Saturday, July 21, 2007

Osso Bucco

Takes long cooking. About 1/2 bone. Used to be cheap meat. Not any more. Whole Foods price today? My local store has it at: $ - well actually they didn't have any today, but they tell me it would have been $12.99/lb. Arguably Whole Foods might run a bit higher than some other market - but the fact is that this, once lowly, cut has become expensive. Once you take the bone into consideration, the meat alone will run you around $10 per portion.

Why was it cheap before? Why isn't it so any more?

After all, the more desireable cuts of veal have always been (comparatively) expensive. Once upon a time, veal cutlet (tops - prepped) would have run you $12/lb when osso bucco was around $3. Now the tops run $18 and the OB is $13. What accounts for the price compression?

Has the ratio of OB to cutlet, ribs, loin, etc. on veal changed? Perhaps genetic engineering has been applied to alter the design of the animal to this effect? Since modern veal production doesn't involve the animal actually going anywhere, perhaps they've reduced the number of legs on the calf to optimize these proportions?

No - that's probably wrong.

Hey, what about Flank Steak, Skirt Steak, or (if you can even find one) Hanger Steak.
Same story. Used to be comparatively cheap - but the price spread between these "value" cuts and the famously most desireable cuts have been dramatically reduced in recent years.

I'll skip the speculation.

Meat is no longer cut locally. That is, there is no real meat breakdown at the retail level. Meat is broken down to retail cuts (sometimes even retail portions) before it reaches the store. Since the product is shipped in cut-wise distinct packages at cut-wise distinct prices, there's no longer any inadvertant buying. Used to be that for your butcher to sell you veal chops, he would purchase whole carcasses, or sides. The chops came along with the shins (osso bucco) Beef - by the side or quarter. Want loin? Comes with flank. Now it's all in boxes, cut by cut. This distribution technology permits the "optimization" of the market. Supply and demand can be managed cut by cut.

Now I'm not opposed to the natural forces that operate in markets generally. But when such "optimization" distorts the fabric of cuisine? This is a serious problem.

No comments: