Watch Marketing In Action
November 7, 2001 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Watch Marketing In Action Read this wire article about the "new" flat-iron steak and you can almost hear the gears spinning in the heads of Beef Council marketing flacks as they imagine how to take a junk cut of meat and turn it into the "latest taste sensation". Does the world really need another kind of steak? (link to news article via FARK.....don't hate me)
posted by briank (23 comments total)
Meat research... I can just see a bunch of grad students hacking up a cow in their research slaughterhouse, taking the spoils across the room to their research kitchen, and recording the outcome in their research dining room.

Here I was, thinking that you just chopped up a cow and ate it. Oh no, it's a science.
posted by whatnotever at 9:54 AM on November 7, 2001

How do you "find" a new cut of meat?

"Holy shit! There's some meat over here, too! I guess that in the whole history of mankind we've never noticed this here chunk of flesh! Hey, somebody needs to try it!"

"Make Gary eat it."


"Yeah, Gary! Try it."

"It's not poisoned, I guess. Not bad. Little chewy."

"Hey, let's market it as 'the new filet mignon.'"

"Now, if we can only find a use for all these cow assholes."
posted by ColdChef at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2001

No, the world doesn't really need another kind of steak. But we don't need shirts in thousands of colors and patterns and fabrics, either. Yet people like them and want them, and so they're produced.

It sounds like the 'flat-iron' steak is being created out of parts of the animal that formerly went into things like hamburger and stew beef, because they were difficult to cut without including a lot of tough fibrous tissue. Now someone has figured how to cut them into steak, so we have a new steak that costs more than hamburger, but less than sirloin, and tastes and cooks like steak. Sounds win-win to me.

Eventually, I'd guess 5-20 years, the 'flat-iron' steak will be regarded by the grocery-shopping public as just another cut of steak, and its price will rise to roughly equal that of other steaks. But in the meantime, maybe it's a bargain.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2001

I'm all for better utilization of the material available in a cow. "Does the world really need another kind of steak?" is a question best answered by market forces.

And they're not turning a junk cut of meat into the "latest taste sensation." What they've done is found a different way to section the critter to produce a higher-quality meat. Think of it this way: cut one way, roast beef is often dry and stringy; cut a different way, it is moist and tender. That's what this new cut is like.

There are other efforts underway in the beef industry (and other meat industries) to produce consolidated-product steaks. These are made from trim and other material that would normally be ground into hamburger, but they're formed together to make a whole-slab "steak." That is NOT what we have here.

Still, I am a "marketing-aware" person, and agree with your skepticism.
posted by yesster at 10:01 AM on November 7, 2001

Here's the clue that it's already being positioned to be a more expensive cut -- the assertion that it takes "special training" to learn how to cut it, meaning it will have to be a "premium" cut.
posted by briank at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2001

Does the world really need another kind of steak?

I for one answer with a resounding "Yes!"
posted by GriffX at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2001

We've been getting "Swiss steaks" from our butcher for years. It's a nice, tender cut at a reasonable price. I think the last batch I grilled cost $1.79 a pound, which is about the same as lean ground beef. However, they're typically small and fairly thin.

For a good, lean steak at an affordable price you still can't beat a thick, juicy London Broil.

Now I've gone and made myself hungry...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:14 AM on November 7, 2001

There can never be enough cuts of steak.

Mmmmm... beefy.
posted by bondcliff at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2001

if there were such a thing as meat research, i imagine it strongly resembles Etienne De Crecy's music video for their song, Am I Wrong (to hunger).
posted by moz at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2001


Best meat song ever: Eat Steak by the Reverend Horton Heat.

Roberto Duran ate two before a fight
Cause it gives a mighty man
An awful lot of mighty might.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2001

If it's a "labor-intensive" cut, my supermarket won't be carrying it. *sigh* If they do, I'll be glad to try it. Meanwhile, I'm just happy they've finally started carrying "skirt steak"---delish for grilling or for fajitas!

The problem with supermarkets is they carry what *they* think people will buy. I have a recipe a Brit friend gave me way back in the mid-80's for stuffed beef heart...but I've never been able to find a beef heart anywhere in NJ. If anybody knows a place on line that'll ship me one, I'd be obliged for the link.
posted by realjanetkagan at 10:52 AM on November 7, 2001

I still can't hear the words "Beef Council" without stifling a laugh. I imagine a group of Old White Guys in butcher's coats, sitting around a board room decorated with USDA posters of different cuts as the Chairman leans forward and says, "Well...what shall we do about beef today?"


...well, it seemed funny to me.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:27 PM on November 7, 2001

Reminds me of this: Monk fish used to be considered trash fish, as did lobster, for that matter. Yet today Monk fish is on menus everywhere, and lobster is an appreciated delicacy.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:53 PM on November 7, 2001

Perfect example of marketing creating a "premium" product out of what was considered a subpremium quality product: Copper River Salmon

Had been a "junk" run with the fish being turned into cat food. An enterprising marketer comes up with, "the long length of the run means the fish is ultra-flavorful and a superior filet," and you're off to the races.

If you live in the PNW you've doubtlessly witnessed the yearly phenomenon of the local lemmings - oh wait, I meant yuppies...err...distinguishing culinary individuals - elbowing each other out of the way in order to secure the privilege of plunking down $20.00 to $30.00/lb. (much more at restaurants) for what used to be available in convenient $0.50/pop-top-can servings.
posted by edlark at 1:11 PM on November 7, 2001

This .PDF file from the Beef Council's professional food service marketing group shows you where they're going with this -- get restaurants to put it on their menu as an upscale dish with lower food cost, so that it builds demand among those yuppies who buy the $30/lb fish.

And here's the upscale restaurants (well, one, just as an example) falling nicely in line.
posted by briank at 1:37 PM on November 7, 2001

"Now, if we can only find a use for all these cow assholes."

Uh, they did. I think they're called hot dogs. : )
posted by kittyloop at 1:50 PM on November 7, 2001

briank, re: upscale restaurants family had one of our pre-wedding events at the Villa Mt. Eden winery a couple years ago. I recommend their wines highly, but I'm no wino connoisuer.

More marketing fun: See the sponsors on the left of the page? Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wines, from Washington State? They're in the same corporate family (UST, short for U.S. Tobacco, of "Copenhagen" fame) as Villa Mt. Eden. Hmmm, can you say, corporate synergy?
posted by msacheson at 3:20 PM on November 7, 2001

I'd suggest we could use this new steak to make beef curtains, but it may be in bad taste. Stick with fish flavoring.
posted by hellinskira at 4:03 PM on November 7, 2001

Briank, I was thinking the same thing when I read this article. They're touting this as a reasonably-priced, tender cut of beef, yet in the same breath they say it's a labor-intensive cut that takes special training to master. How are they going to keep it at "chicken tender" prices, then?

Realjanet? Regarding beef hearts, I don't know where you live exactly, but I'm able to find them at our more urban supermarkets (I live near Detroit, and it seems that stores within the city limits have not only beef hearts, but pig's ears and feet as well).
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:34 PM on November 7, 2001

Is that for the old 'Beef Heart and Battery' trick? Should have been in the 'Warm, Wet Vagina' thread...
posted by hellinskira at 5:58 PM on November 7, 2001

I never met a cow I didn't like....
posted by spilon at 8:41 PM on November 7, 2001

Realjanet: When I lived in Stockton (don't ask) I simply asked the meat department at a chain grocery store if I could special order beef heart and they said yes. I needed it to make anticuchos, a typical Bolivian dish. One or 2 days later they had it, and it was insanely cheap.

Or you can order variety meats online.
posted by O9scar at 9:04 AM on November 8, 2001

They're touting this as a reasonably-priced, tender cut of beef, yet in the same breath they say it's a labor-intensive cut that takes special training to master.

Yeah, that's when my marketing BS filter started buzzing, because you could see they weren't quite sure how to position the product. The professional food service ads, though, show how they clarified that. They sell it as cheap to restaurateurs, who mark it up so that consumers will expect it to be an expensive piece of meat.

The wine synergy thing is a good observation, msacheson, since wine markup in restaurants is often outrageous. I can't tell you how many times I've seen wine on a restaurant menu priced 4 or 5 times higher than its retail price.
posted by briank at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2001

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