Following the cow from ‘Steer to Steak,’ Sterling Allen (left), Owner & Publisher of Agri-Times Northwest Newspaper, came to Newport Market for a one day apprenticeship with our meat department. Allen took a full day off from his usual duties and spent it getting his hands dirty, learning the basics of what goes on behind the meat counter here at Newport. Allen likes to get both sides of the story. Check out his upcoming article scheduled for release this upcoming week.
Published in Agri-Times Northwest Newspaper Friday, May 2nd
A day in the life of a meat cutter
The desires of both the beef consumers and the retailers that supply those consumers are of utmost importance to Country Natural Beef. It was with their needs in mind that cattle growers incorporated to develop and manage sustainable ranches that follow their product from birth to plate.
This week’s AGRI-TIMES NW journey originated last May during my buckaroo experience on the Roaring Springs Ranch, Frenchglen, a major supplier of cattle for the Country Natural Beef program. Stacy Davies, ranch manager and Marketing Director for Country Natural Beef inquired, last fall, if I would be interested in being a meat cutter for a day at Newport Ave. Market, Bend. Newport Ave. Market was the first store to carry Country Natural Beef 27 years ago.
I recently contacted Greg Donnelly, Newport Ave. Market Meat Manager, and tried to impress him on my entry level journeymen experience resume, 1975 OSU class Meats 341, that would hopefully allow me to have a knife in my hand.
9:00 I met Greg at the meat counter, where he was assisting customers. The first customer wanted 8 lamb loin chops. Donnelly immediately went to the meat cooler, pulled out several loins and cut and wrapped it for the customer. Another lady, cook book in hand, requested thin round steaks to be cut for a gourmet roll-up recipe (Rouladen) she had planned. It was clearly evident that customer service is paramount at this store.
The meat counter offers Country Natural Beef, Carlton Farms pork, and Umpqua Valley lamb, and grass fed beef from Emerald Hills, both grown by Kathy Panner in Riddle, Or.
“As a butcher, County Natural Beef is something special. I like to cook and get excited about cooking CNB. It’s easy to share that enthusiasm with our customers,” said Donnelly. “We care as much about our rancher’s cattle as they do.”
10:00 Donnelly surveys the meat displays, taking notes of products that need to be cut and restocked for the day.
10:45 Donnelly demonstrates cutting Dry Aged Beef, that had been hanging in a dry aging case (dehumidifier) for two weeks. This process allows the moisture to evaporate from the beef, and enhances the flavors in the meat. The original 25 lb. prime short loin shrinks to only 8 lbs of saleable product. Although the New York steaks are offered at $29.99 lb., the steaks will be gone from the shelf by Saturday noon.
11:00 Damon Pope, Assistant Meat Manager, demonstrates cutting Korean style short ribs that are marinated in Korean barbeque sauce and sold for $9.99 lb. Again, these sell out each day.
11:30 I brought my original Meat 341 knives to use, but they needed 15 minutes worth of sharpening on a stone before use. Finally, I am instructed how to cut a flat iron steak. The primal cut of shoulder clod was trimmed of fat and gristle at great detail, with trim thrown in a lugger, which is basically a tub used for anything from meat storage, to mixing, to marinating. “Push your knife away from you, not towards you,” coached Donnelly. Steaks were evenly cut, and were store labeled and marketed as “Doc Hatfield’s High Desert Ranch Steak. “ Newport Ave. Market’s meat department named this steak in honor of Doc Hatfield and his contributions to the natural meat industry.
12:30-1:00 We shifted gears to making hamburger. Several sirloin primal cuts and meat scraps were added to the grinder. We ground it twice, before roughly measuring it in one pound portions in foam trays, and later labelled “Ground Sirloin, not to exceed 10% fat”. I finally got the feeling of the foot switch and coordination that allowed a consistent weight in the meat trays. The 22% fat burger consisted of trimmings from the day’s steak and roast production entirely.
2:00 After lunch, we began the process of making sausage links using Newport’s very own Black Butte Bratwurst recipe. I cut the pork shoulder into chunks to be ground. Then I measured the salt, pepper, garlic, and cheese and poured 5 bottles of Black Butte Porter into the lugger to be thoroughly mixed by hand. The product was then transferred to the cylinder of the sausage press. By turning a crank by hand, a plunger forces the sausage mixture through a funnel, stuffing it into a natural hog casing. This was a challenge for me, as I either did not have the right pressure on the casings, meaning they did not fill completely did not fill properly, or too much pressure and the casing exploded! The sausages were twisted every 7 inches to create the links offered for sale at $5.99/lb.
4:00-4:30 I assisted in hoisting a new Shortloin and 107 Rib to the Dry Aged Beef cooler that will be cut and offered for sale in two weeks. I helped stock meat counter shelves with product that had been processed in the shop during the day.
4:30-5:00 I transferred my job focus to the front display meat counter, to experience the customer interaction. I assisted customer request by wrapping and labeling 1/2 lb salmon and 6 slices of gourmet bacon.
“I like to man the meat counter at the end of the day and help with customer requests,” said Donnelly. He was able to answer customer inquiries on “what are your favorite chicken kabobs”, to “what are your favorite sausages”, etc. The importance of having a skilled and knowledgeable employee assist the diverse customer requests was very evident at this store. A proud UConn basketball fan left the store showing me a package of hamburger stating, “This is the best hamburger anywhere.”
The meat case has to be efficiently managed. Donnelly shared meat-cutting tests where a primal cut was dissected, weighed, and priced to determine if the profit margin goal could be attained. Newport Ave. Market adds value to their sales by featuring marinades and seasoned meat products.
I want to thank the Newport Ave. Market staff for their gallant efforts in sharing the inner workings of their operation.
That night at home, I was thinking of Doc Hatfield when we were savoring that delightful Newport Ave. Market flat iron steak fresh off the grill. Thanks to Doc Hatfield’s efforts and vision of leading Country Natural Beef Cooperative, ranchers are able to profitably raise cattle and the consumer is able to enjoy and savor the eating experience of Country Natural Beef.