Friday, April 25, 2014

Teeter tees up tender cuts

Harris Teeter is rolling out a new class of "Certified Very Tender" beef for its patrons, and its the first retailer to use a new government certification for tender cuts.

The US Department of Agriculture has been developing new scientific standards for tenderness for years. The government's marketing department has been working with major meatpackers. The reason? They say that cuts of beef that aren't rated as highly as Prime can be just as tender and delicious (and hence, just as worthy of consumers' dollars).

"The Company believes that the USDA Certified Very Tender program will serve as a useful tool for consumers for whom tenderness is a necessary contributor to their beef purchase," said Harris Teeter, in a news release about the program.

The new tenderness designation will apply to Angus Reserve ribeye, striploin, shortloin, tenderloin and top blade cuts of beef. Harris Teeter's supplier for Angus Reserve is Cargill Meat Solutions.

More interesting perhaps than the certification itself is how it came to be. This slideshow from the USDA details the 12 year history behind the certification. It began with a request from the industry for the government to develop a "Tenderness Marketing Claim Standard." The first proposed rule was circulated in Dec. 2002.

"Multi-dynamic sub-committees were formed to focus on tenderness," the USDA said. Eventually, there was a "Tenderness Forum" (which probably sounds more emotional than it was) held in 2008 at the Reciprocal Meats Conference at the University of Florida.

The scientific data behind the tenderness standards is fairly involved. There's a "minimum tenderness threshold value," established by testing the shear force required to cut the meat (shear force is, in my highly unscientific definition, when two forces are pushing one part of a body in one direction and another part in another direction). If you'd like to see a detailed slideshow of a procedure for measuring this, click here.

So, there you have it: The latest in tenderness certification technology.