Niman Ranch meats
Bought a London Broil at Trader Joe's yesterday and it was Niman Ranch brand. It was $7.99 per pound! When I get a London Broil from our neighborhood grocery store butcher (I don't know what brand), it is rarely more than $2.00 per pound.
I read the Niman website and noted their quality. Then, looked at their on-line prices. 3-1/2 punds of London Broil on-line is $16.43 per pound! and that does not include shipping costs.
What is the price for London Broil in your area?
Is there some reason you can think of for Niman Ranch to request such a price for theirs?
1) From my reading of several beef producer magazines that I get, Niman Ranch is a brand as opposed to a place. Anyone can use the brand if they agree to follow the ranching methods.
2) If you go to a union grocery (Krogers, Albetsons, Safeway) for "London broil" you will get bottom round steak which is an inferior cut. You need to order flank steak. I don't pay more than $3.50/lb for choice or select flank steak. (Or more than $1.29 for soup bones, but then, I don't shop at Safeway.)
3) I don't know where you are at but here in Chicago, I would not buy meat at TJ's as it is not sourced the same as it is in California. I have found TJ's to be overpriced and lower quality than I can find in many of teh independents.
As others have pointed out, London Broil isn't really a cut, it's a technique. My local chain supermarket sells shoulder steak london broil for ~$2 on sale/~$4 regular, top round london broil for ~$4 on sale/~$5 regular, and flank steak (they never label this one London Broil though) for ~$8 (all prices per pound). So given how Niman Ranch meats are raised, that 7.99 a pound could be a total steal. It's hard to tell without knowing what cut of beef it really was.
Niman's ranchers use techniques stipulated by contract. It's not Marin County hot tubbing livestock as it once was, in the days that Niman sharpened it's teeth at Chez Panisse. Some of their beef is grown in Rocky Mountain states. Pork in Iowa and Minnesota. I'm not sure where the lamb is coming from these days.
The premium represents the complexity of their requirements, which are above and beyond the "mainstream" meat industry. They ship nationally and have become a lighthouse for sustainable production. They are not "organic" as far as I've heard, and am able to tell on their website. The site includes a bunch of "protocol" pdfs which were not openable. These protocols probably are reflected in their contracts.
Niman greatly expanded a few years back, in part due to a great deal they got from the city of Oakland on a processing plant in a part of town that needs economic development. I've personally experienced some of their growing pains, with a short order fiasco involving late delivery, and an expired duplicate order all occuring over the Christmas holiday. The customer focused side of the buusiness was in need of improvement. These things change, so give 'em a try.
There are other regional sustainable producers. They are somewhat hard to find, but with a little networking you might be able to find some Niman competition. Some farms have started going direct to the consumer, but I found many of them offer frozen product (not desireable for products that involve so much high mindedness).
I have generally been underwhelmed by the quality of Niman Ranch meats. I have wanted to appreciate them, but I just don't think the overall quality justifies the marginal increase in cost; in fact, even if it were pricely competitively, I would probably only choose it for the philosophy, not the flavor/texture.
Are you sure about $2.00 a lb? For a solid piece of beef? I just checked a relatively low-end source (Safeway) where ground beef 80% lean (20% fat) is $2.50. Soup bones are $1.89, and stew meat (another low-end meat) is $3.19-$4.50/lb.
I can't imagine a lean, trimmed steak being anywhere near $2.00/lb.
Personally I don't find a huge taste benefit to Niman Ranch meat, but I like the philosophy. I'm in San Fran., so it is readily available, and as pointed out above, the price premium isn't much (at least here). So I buy it.
If you check around your area, you might get lucky and find a ranch that raises cattle humanely/without antibiotics, etc. There are a surprising amount of them nowadays, on the coasts and elsewhere.
Also, if you can find a local ranch or distributor, you'll probably save some money as they won't have to charge you their gasoline costs for trucking the stuff around the country.
Check out the link below, an amazing resource for finding naturally raised food in your area.
By London Broil do you mean flank steak? The butchers at my meat shop told me 5 months ago that the price of flank steak was way too high due to a shortage. The price on their's was $9.99/# in July, it's higher now. My butcher's suggested that I switch to their flatiron steak which was the same price per pound but they felt was a better product. I switched and agree with them.
There are probably several reasons Neiman Ranch meats are more expensive per pound than the usual suspects. Neiman Ranch is located in western Marin County in CA, they grass/range feed their cattle, practice and adhere to organics. To the best of my knowledge their cattle are not "finished" on a feed lot where they are crammed into a tiny space and feed a bunch of grain to bulk up the weight. So you've got a more expensive growing method, organics and no hormones, no antibiotics with this meat.
If I'm going to eat meat I'd kind of like to have some vague assurance that the animal was raised humanely. I don't so much care about the organics part, but I don't really want to ingest a bunch of hormones or antibiotics because I just don't think it's all those unprescribed drugs are all that healthy for my body.
If you didn't know, Neiman Ranch also raises pork in Iowa. It took them a long time to recruit some hog farmers willing to raise hogs their way. They started with a small handful of farmers who were really struggling to stay in business. They converted to the Neiman methods and have had tremendous success. They get a higher price per pound for their hogs and are finding it easier to stay in business. Because of that success Neiman has been able to expand it's pork business and now has farmers asking to become part of their pork network.
Or, it could be that Neiman Ranch just knows and understands there are enough consumers out there that will pay almost any price for what they perceive to "better" quality.
re: kc girl
London Broil is indeed a way of cooking. And the cut you'd typically cook it that way is the top round or flank steak. Hence the confusion.
Now you'd rarely (if ever) see flank packaged as london broil, especially now that you can charge a premium for a flank steak. But I am suspicious of any meat producer packaging a cut as london broil. They are doing the consumer a great disfavor by perpetuating this confucion.
Just go to a good butcher.