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Safeway - Rancher's Reserve - my opinion (reactions?)

I was at Safeway picking up a prescription yesterday - looked around for a couple things to make dinner - I rarely shop there because I find them overpriced as a rule (plus I'm still ticked from multi times not finding sale items there until I FINALLY caught on that their sale flyer changed over on Tuesdays (wha?)

Anyway, looked in the meat case and there was this lovely lean sirloin, 4 "Ranchers Reserve" sirloin steaks about a pound each and maybe 1 1/2" thick @ $1.99/lb. Hadda get 'em and change dinner plans.

See, where else do they sell THICK-cut steaks (no, I'm not paying Giant's "gourmet butcher counter" prices and I just don't want to drive half across the county to get to a proper butcher).

The result: very tender indeed cooked nice and rare. I've heard people disparage Rancher's Reserve - certainly you could get better at a butcher and more flavorful cuts than sirloin - but I thought I'd report on a lucky find and a pleasant surprise.

Any reactions? Your experiences?

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  1. Last time I had Safeway's Rancher's Reserve, they probably should have reserved it for ranchers only. Meat was tougher than leather, and not much flavor. One good thing about this brand is that you can supposedly return it if dissatisfied, but I did not. To me, Safeway is only good for the Sabrett's hot dogs that they carry.

    On a side note, you can get very thick cut rib-eye steaks at Costco. I've seen them as thick as maybe 2 inches. Price about $8/lb.

    1. Sometimes you get lucky. I have too with Ranchers Reserve.
      Our local Safeway has gone Yuppie and now has a fancy meat counter. The guys told me that they do special trims of the Ranchers Reserve for the display cases. Extra thick - like the ones you got probably. At the end of the day, they wrap them up and put them in the regular cases. But they're the same price in the regular case and in the fancy display. So now I just go to the fancy yuppie display. Same price. And when they have something on sale it can be a good deal - depending on what it is.
      Just before Christmas they had prime rib for $4.99. I took a chance for a Tuesday night dinner and, surprise!, it was really good. Got a London Broil on sale for $1.99. Good piece of meat. I've gotten some tasty sirloins and some good pot roasts. All on sale, all well cut and trimmed properly.
      No. I don't usually buy my meat at Safeway. I go to a real butcher. But if I happen to be there and they have something on sale, I look at the yuppie display.
      So far it's been worth my while.

      1. I do notice that Safeway quality does greatly vary from store to store. Here in McLean, we have 2 Safeways. One has been renovated and does seem to have very good quality. The other is a bit run down and their quality in the meats is not as nice the the other Safeway.

        13 Replies
        1. re: rcheng

          There are two near me, both have been renovated, but the meat dept in one is severely lacking still, while the other is fairly full service and fairly good quality.

          As for the Wed-Tues sales, that's actually a national standard, at least for chains. Cueing in on sales is a bit easier once you know that.

          1. re: Dennis S

            >>>As for the Wed-Tues sales, that's actually a national standard, at least for chains. Cueing in on sales is a bit easier once you know that.<<<

            And did anyone think it's just a coincidence so many newspapers have their food sections on Wednesday, and have those supermarket inserts and full-page ads on that day each week??? Hmmm.

            BTW it's not just national chains. For example, Sniders in Silver Spring has done its weekly specials mostly on a Wednesday-Tuesday cycle for years. IIRC Magruders does the same thing but I'm not too sure about that one.

            1. re: johnb

              In the SF Bay Area, the supermarket circulars are sent with the Tuesday paper.

              1. re: Humbucker

                Same here in SoCal, and pretty much everywhere. The circular comes out on Tuesday, but most sales start on Wednesday...and gosh-darned if Wednesday's food section doesn't have recipes for something that JUST HAPPENS to be on sale at MegaGrocers! What a coincidence...though I must say that these "coincidences" were much more common in Nashville than here.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  My aunt's ex-husband used to run a business that coordinated all of the sales for many large chains. I think they may have even acted as a broker of sorts btwn suppliers and the stores. You'll notice that even btwn stores, many of the same things are on sale. The stores all get those deals and make their minor modifications to those. Stores that run other schedules are either shouldering that shift themselves or carrying different lines (I could see Trader Joes, for instance, being in that group).

            2. re: Dennis S

              It depends upon the chain. Some exceptions to the standard you posted:

              Giant's sales run from Friday to Thursday.

              Wegman's run from Sunday to Saturday.

              Shopper's run from Saturday to Friday.

              1. re: Lori D

                In Boston, both major chains (Star Market/Shaws and Stop&Shop) run their sales Friday-Thursday.

            3. re: rcheng

              I cant under stand why people dont under stand,that if it isnt stamped on the package USDA choice or USDA prime Then there selling you some other inferior grade of meat. AND YES IM SURE IF YOU FOR 3OR 4 HRS. YOU COULD TURN IT INTO POTROAST YOU CAN GRIND IT A HAMBURGER MACHINEOR BEAT TO DEATH WITH A MEAT MALLET ORUSE YOURE jACARD MEAT TENDERISER AND MAKE CUBE STEAKS BUT THATS ABOUT AS CLOSE TO STEAK AS YOURE GOING TO GET FROM ranchers reserve

              1. re: michael1755

                Michael, - I couldn't agree more! Safeway's Rancher Reserve is nothing more than a fancy name for "Select Grade Beef". What bothers me most is that the employees have been told how to address customers concerns/questions regarding this inferior (to USDA Choice) brand.

                And, who wants to make a special trip back "to return it"?

                As I do not care to shop their yuppy goumet counter and pay top dollar, I quit shopping Safeway. I can still shop QFC, in the Seattle area of WA State and purchase USDA Choice for a little more than what Safeway charges for their lesser quality beef. (I did try R.R.twice; DID NOT CARE FOR THE RESULTS.) Unfortunately, our options for buying USDA Choice are getting slimmer all the time.

                I don't believe today's younger generation really knows what top quality beef really tastes like. Or, maybe they are just use to marinating it for 3-4 days to make it tender and mask the true flavor of the meat. Obviously, prices play a role too; but, don't care to be lied to when employees try to tell me it is REALLY "USDA CHOICE", WHEN THERE IS NO LABLE STATING SUCH.

                Here in the Pacific Northwest, it was first Albertson's who went to Select in their regular meat case; then Safeway and Fred Meyers. Only a few stores remain that offer USDA Choice in their regular meat case. My favorite qualify grocer is QFC where I can still depend on finding quality meat at slightly above the price of Select grade meat.

                1. re: shasta21

                  If you want Choice and nothing but (well, except Prime if you want it) all you have to do is go to Costco. And it's generally half the price of QFC, although QFC does have some great sales from time to time.

                  1. re: shasta21

                    FWIW, in Chicago, our Safeway's child co is called Dominick's. They offer Rancher's Reserve as well, but a few years ago, maybe 3 or so, the switched from all select grade to all choice grade. When they put their restaurant cut, choice grade top sirloin on sale for 2.99 lb, it's one of the best steak values I've ever come across. I've no doubt that in other parts of the country, Safeway is selling select grade as their RR, but in Chicago, it's Choice grade. I still buy better cuts elsewhere, but those choice grade RR top sirloins are an absolute steal.

                    1. re: gordeaux

                      Maybe Safeway is doing an experiment to see if it makes any difference in their bottom line. It sounds like it was about this time frame (3-4 years ago) that Safeway decided to drop carrying USDA Choice in their regular meat case in the Seattle area.

                      Are consumers buying into accepting "Select" grade, aka Rancher's Rreserve? After all, it costs a store a lot more to offer USDA Choice. And, even IF they sometimes throw in "yesterday's steak" into their regular meat display, I don't care to take a chance on WHICH ONE (Select or Choice) it may be.

                      All in all, I'm hoping that Safeway will return to offering USDA "CHOICE" in their regular meat case, here in the Seattle area, and I will return to shopping there.

                      1. re: shasta21

                        I'm really not sure what caused the switch here. I do know, however, that there are a lot of choices for grocery stores here, and it seems like the average shopper would simply buy steaks from the MAJOR stores (Safeway and Kroger - which here, are named Dominick's and Jewel, respectively.) Those two major marketshare stores in the area both sold only select grade beef at insane prices. All of the other smaller chains either only sold choice grade, or offered choice and select grade. Usually the smaller stores' choice grade was cheaper than the major chain select grade (figure THAT one out! I've never been able to except for the fact that, well, some ppl might not know the difference.) I have a suspicion that Dominick's and Jewel started losing market share to the smaller chains, and the smaller chains were growing in numbers and sizes. The smaller chains also offered far superior prices for produce. All of the sudden, one day, out of the blue, a few years ago, Safeway started advertising their Rancher's Reserve with USDA CHOICE stamped proudly on the front, and their prices were mildly competitive to the smaller chains.

                        Either way, I still hear from my father that steak these days doesn't have the flavor, or the marbling it used to back in the day. He says today's "choice" is yesterday's select.

              2. Meat is meat, and not even the cow has very good control over what it tastes like. I'm sure that even the fancy butcher shop sells a tough piece of meat now and then. I've only had good experience with Rancher's Reserve beef, based on maybe two or three purchases a year. If I got a bad one, and I'm sure my time will come eventually, I'd probably eat it anyway, save the price sticker, and next time I was in the Safeway, take it to the Customer Service counter, tell them that it was a bum steer, and ask for a refund. They'll do it cheerfully.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MikeR

                  Meat is meat initially but aging is where it all chagnes.

                  1. re: MikeR

                    Meat is not always meat. Better quality isn't dosed with antibiotics and has better quality feed. Better meat has more intramuscular fat which results in grading differences. Made-up labels like "Ranchers Reserve" disguise the lower quality meat being used. Higher grade = more fat= more flavor. Aged meat is different again because of the complex process involved. Aged meet = tenderness & deeper flavor.

                    1. re: JudiAU

                      You are right that meat isn't always meat but your explanation is misleadingly oversimplified. Cattle of a breed not good for beef production can be raised without antibiotics and fed poor quality feed yielding poor meat regardless of the intramuscular fat which determines the grading. Ranchers Reserve is not lower quality, just a lower grade - there's a difference. A prime tenderloin will have little fat and many find it has little flavor. Good cooking can produce excellent flavor from lower grades of beef. Overaging can result in loss of texture resulting in an appealing product.
                      Meat is not always meat. Good beef production depends on many factors and wise consumers have to know the difference.

                  2. My Safeway had 1" thick T-Bones for $6.99/lb a few days ago and they were very good. Never really had a problem with this branded meat. If your store still has butchers in the back, they can cut it like you want, these are packaged in the store. My butcher said that will most likely be a thing of the past soon, some stores only have butchers part time (they share time with several stores) and most meat comes in pre-packaged. There was a time when there were several meat people in the back of each store.

                    1. Just for reference: Rancher's Reserve is an ungraded line of meat. Safeway, as a corporate entity, does not carry USDA Choice meats - they carry USDA Select, one grade lower.

                      Rancher's Reserve is not USDA graded, but would fall somewhere in between the two. You can always get a superior piece of Select and a poor cut on Choice, but in general, you're simply going to consistently find higher quality meats at grocery stores that carry Choice rather than Select.

                      You may personally decide that the price difference is not worth the quality difference, but all other things being equal, purveyors of Choice meat (Giant, Costco as examples) are going to have better quality meat than Safeway.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: DanielK

                        ...all things being equal...
                        but they weren't equal. Both Wayne Keyser and I had gotten sale prices on Ranchers Reserve beef.
                        His $1.99 sirloins were great. At $4.99, my prime rib roast was an excellent value and it tasted really good, perhaps because this is a heavily marbled cut anyway. Same with $1.99 London Broil since it's sliced across the grain. Or pot roast at well under $2, since it's braised.
                        You have to know what you're buying and shop the sales.

                        I'm not sure I'd ever compare Giant's beef to Costco's.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          I didn't mean all things being equal on price. I completely agree that you pay for quality. What I'm saying is that while individual stores can have variances, if you compare the same cut at Safeway with it's Giant equivalent, you'll pay more at Giant, but are more likely to get a higher quality meat (Select vs. Choice.)

                          Why wouldn't you compare Giant's beef to Costco? I've been pretty pleased by what I've gotten at Costco most times, and the price is pretty darned good. They also have only Choice, not Select.

                          I got some Rancher's Reserve bone-in ribeyes a few months back. They were certainly a few dollars cheaper per pound than the equivalent Giant steak. But what I got was tough and tasteless, though it looked real pretty. For a few dollars a pound difference, I'm going with Giant (or Costco!).

                          1. re: DanielK

                            Oh yeah, Costco's got great rib eyes....

                            1. re: Chownut

                              Costco has the best deal around on standing rib roasts. Other than going to Balducci's for a PRIME aged roast, for which I paid dearly, I've not had a better rib roast at any price from any store in the area.

                            2. re: DanielK

                              Costco's got great meat. Sometimes they even have Prime. The selection isn't very wide though. Seems they've never heard of pot roast. But Giant isn't in that league by any means. Not a bit better than Safeway and the prices are usually higher. And neither compares to Costco.

                              Mostly in Washington, people shop at one or the other. You have your Giant-people or your Safeway-people, some of which is determined by convenience. Not sure there's really that much difference. You've had bad luck at Safeway, good at Giant; for me, it's the reverse. Thank goodness there's Costco.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                And this is where we disagree.

                                I know that Giant costs more than Safeway - they offer Choice, and Safeway, Rancher's Reserve included, offers only Select. Personally, I can taste the difference, and am willing to spend more every time to go for Choice at Giant.

                                I am willing to concede that, depending on the butcher, there are Giants out there that offer the lower side of Choice, and Safeways that offer the higher side of Select, graying the edges some. But on the whole, the Choice/Select difference is great enough that I am not willing to purchase Safeway meat.

                          2. re: DanielK

                            While Costco maybe good, I would never, ever serve any meat from Giant choice or not. Sorry, but I would rather have the Rancher's Reserve" somewhere between choice and select" Black Angus Beef than Gaints "Choice" ordianary beef.

                            Most of the replies are right. Taste , tenderness and flavor can come from all cuts of meat. however, Ribeye or delmonico and prime rib are THE best cuts for all of the above. mainly because of the fat content.
                            Many people think that NY Strips are the better cuts ( ask your local butcher, The Ribeye is far superior for the TTF). it is offered in most resturants and they can be pricey. If you have never tried a ribeye, try it and I am sure you will never go back to ordinary cuts again.

                          3. So the standard for Costco's meats are Choice? And if you get lucky, Prime? How do you know if it's Prime? Will it have a sticker on it or something, or do you have to get a Butcher?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Lonewolfcub

                              Any USDA graded beef is supposed to be labeled.

                              Personally, I've not seen Prime at Costco, but that doesn't mean they don't have it on occasion. If I want Prime meat, I go to a specialty butcher or Balducci's.

                              1. re: Lonewolfcub

                                I'm going to doubt you'll get prime at Costco, but you'll get choice for sure. Prime is very expensive, and will be labeled if it has been graded.

                                1. re: jpschust

                                  I think the only prime I've seen at costco is the filet. If it's not labeled, you can probably tell by the $$$$.

                                  1. re: jpschust

                                    http://www.costcoconnection.com/conne...

                                  2. re: Lonewolfcub

                                    Prime is in a blue foam tray, choice is in the white foam tray.

                                    1. re: LuckyCharm

                                      ...and the Prime is clearly marked with the Gold "Prime" stickers rather than the white "Choice" stickers on every package. Whole subprimals, when they have them, will have the blue USDA stamp still on them as well.

                                  3. No fan of Rancher's Reserve or Safeway here. My last purchase was two "coulotte" steaks, the presentation side, the side that one sees when looking at the meat package in the display case looked good. At home and out of the package, unevenly cut, utterly webbed with gristle on the reverse sides. If I had a real butcher's shop anywhere close to where I live, I'd be heading there!

                                    1. Indeed...SW's RR is a mixed bag. Sometimes I've gotten tender meat and sometimes not. On sale it's worth a risk but if you know you want a decent cut, I'll pay more.

                                      1. I read all 27 comments and I learned a lot about buying meats in supermarkets. It's not that I am young and have no experience shopping. Quite the contrary. I'm 59 and, like most people my age, I have decades of shopping experience.

                                        Here in San Francisco we have some delightful butcher shops in North Beach that cater to traditional Italian and Sicilian cooks. On upper Polk Street and along Union Street are some delightful shops that cater to the culinary staffs of those outrageously expensive Pacific Heights mansions. The quality of meat in those shops is absolutely superb. More butcher shops along Stockton Street cater to Chinese shoppers (who insist on everything being super-fresh) and there are many shops in the Mission catering to family cooks from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and other exciting locales.

                                        With all these wonderful little mom and pop butcher shops in the City, I cannot think of any reason on Earth why I would want to shop at corporate mega-market.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: dunn.sanfrancisco

                                          Because you happen to be at a regular supermarket buying toilet paper and detergent and see a good deal in the meat case? It's late and it saves another stop. Sometimes you luck out.

                                          1. re: dunn.sanfrancisco

                                            dunn, wonderful review. It was like a walk around San Fransisco without the blisters. Thanks!

                                          2. I buy Safeway meat all the time -- to make dog food. You get what you pay for which is so substandard for human consumption, we end up throwing it away.

                                            There is simply no comparison between any cut of beef at Safeway and my local butcher shop.

                                            Case in point: we recently made baby back ribs. We had a a package that someone had purchased at Safeway and ribs we bought at the butcher shop, both prepared identically. The butcher shop ribs were $5 a pound and I have no idea the cost of the Safeway ones. We ended up saving money by going to the butcher because no one would eat the Safeway ribs as they were fatty and tough and we threw them away. It wasn't the first time we threw out their meat, either. I have had to throw out hamburger before because it was so tasteless it couldn't even be used for chili.

                                            Another issue that is rarely addressed is the fact that my butcher shop as real people working behind the counter who can offer advice on preparation and purchasing. One even directed me on how to pick out the best ribs. I have NEVER been disappointed in the quality.

                                            You're not saving any money if no one is eating the food.

                                            1. Safeway's is seriously overpriced, and the quality is pitifully low. If you have a TJ's, WFs, or even a costco as alternatives (and who doesn't nowadays), you will be much, much better off. Aside from a handful of sale items each week, Safeway's laughs while they gouge you on anything else you may buy there.

                                              They're even charging a dollar for a single candy bar!

                                              1. Safeway Ranchers Reserve is low grade cow grass fed beef No marbling, only thing to do is use as stew meat or very very slow roast cooking meat you can give to some guests a BBQ you dont want back== If you want great taste and best price go to Costco and buy a slab of New York or Rib Roast in wet bag leave in refrig one week ( 7 days ) and then cut your own size of steaks.. drain and freeze them fast .. I have been doing this for 8 years never a complaint. Best meat anywhere. !

                                                Safeway meat Rancher Reserve is like chewing the hide of the milk cow PLUS NO flavor..

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Meat Man 64 YO

                                                  Can I ask you to explore one part of your statement a bit more - you say low grade and grass fed. I'd be surprised if those two statements exist in the US anymore.

                                                  I'm not defending SWAY (see my earlier posts) but I'm curious by the statement.

                                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                                    To extend your remark, I thought this wonderful Argentine beef and other boutique beefs are so highly regarded because they are "grass-fed," not finished with grain in those "awful" feedlots like typical "flavorless" US beef.

                                                    I'm sure that 99% of beef sold in Safeway, as in most markets, is either choice or good grade. I believe Ranchers Reserve is supposedly choice grade, but that may not be so, or may have changed. I don't know what is meant by "low grade;" there are several grades below "good" but AFAIK these seldom show up at retail except as stew meat and ground beef where the grade going in doesn't really matter so much, but rather the fat content of the final mix.

                                                    I no longer live near a Safeway, but when I did I often could find a perfectly good piece of meat and did so. In any market, whether it's Safeway, Costco, or anyplace else you will find good and bad, often side by side. One needs to know the difference by sight if one is to be reasonably assured of getting good meat. Sure, if you go to a specialty market and pay the price they will have done the work for you, tho I have even seen complaints about, e.g. Lobels. Personally, I prefer to do the work myself--I always look at the meat case while walking by, and on those occasions I see something good I grab it. Otherwise I pass it up and buy some chicken. There's always next week.

                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                      The Safeway regular beef is select, not choice, by grade. The Rancher's Reserve is choice. Although, with the variance within each grade, a top-end select cut and a similar cut of bottom-of-the-grade choice are not going to be markedly different in flavor and texture. I read somewhere (sorry, can't recall where) that the Rancher's Reserve is raised at pasture a little longer before being shipped to the feed lot for finishing.

                                                      1. re: weezycom

                                                        That's correct. Sorry I said good rather than select; I'm an old guy. IIRC, "select" is the new name for the grade that used to be called "good" in the g--- ol' days. I think it those days (I'm talking about a few decades ago) the USDA grades, starting at the top, were prime, choice, good, canner, and cutter. Grading standards have changed over time. Now there are eight grades: prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. Most non-ground beef sold in grocery stores is in the choice through standard range. Most of the "branded" beef, such as "Certified Angus," "Ranchers Reserve," and dozens of others, is choice grade.

                                                2. Saw this thread resurrected and have to chime in.

                                                  Ranchers' Reserve is supplied by Cargill Meat Solutions (CMS).

                                                  Individual carcasses are selected for the brand after a half-inch thick, 2 inch long piece of ribeye is cooked on a conveyer belt and subjected to something called a Slice Shear Force measurement.

                                                  Meat that passes then "experience(s) a host of other tenderness interventions, including electro-stimulation and mechanical stretching processes patented by CMS."

                                                  One wonders what else is in that "host."

                                                  http://beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_love...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                                    Great and scary link...gotta love Cargill meat SOLUTIONS...because there must be a problem if there's a solution.

                                                  2. I gotta say, I asked the question of why the quality of the meat at Safeway was not better...I asked the butcher there. The obvious answer is that Safeway buys their meat in HUMONGOUS quantities from factory ranches who pump hormones into their livestock but don't really care about how to make the meat TASTE BETTER.

                                                    They have agreements and don't think or act outside the proverbial box in order to find what Walmart or your local butcher does.

                                                    So...the meat (in this example a ribeye bone-in 1-1/2" steak) was plenty lean but with nearly ZERO marbling. That is NOT CHOICE. If all you're seeing is red, lean meat and that meat is supposed to be tender, you will be TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED!

                                                    I don't buy meat for grilling more than 2-3 times a year; partly due to budget and partly because I don't eat much red meat. It is a real treat when I can and I WANT IT TO BE THE ABSOLUTE BEST! Best marbling, biggest tenderloin, biggest bone to chew on...

                                                    Safeway's calling their meats "Ranchers' Reserve" is A HOOT!
                                                    Come on now! What does that even MEAN???

                                                    Do you REALLY think that a chain like Safeway is going to get and sell "TOP OF THE LINE" meats to their customers?? They positively CAN'T. They REFUSE to pay top dollar and guess where that puts their customers in terms of waiting in line for the BEST cuts? As the Beatles said, "Nowhere, Man".

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: filmboomer

                                                      Safeway's meat is dreck. Many Costco stores now sell USDA prime steaks at an excellent price. Even Costco's Choice meat is better than Safeway.

                                                      1. re: filmboomer

                                                        Seeing how you have written:

                                                        "The obvious answer is that Safeway buys their meat in HUMONGOUS quantities from factory ranches who pump hormones into their livestock but don't really care about how to make the meat TASTE BETTER. "

                                                        I have to ask. Have you reviewed the Safeway FAQ on the meat they sell? http://www.safeway.com/ShopStores/Ope...

                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                          Of course, because you can believe anything a company says about themselves in order to sell things...why would they lie???
                                                          Oh wait...

                                                          1. re: filmboomer

                                                            In this day and age, when anyone with a computer and a screen name can assert anything they want, I give some credit to a major company with the balls to put up their claims in public and let the conspiracy theorists have at it...

                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                              No need for conspiracy theories. 95% chance its boxed beef. Go early in the morning when its slow & simply ask to see a whole primal and or the box it came from. You will get the brand, the grade & pack date.

                                                              Most supermarkets sell top select or bottom choice. As many posters have said, Costco has top choice and bottom prime which are whats found in most good steakhouses. Consistently good & worth a buck or 2 more IMHO.

                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                The conspiracy comment was directed at the "Safeway buys their meat...from factory ranches who...pump hormones into their livestock..." remark.

                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                  IMHO, the only way a person is going to get beef that is growth hormone & antibiotic free that grazed their entire life on "natural" grasses is from a small rancher with a long standing reputation. It will be very expensive & I have not seen it in the typical supermarket.

                                                                  As I have said in other posts, imported farm raised seafood and things like nitrates (Known Carcinogen) in cold meats are of a concern to me, not North American beef.

                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                    As Safeway says on their website FAQ

                                                                    What does "No Added Hormones" mean?
                                                                    We never feed, inject or otherwise administer hormones to any of our livestock. Current federal regulations prohibit the use of added hormones in pork and poultry. We cannot claim, however, that our meats contain "no hormones," since all animals contain naturally occurring hormones. That is what makes animals grow.

                                                                    and

                                                                    What does "Raised without Antibiotics" mean?
                                                                    "Raised without Antibiotics" means that our animals are NEVER administered antibiotics at any time during their life.

                                                                    The USDA has strict requirements for residue testing and animals that have been treated can still be considered "antibiotic free" if they are "residue free" and called "All Natural." Livestock that qualify for Open Nature™ are never given antibiotics -- ever.

                                                                    Why does Open Nature prohibit the use of antibiotics?
                                                                    We constantly review consumer trends and requests, and we strive to offer our customers a variety of quality products at reasonable prices. Consumer requests for natural beef raised without added hormones and antibiotics led us to the development of our Open Nature™ beef. Because this claim is different than the “natural” definition by the USDA, we must specifically state the attributes of our program which prohibits the use of antibiotics.

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      My mistake. Read this thread on the fly. I though "Open Natural" meant that the product was Antibiotic / Hormone free "Organic" grass fed beef. Its the "Organic" claim that is surrounded by controversy. You are correct, there are many pack houses that have branded products advertising Antibiotic / Hormone free beef in different grades.

                                                                2. re: Tom34

                                                                  >>>No need for conspiracy theories. 95% chance its boxed beef.<<<

                                                                  Not sure what point you were making. Essentially all retail beef today is "boxed beef." Safeway, Costco (including the prime stuff), the "fine butcher shop" down the street, whatever -- it's all boxed beef. The only exception would be tiny local operations selling over a very limited area -- there are such operations, and some of them deal in good beef, but the amount of that is a drop in the bucket.

                                                                  1. re: johnb

                                                                    A friend has a hanging beef operation so I am well aware of how rare they are which is why I used the 95% boxed beef number which is probably a conservative number. "The point I was making" is that because it is likely boxed beef, the whole primal cryovac & the box it came in contain the necessary information to dispel any "conspiracy theories" regarding grade, pack house & when it was slaughtered. This info can also be researched further for even more information such as whether it is a USDA certified beef program, ......!

                                                            2. re: Servorg

                                                              I realize this discussion is months old but I just want to add for future reference sake that these claims of Raised without Antibiotics and No Added Hormones only applies to the "Open Nature" line of meat products and NOT the Rancher's Reserve. The Open Nature line is Safeway's premium line and is USDA choice. Rancher's Reserve is different and is what's referred to in the original post.

                                                              1. re: seamunky

                                                                Ranchers Reserve is, however, also choice, or at least it used to be (I no longer live in Safeway territory so can't double-check). IIRC the label even claimed it was "upper level" choice, similar to CAB.

                                                          2. I can't help but wonder if anyone in management for Safeway has ever eaten Safeway Ranchers Reserve meat.

                                                            If you have not tried it - DON'T

                                                            It had absolutely no flavor and was like trying to chew a leather boot.

                                                            SHAME ON YOU SAFEWAY FOR RIPPING OFF YOUR CUSTOMERS.

                                                            Return it? Really? I cooked it - had to taste it to know it was in fact lousy. Somebody tell me how to return it and I will. I'm not shy. I am certainly not rich enough to throw money away.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: MPerson

                                                              That local interdependent butcher may be a few extra bucks but may well be worth it.

                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                I'm not sure what an "interdependent" butcher is.

                                                                I am, however, sure that 90%+ of independent butchers get their meat in boxes, from the same sources as the chains, so nothing special going on there. Their main claim to fame is that they'll do special things you want like specific cuts while supermarket butchers won't. Even this however to me seems mostly a false perception. I have often asked butchers in local chain markets to do special cuts and they have been glad to oblige. Walmart of course is another matter.

                                                                I would estimate that only a very small portion of the population lives within a reasonable distance of a butcher who deals in high-end, non-boxed, hanging beef. And the price is going to be more than a "few extra bucks." I recently inquired of a very good independent shop (75 miles from where I live) about a cut I wanted, and was quoted $19.95 lb. The same cut was on sale at the supermarket (choice not select) for $6.99.

                                                                1. re: johnb

                                                                  Your probably right on the money with the 90% boxed beef and I am very lucky to have a friend who brings in hanging beef. I do believe though that most independent butchers develop close relationship with their wholesalers and they receive a better product. I know one old butcher here in NJ. who drives over to his wholesaler in Philadelphia and hand selects all his "valuable" sub primals. Another younger butcher in the area only brings in CAB. In both cases, I have never seen a choice grade steak in their cases that was not from the top of the grade which is rarely the case with the local supermarket choice steaks.

                                                                  Of equal importance is age. In both the cases above, both butchers wait 21 days or more before cutting a sub primal into steaks. A friend who is a meat cutter in Pathmark supermarket told me they routinely cut meat less that 14 days from the box date.

                                                                  As far as cost goes I would say the 2 independents everyday price is about 10% less than the NON sale supermarket price. Having said that, about every 4 to 6 weeks the supermarkets have very good sales where they beat the independents by as much as 25% but I have found the quality hit or miss with a much higher % of misses.

                                                              2. re: MPerson

                                                                it doesn't matter that you cooked it. if it wasn't to your satisfaction, take your receipt backt o the store and speak with a manager. most stores have a satisfaction guarantee and will refund your money. small price to pay to keep a customer. costco does it, trader joe's does it. i'd love to hear if safeway refuses this request.

                                                                1. re: MPerson

                                                                  I couldn't agree more. That is why I stopped shopping Safeway.

                                                                  1. re: shasta21

                                                                    Is their meat select or choice?

                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                      "Select", without a doubt.

                                                                      1. re: shasta21

                                                                        As a whole, I have found select to be dry and tasteless.

                                                                        I keep a couple select filet steaks in the freezer for company that likes a well done steak because I think its silly to pay for marbling and then cook it to the point that it all melts and drips out into the fire.

                                                                        Sometimes I can get select for a song and I will mix in some fat and grind it into burger.

                                                                2. Something I do find to my liking is their chuck eye steaks, which you don't see everywhere. These are cheap, have a good beef flavor (like chuck), but unlike other chuck cuts, is tender enough to use as a steak.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                                                    I recall many years ago an article in, I think it was Cook's Illustrated, in which they extolled the virtues of chuck eye, basically making the same points. I have tried it once or twice and generally agree, tho I'm not fond of that gristle streak. Truth is, these days I do steak so seldom that I mostly just stick with my fav, ribeye, and let it go at that.

                                                                  2. We spend a month or two in San Francisco every year, and when there often buy Rancher's Reserve steaks at Safeway. We have found the meat to be quite good, and have never had any problems with it. Of course, YMMV.