Where’s the USDA beef? Maybe at Costco…

PJ-AQ503_STEAK_C_20090714153048When I scanned the Wall Street Journal online headlines this morning, for a moment I thought I was reading a Whole Foods flyer. What was this, a piece of nicely marbled red meat tempting me, even so early in the day, as I still work my first espresso—on the front page of the WSJ no less?!

Of course, I clicked the meat, and read the story.

And now I understand why the editors decided this was front page news.

It seems that bad news for restaurants is good news for us carnivores. Demand is apparently down at restaurants such as Morton’s for choice cuts of prime beef like USDA. It’s the same story as premium wine. People are continuing to cut back. Oh boy, I wonder, does this mean soon every steakhouse visit will be like eating at a moderately upscale Chili’s? With valets of course.

As a result of dwindling restaurant demand, the article suggests, consumers are the net beneficiary as distributors look to them to pick up the overstock. And at discounts too. Brian Wong, of San Jose of all places, was surprised to see a premium USDA cut at his local Costco:

So when Mr. Wong saw a cut labeled USDA prime at Costco—selling for $9.99 a pound—he was so startled that he knocked on the window of the butcher department. “I asked them, ‘Is this a joke? Is it really prime?’ ” Mr. Wong says. The rib eyes he bought were the real thing: They were “more tender, more juicy” and more “delicious” than any other steaks he has cooked, Mr. Wong says.

So while fine-dining establishments suffer, us people of meat can enjoy our new-found USDA marbled pleasures, at plumber Joe prices.

All this to say, I’m looking forward to this week’s Costco/Trader Joe’s run… I will need to do some first-hand investigation into the matter, and report back soon. But only after in-depth taste testing—no doubt, paired with a fine Napa Cab.

[Source: The Wall Street Journal, Prime Time for Steak Lovers]

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