retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Food retailers looking for ways to stay ahead of the culinary curve apparently now have more weapons to help them differentiate themselves.

Calf brains, pig snouts and beef cheeks … which are part of what is called the nose-to-tail movement.

Bloomberg has a story about how, “while the rest of the world has been doing this for centuries, Americans are just starting to catch up when it comes to nose-to-tail eating. Nontraditional cuts of meat are popping up on menus from Portland to Miami. And people are loving them.”

An example:

“At Cafe Marie Jeanne in Chicago, chef and owner Mike Simmons said he was getting bored playing it safe with dishes like cheesy broccoli. So he bought 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of calf brains, prepared them with lemon, capers, and herbs, and offered them at brunch. He figured he’d sell a few and throw away the rest. Instead, he sold out, and customers came back asking for the dish that’s now become a menu staple.”

Or: “In Denver’s historic Larimer Square district, you can order Pad Thai Pig Ears at gastropub Euclid Hall, and in Phoenix, grab some pig face dumplings at Asian fusion joint Clever Koi.”

The story makes the point that these nontraditional cuts of meat serve to provide some interest and variety in the segment at a time when plant-based meals seem to be all the rage. At the same time, it isn’t just exotic purveyors making the leap into the nontraditional …Tyson Foods tells Bloomberg that “an increasingly diverse American population” is creating and expanding “the domestic market for so-called variety meats” such as “chicken paws, tripe and tongue.”

It will only increase: “A third of the nation’s shoppers are African-American, Hispanic or Asian, and their buying power is increasing.”

Now, I have to be honest here … I’m not immediately turned on by this trend, but I’ve watched enough Anthony Bourdain in my life to be persuaded that his observation is true, that “"life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.” And even the option of trying calf brains, pig snouts and beef cheeks.

And that’s an Eye-Opener.
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