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Food news: Beef cuts and Chinese apples

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New Beef Cuts

These are changing times for the beef industry: American consumption of beef has been falling for decades as customers have shifted to lighter fare. Pricey cuts (such as filet mignon) are dining rarities in a sluggish economy.

As a result, the beef industry has been reconfiguring the cow (for more than a decade) to find new affordable, yet still delicious cuts that will fetch higher prices than burger without breaking shoppers' budgets.

Universities of Nebraska and Florida researchers studied more than three dozen muscles, mainly the shoulder or chuck and the round (the back leg). They measured tenderness, trimmed the gristle and spent hours in test kitchens cooking up the results. Skepticism abounded.

But a new cut within the chuck area produced a new steak, which was called the flatiron (due to resembling an antique steel clothing iron). This is now the sixth most popular steak in the U.S. (retail price at $6 a pound).
The flatiron has changed the beef industry by: Adding $50-$70 to the value of the average steer (entire steer price is about $1,600)
Enabling restaurants to serve a hearty steak at affordable prices
Is currently the sales leader among the new cuts

Tony Mata is a meat scientist who, along with a team of researchers, came up with the industry's newest steak (mining the muscle under the shoulder blade for tender flesh). Mata and company succeeded; the Vegas strip steak was unveiled in 2012 at a trade show and in 2013, landed on several restaurant menus (it's $6 a pound).
Other new steaks such as petite tender, ranch, Denver and Sierra are showing up in meat cases alongside the traditional sirloin and porterhouse.

Two other new cut innovations are: Country-style ribs that are boneless (because these aren't cut near the rib cage, but sliced from the chuck area) and the New York strip fillet (basically a 1-pound New York strip steak that's cut in half).

Chinese Apples in the U.S.

China wants to send their apples to the U S market.
And that's OK with American apple growers, because they see this as a win-win situation, enabling them to get a foothold in the country's lucrative and growing market.

The Chinese consume most of their nation's apple crop (and grow half of the world's apple crop); U S growers in the Northwest can use the foreign sales because the U S produces more apples than Americans can eat (a total of 129 million bushels in 2012; about 30 percent was exported to countries like Canada, Mexico and Taiwan. The state's $2.2 billion apple industry accounted for about 65 percent of America's apple harvest).

There used to be a thriving exporting market of American apples to China annually, but that ended in 2012, amid China's concerns that apple diseases from Washington state would damage its own orchards.

Washington growers believe the real reason the market closed was to put pressure on the U S to allow Chinese apples into this country.

Ongoing trade talks may be an indicator that U S apples could return to the Chinese market by early 2014. And Chinese apples could enter the U S market by this coming fall.

But not everyone is thrilled.

The U S Apple Association has voiced concerns that Chinese apples could come with invasive pests that might damage American orchards.

We strongly support a strong, science-based system to ensure that pest and disease issues are treated appropriately,” said Diane Kurrie, the group's vice president of public affairs, “rather than a political solution that simply opens the door to Chinese apples.”

Chinese agricultural officials dismiss that concern, citing the exporting of apple juice concentrate to the U S and sending apples to Asian countries and Canada (more than 80 countries total).

The process for allowing Chinese apples just entered the “pest risk assessment” phrase (U S scientists consider the chances of pests entering the country in the produce and what damage that could cause). And state agricultural officials in Washington are awaiting a visit from a Chinese delegation.

Did You Know That.....

The U S is the world's third-largest apple grower behind the European Union.
The U S also imports apples from Chile, South Africa and Argentina.

Sources: “Beef industry markets new cuts”-Los Angeles Times-The (Sunday) Vindicator, November 3, 2013 and “China seeks to export apples to U S”-Associated Press-The (Sunday) Vindicator, December 15, 2013

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