NY Strip: the new value cut?
I had a colleague of mine call the other day, "Chris, I've got all of these Strip Loins piling up on me. Do you have any creative ways to move this product other than the old NY Strip Steak?" My friend works for a grass fed beef company that sells on a mid-scale around the country. It's by no means a large meat company in today's world. However, they're larger than the small niche producer that is moving 10-20 carcasses a year.
What was so interesting about getting this call is that I've been noticing the same trend that he's struggling with for a few months now. Folks just don't value the Strip Loin like they used to. If you look at the beef market trends over the past few years, Strip Loin is not the "King of Steaks" like it once was. It sits in the middle somewhere on most weeks. Thanks to the resurgence of the steakhouse in America, there will likely be a home for a portion of the Strip Loins produced in this country. But, I believe it will not be at the same levels as we've seen in the past.
I remember reading about a book published a few hundred years ago, one of the very first cookbooks, that listed recipes by order of their importance to the culinary world. The first recipe featuring beef? Beef Broth...yes, broth. It was not a steak, or a Prime Rib Roast, or even a Steamship Round. It was a recipe of how to make an outstanding Beef Broth using the bones and other scraps. The value of those pieces of meat were based on the rich broth you could make and the various recipes that you could build from that flavorful foundation.
Fast-forward to today - what's the most valued beef cut? Beef Tenderloin, one of the least flavorful pieces of meat available. Why is tenderloin so valuable if it's not packed with great flavor? The key is in the name, it's tender-loin. The ease of cooking, joy of chewing, and even the name have made it extremely popular with not just home cooks that are looking to cook steak, but with "chefs" around the country for years. No disrespect to many fine chefs around the US, but they have been in the minority for decades. Most "chefs" in our oversaturated world of fast-casual dining are not properly trained on handling beef cuts. Tenderloin is popular because it's always going to be tender (even when cooked well-done), it's highly recognizable with customers that haven't eaten a lot of different cuts of beef, and it's very pretty on the plate.
What's the point to all of this? The point is that over the decades and centuries values for cuts change. And I believe we're seeing the value of the Strip Loin change before our eyes. What was once one of the highest valued cuts is now being stockpiled, frozen, and sold as breakfast steaks. What I told my friend was what I'm telling you now, "you need to begin adjusting the way you value the whole carcass. You will be able to get more money for the other cuts that traditionally have been lower priced items and drop the price of the strips."
There are many interesting ways to fabricate the Strip Loin, other than Strip Steaks, which he and I discussed. But, beyond a little creative fabrication, the Strip Loin is still losing ground on a large scale in the market place. For one thing, folks are more comfortable eating fat again. There is no longer a mass fear of fat in the consumer base. People are again eating big Ribeye Steaks and Prime Rib. In addition, value cuts such as Flat Iron, Sirloin Flap Meat, Teres Major, Shoulder Clod Hearts that were once cheap and exciting are rising in price and popularity. And, with good reason: these cuts are great! They're full of flavor, interesting textures, and some can even be extremely tender. Why would someone buy a big old Strip Loin that will have a poor yield (compared to some other cuts like I've listed above) and has become old news to customers, when they could find something that has better flavor and texture? Chefs are becoming more skilled with a knife as diners are demanding more food produced in-house with an emphasis on butchery. Sales-people are becoming more knowledgeable and skilled at selling under-utilized cuts, and Strip Loins are being left behind.
As meat-pushers, it's time to begin adjusting your perceived values of beef cuts, especially the Strip Loin. If you're selling whole carcasses my advice to you is to begin slowly increasing the price of cuts that are trending up in your inventory and steadily decline the price of the Strip Loin in order to maximize the balance between demand and margins for your business. If I'm wrong, and you've got a few chefs that just love your Strips, by all means ignore this post and keep doin what your'e doin! But, if you're struggling to move these Strip Loins, I'm not surprised. I believe this is only going to continue.
Agree/disagree? Leave a comment with your experiences. I'd love to hear if you can identify with this post, or if you think it's total BS!