I tell all of my employees, “No basura”. In Spanish, this means "no trash". There is no reason that any food item cannot be re-used to make another. If you time it right and get creative, there's no reason your meat needs to end up in the trash. No basura.
Meat case shrinkage
On a daily basis, when I open the shop, I look over my meat case and think, what looks like it’s had a good life? What items look like they’re past their peak of freshness? If a roast looks past its prime, what can I do to make it fresh again? This is called shrink. When you feel compelled to remove something from the case, even if it’s just a piece you’ve trimmed from a steak or roast, you’re shrinking your case’s meat volume. One way to keep something looking fresh in the case is to trim it of it’s dry ends and bits (save those, I’ll talk about them later). Or, you can make it into something totally new. No basura.
Let’s begin with roasts: most roasts can be made into several different cuts of steak. For example, a sirloin roast can be made into Top Sirloin, Baseball Cut Sirloin, and Coulatte Steaks, aka Sirloin Cap Steaks. Chuck Roast can be made into Chuckeye Steaks, Delmonico Steaks, and Denver Steaks. Even a leg of lamb can be made boneless, then butterflied, then made into medallions and butterflied leg steaks.
Value add products
Now, you’ve cut your steaks and those haven’t all sold. Time to rotate the steaks into another value added product. Value Added, basically means that you’re taking something that may be a lower priced product, or past it’s prime (Manager’s Special anyone?) and adding new or more value to it. When you broke your roasts down into steaks, you added value to the meat since most people are willing to pay more per pound for steaks than they are for roasts.
Some value added products that I make from steaks and chops include: Steak n’ Bacon Burgers, Ground Steakburger, I cut them a bit thinner and call them “Pub Steaks”, or just plain ol’ Ground Beef. And, of course, let’s not forget one of the most wonderful creations of all time - Sausage. Sausage is a gimme and people love it. You can be very creative with your recipes and presentations. The one downfall with sausage is that’s the end stage. Much like seasoning sausage, the same is true with marinating meat. You can’t re-form these items into much else once they’ve seasoned and marinated. What I make with my shrink depends on the price I’ve paid for the meat and just how good it looks in these various forms.
Remember all of the dry bits, gristle, bone and whatnot we trimmed earlier? We saved those in the walk-in for now. Take them out, lay them flat on a sheet tray and roast them til they’re brown and sizzling. Make stock from these bits for a flavorful Stock, Demi, Au Jus, or any other sort of meaty liquid you can market to your customers.
If you’ve trimmed any fat from your roasts or steaks be sure to keep this. Actually, keep it separate from your steak trimmings, your stock trimmings, and your burger/sausage trimmings because you can make something very wonderful with your fat: Fryer oil & cracklins.
Take your fat trimmings, grind them coarse and put them into a heavy pot, as in a Dutch Oven. Put them into a medium oven, about 375 F. Let the fat render for a long time until all of the bits that are left are completely devoid of fat and have turned into crispy little goodies - cracklins. Strain the fat off for all natural fryer oil. What’s left are the little bits of meat and gristle that have slow-fried all day in the fat you’ve been rendering. Drain these on paper towels until they’re mostly dry of the grease and serve them up as the “butcher’s bacon bits”. I give them out for free in little containers to keep my customers happy while they wait in line.
If ever there is a piece of something edible you can’t find a home for, such as the spent stock meat and veggies, save that and donate it to your community garden’s compost pile. Sometimes people shy away from meat in the compost, but many urbanites are bookworms and have figured out proper systems to compost this stuff. It’s certainly worth asking around.
There are many things you can do with meat, bone, and fat. You have to be creative when you’re relying on getting every penny possible from the meat you’re purchasing and re-selling. When every penny counts, trash can cost you lots of money. Squeeze every last bit of flavor, nutrients, and money from every ounce you’re purchasing and your shop’s bottom line will thank you. And remember, no basura!