Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - Do you trust cheaper meats?




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oodlesofnoodles
04-25-2011, 07:05 PM
I'm wondering, because I'm still somewhat new to cooking and all that. I don't mind buying cheaper meats (by cheaper, I mean stuff from Walmart and/or not name brand meats.) I've never had a bad experience with them before, and they taste fine to me. My boyfriend's mom is kind of snooty though and only buys it from Costco or nicer grocery stores like Raley's. I didn't think there was much of a difference, except the price. So is there?


tommy
04-25-2011, 07:12 PM
Unless you are differentiating between organic, grass-fed, etc versus "regular old meat" - it is all inspected by the same agency (USDA etc). The meat does not come from a ranch to the market - the animal is slaughtered and whole carcasses or sides are sent to middlemen (packing houses) that carve them down into what we recognize as steaks, roasts, hamburger. They then sell to markets, big chains. You could be buying meat from the same original producers as she is- just with a different name or price tag. I would be more concerned with freshness and the amount of fat in the cut. ( I am speaking as a butcher's daughter)

bargoo
04-25-2011, 08:52 PM
I wouldn't be concerned as long as it is inspected by USDA.


seagirl
04-25-2011, 08:57 PM
I prefer to know the farmer's and ranchers who grow and raise my food. I would not buy meat at Walmart. Not because I'm snooty but because cows raised on grass are healthier and fed what they are made to be fed. They are not pumped full of antibiotics to counteract the cramped and diseased conditions in which they live.

Yes, grass fed and pastured meats are more expensive, but I eat smaller servings.

You can find local foods here: http://www.eatwild.com/products/index.html and here http://www.localharvest.org/.

You might also want to read the Omnivores Dilemma.

kaplods
04-25-2011, 09:02 PM
My husband and I fequently buy marked down meats (beef, pork, chicken, lamb) from Walmart, and have never had a problem.

We use common sense. If it smells or looks off, we don't buy it (but that doesn't happen often). We don't eat marked-down meats undercooked. We use them ASAP or freeze them immediately.

A lot of cuts are cheaper because they're less popular (though fewer and fewer grocery stores carry the unpopular cuts. Organ meats that were once cheap are now expensive because they've become a specialty item).

I check out the ads in the Sunday paper, and shop according to what's cheapest. When we find a really good sale, we stock up and freeze.

We shop Sams Club and Walmart a lot. We also shop a few "expensive" meat shops, because they have sales that can bring the prices cheaper than even the chains. For example, one high-end meat market (specializing in local, grass-fed and small-farm traditionally-fed meats), is the best place to get bacon, if you use it for seasoning or don't mind irregular shaped bacon. They sell "ends" which are essentially "bits and pieces" in irregular shapes and thicknesses. The "end" price for their gourmet apple-wood smoked bacon is about the same as for cheap whole-piece bacon.


If food safety is your concern (getting sick), heat/cooking method is your best protection. I wouldn't eat "sale" meat rare or raw or probably even medium rare. However, I'm perfectly comfortable with sale roasts, because I'm going to cook them hot enough and long enough that bacteria doesn't have a chance (almost all of the dangerous bacteria are killed by heat. So if you cook long enough, hot enough there's almost no chance of food poisoning).

Technically (though I wouldn't want to test the theory) half-rotted, summer road-kill could be made safe if you boiled it thoroughly.

Price definitely isn't always the best determination of value. I've found that the meat at Walmart in central Wisconsin is of consistently better value than I bought in expensive high-end grocery stores in central Illinois. Overall, the quality and prices of beef and cheese are much better here, even at Aldi and Walmart.

One very hoighty-toity overpriced store where we once lived, had a tendency to sell meat and produce past it's prime. The store's reputation was excellent, and they offered as much variety as you could possible expect, but they were slow to remove or mark down items that didn't sell quickly, so you had to really use your eyes and nose and check the sell by dates, and know what you were looking for.

downsizer55
04-25-2011, 09:43 PM
The cheaper cuts are usually a little tougher and will do well in a crock pot
or slow oven. The more expensive cuts would be better for grilling, ie:
sirloin, new york strip or Tbone. Boneless beef ribs would work for either cooking method. The marbling indicates tenderness and flavor. Boneless pork goes on sale frequently. Frozen chicken breasts are usually a cheaper item and quite safe. There is a quality difference between "Select cuts" and "Angus cuts". Angus cuts are the higher quality. Nothing wrong with the select, you need to be aware to choose the correct way to cook it.
Hope this helps. :)

oodlesofnoodles
04-28-2011, 12:49 AM
Thank you all for your responses. I was actually figuring much of it must come from the same source. And Kaplods, thanks for the tip! How did you find out about the discounts at the nice butcher shops? Do I just call and ask? We have a few around here since I'm near the sticks, but I always figured it would be way too expensive.

fiddler
04-28-2011, 11:36 AM
If food safety is your concern (getting sick), heat/cooking method is your best protection. I wouldn't eat "sale" meat rare or raw or probably even medium rare. However, I'm perfectly comfortable with sale roasts, because I'm going to cook them hot enough and long enough that bacteria doesn't have a chance (almost all of the dangerous bacteria are killed by heat. So if you cook long enough, hot enough there's almost no chance of food poisoning).

Technically (though I wouldn't want to test the theory) half-rotted, summer road-kill could be made safe if you boiled it thoroughly.



That's not completely true. Although cooking will kill the bacteria, it will not remove the toxins created by the bacteria before it was killed. The toxins can still make you sick even if all the bacteria are dead.

fatferretfanatic
04-30-2011, 09:03 PM
I buy marked down meat and things. The only meats I won't buy are 'enhanced meats' that have sodium and broths added. I feed the ferrets portions of the meats I buy, and besides the fact that I don't want that extra stuff, the ferrets can't eat it either.

kaplods
04-30-2011, 10:29 PM
That's not completely true. Although cooking will kill the bacteria, it will not remove the toxins created by the bacteria before it was killed. The toxins can still make you sick even if all the bacteria are dead.

Yes, it's certainly possible, but not particularly likely. Also, even the heat-stable toxins are not entirely heat-proof. Many do break down if the heat is high and long enough. Even botulin toxin breaks down after 5-10 minutes of boiling.

I'm not suggesting anyone eat summer roadkill, but grocery store cuts within their expiration date are pretty safe, particularly solid cuts (rather than ground meat).

kaplods
04-30-2011, 10:48 PM
Thank you all for your responses. I was actually figuring much of it must come from the same source. And Kaplods, thanks for the tip! How did you find out about the discounts at the nice butcher shops? Do I just call and ask? We have a few around here since I'm near the sticks, but I always figured it would be way too expensive.

Mostly I've found discounts just chance (I used to ask, but I've noticed that retailers have become less open about their mark-down schedules). Usually mark-downs tend to be on a weekly schedule, and you just figure it out by visiting on random days. If you find a mark-down, chances are that's their markdown day (or the day before). Just make a note in your calendar and try again around that day. For example, one shop in town, markdowns early on Tuesday mornings. Word has gotten out, and if you get there after 11:00 am, you won't find anything.

A couple of the gourmet shops, put all their markdowns in a specific freezer case. That's handy because you just go to the discount bin (generally I've found it's at the back of the store).

And the bacon ends and other irregular cuts I mentioned, aren't always a mark-down per se. In some stores they're a regular item, they're just cheaper because they're not perfect. The bacon ends and the irregular pork chops for example are always available in our local shop, but are half the price of the perfect cuts. They taste just as good, and they're just as fresh, they're just less perfectly cut.

ryeb
05-06-2011, 07:44 PM
I have had the Walmart brand ground turkey (90/10) and the Jenn-o from Safeway, I will admit, the Safeway brand browned better and tasted better.

I normally just look at the fat content as opposed to the brand.

madamwu
05-10-2011, 01:10 PM
Wegman's sells irradiated ground beef in tubes (90/10 & 80/10 meat to fat ratios). We always check when we are in the store because they will occassionally have ones near their expiration date marked down in price. Take them home and immediately freeze them and they are fine. I used to work in toxicology information and I have come to the point I will only buy irradiated ground meat--you don't have to worry about salmonella or e coli and the irradiating process does not change the meat or harm the consumer. IMHO

RiverWind
05-10-2011, 07:36 PM
Another concern a lot of people have is the safety of meat and the possibility of getting E Coli. While it is rare, it can happen. E Coli comes most commonly from undercooked hamburger. The reason is that hamburger is ground together with meat and fat products from tons of different cows and the meat itself usually comes from the back end of the cow near the anus where fecal matter can get into it. I am not sure what kinds of stores you have in your area, but here we have a couple that cut meat in-store. When they have things like bottom round roasts on sale (they often have them buy one get one free) I pick a couple up and have the meat cutters grind it into hamburger for me. That way, I know that the meat came from just one cow and I know that it is a better quality of meat because it came from a better part of the cow.

Plus, if you've noticed, pre-ground meats have a nutrition label on them that includes an ingredient list. They have to because the meat comes from several sources. Fresh roasts generally don't have an ingredient list on them because they are pure pieces of meat that are not combined with various sources and do not contain any byproduct.

Serval87
05-11-2011, 11:03 PM
I get these little angus steaks for under 3 dollars most of the time. I'll buy 3 or 4 at a time, put them in the freezer, and take them out and cook them for burritos or pasta for dinners. I think they're cheaper, because they're cut very thinly. They always taste good, and are very tender. My only complaint is that they are probably not grass-fed. :( I have to start buying beef again, since we've eaten our fair share of my parents' cow (that I helped butcher), and the deer my Dad got earlier this year.