be very lean and that some cuts will be good, but different. I am not expecting a well marbled Ruth Chrith ribeye out of the deal I guess.

There will be a full report.

Dan from Madison said...

Looking at that coupon it is literally impossible to figure out how much you will pay for what. The .30 packing fee tacks an extra $50 onto almost all of the bills. What is all that pork doing on there? What is ground beef "and more"? They list the same steak under different names. What do you get?

I think they are just trying to sell some primal cuts but they do it in an interesting way, by blending the primals. "Beef Loin and Rib" - those are two different primals and so are "Rib and Chuck". So who knows wtf you will be getting. With so much grey area it smells like scam to me.

Caveat emptor as always.

Andy in Indy said...

Take that coupon into the valpo beef mart. They'll tell you the complete truth to that.

Dan from Madison said...

I agree with Andy, it would be interesting to find out wtf with the deal.

Terry from Crown Point said...

Might just be centerline bovine and a slab of lab.