May 27, 2014

Meat is no Longer Meat

On one of my forays into kosher supermarkets, I noticed the manager of the meat section giving a lecture on meat to a young 20’ish woman with a stroller in front of her. “You can tell how lean this meat by the outline of the bone,” he told her while pointing to some fat on a rather good looking piece of meat. The woman smiled: “Growing up, my mother served us meat and I never knew the difference.” Nowadays, many a kosher homemaker has become a meat maven and even if she isn’t, where she shops is an indication of her good taste.

Meat has become the new magnet for retailers who consider it the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for a store. It is for many the replacement of the old-time butcher who knew the discerning tastes of every one of his customers. The sheer variety of the meats in a modern kosher supermarket would put the old kosher butcher to shame. One retail store estimated that he sold well over 100 different types of meat and poultry products. You heard me right, well over 100. One butcher told me that while there was a “pushback” on red meats in the late ‘90’s because of health concerns, he has seen a dramatic increase in the sale of  meats, “especially since 2000.”

The kosher consumer of today has an unprecedented array of choices in  many categories, so much so that they can walk into a kosher supermarket and choose from as many as 40,000 items, but it is the meat and poultry section that has undergone the most dramatic makeover. It is common today for a kosher store to have a showcase with meat looking bright red, almost as if it was painted to illustrate quality.  My butcher friend smiled: “You know that Alle, AgriStar, Solomon’s and Rosenblatt’s were always around, but never has meat been so hot under the new retailers like Pomegranate, Gourmet Glatt, and Evergreen.” So much so that an ad for one of these stores might simply show a big chunk of ribs or the butcher or even as one store called the meat expert, the “meatologist.” Regardless, of how successful a store might be, the clarion cry nowadays is “where’s the beef?”