On my Twitter feed yesterday, Paul H. Ting passed along a link to a Gizmodo report, "Steak Specialists Discover a New Cut of Beef." My initial reaction was that someone used some Tetris skills to see a new way of slicing a cow so that they could pull out some kind of steak that no butcher before had seen. That's the kind of thinking that I like to see from butchers in the 21st Century. No letting previous generations dictate what makes a tasty steak, no! Go forth and think of things in new and exciting ways. That's the way to do it.
On reading the article, I was disappointed to see that they got patents on this method, which disappointed me. I mean, yay on doing new things and all, but really, a patent on a new way of slicing things? I expressed disappointment and moved along, but Ben Ostrowsky did some digging and found a meat-related patent from Tony Mata, the person mentioned in the article who, well, you can read it:
The Vegas Strip is the brainchild of Tony Mata, of industry group Mata & Associates, who approached Nelson and the FAPC for help developing the cut. "Initially, the cut was labeled as undervalued," Mata told the Drovers Cattle Network. "Whenever we can take a muscle and turn it into a steak rather than grinding it or selling it as a roast, we are adding value to the carcass."
I completely breezed over this the first time, but after seeing the patent, I re-read and wondered, "If it were just a special cut, why would you need the help of a University's agriculture department do 'develop the cut'?" The patent in question is for:
Improved restructured meat products are provided which exhibit enhanced texture, tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. The meat products are formed by mixing together brine-treated, essentially gristle free raw meat strips (e.g., beef, poultry, pork or mixtures thereof) in the form of strips and ground beef containing naturally-occurring fat, followed by forming the mixture into steak-like bodies.
In other words, it might not be a cut of beef that was found, it was assembled from bits and pieces here and there. Which, to me, is disappointing. I mean, yay to making full use of the animal and all, but we could have already ground up the meat if we just wanted to use it. All they've done is found a way to make more steak out of it which, in this day and age, is really just an engineering effort than something truly clever. If the steak had some new properties, such as tenderness of a fillet with flavor of a ribeye, then maybe. But for something which, reportedly "The taste, tenderness, and flavor are reportedly akin to a New York Strip or Flat Iron cut," then it's just some more of what we have.
It's not like there's a steak shortage in the country. If we wanted, and I know I'm going to be unpopular in some camps with this statement, but if we wanted to have more New York Strip steaks, then we could just cut smaller strip steaks. We don't always have to have the plate dominated by beef to enjoy our steak. Have, and please excuse the crazy talk, a small steak, and eat some veggies or pasta or something if you're still hungry. Maybe I'm a steak grinch, but seriously, do we need to reconstruct steaks now because we don't have enough steak?
The answer is clearly, "no". The real reason this is of interest is for people who want to raise the worth of a cow carcass by a few more dollars. More steaks equals more money, so let's find some more steaks. To me, that's the wrong reason to try these experiments on food. Make something excellent, and money will come. Make something profitable, and you get a nation of people who don't know how to regulate what they eat in a balanced and healthy manner.
Mind you, we don't know for sure that the cut of beef and the patent are related; maybe I was right the first time. I would love to hear more from the people involved. If I were a better reporter, I'd call people up and ask Particular Questions. Perhaps tomorrow.