It’s hard to remember, but I think once I introduced myself to Angelo Mazzone. It would have been at one of his restaurants on some kind of press junket a few years ago.
For those who don’t know, he’s one of the pillars of the Capital Region restaurant community, with a portfolio of restaurants, foodservice operations, and a catering company. He has also worked with the FarmOn! Foundation and contributed an on-farm commercial student teaching kitchen.
It’s great to see leaders within the local restaurant community supporting organizations that promote local food, local farms, and local farmers.
Recently, Mazzone Hospitality announced a new beef supplier for its two steakhouses, which are the crown jewels in the Mazzone empire. And while the announcement may not have been earth shattering, it revealed the potential to do something significant in the future.
Let’s start with a number. 50,000.
That’s the number of pounds of beef per year used in total by both steak restaurants. It’s a lot of meat, to be sure. But it can be hard to contextualize that. Luckily, there’s some handy dandy information available online about just how much meat is in a steer and all its primal parts.
So a steer is about 1,000 pounds. But that’s not all meat. There’s blood, and skin, and bone. When all is said and done, you can expect maybe 430 pounds of beef off that carcass. Of course, not all of it is suitable for steaks and chops.
If you just take the sirloin, short loin, flank, and rib sections of the steer, you’ve got 129 pounds of beef. Those are where all the premium cuts can be found. Granted, that’s not all steaks, but these steakhouses also make hamburgers.
How many steer would you need to make 50,000 pounds of just those sections? 388. Is that a lot? You bet. But it’s just a bit over one cow a day.
Of course, you have to figure out what to do with the remaining 115,000 pounds of beef. And if you are processing the cows yourself, that means you’ll also get beef bones for broth, beef fat for cooking, beef offal for specials, and even potentially beef blood for sausage.
The advantage of having an empire of several restaurants and a centralized catering facility is that It makes a task like this not only manageable, but realistic. All you need are the right people and the will to do it.
It would seem as if Mazonne Hospitality could benefit from a dedicated in-house butcher.
An in-house butcher who was an expert at breaking down whole animals could also make sure to provide value added cuts to the different kitchens around the region as needed. And everyone throughout the company would be able to lay claim to using locally sourced meat as part of a Mazzone Hospitality head-to-tail whole-animal-butchery meat program.
Heck, beef stock could be made in a central kitchen and sent to each restaurant so each sous chef could focus on transforming the rich gelatinous liquid into brilliant sauces.
Oh, so back to the numbers. Because I wanted to give you a sense of scale.
That new meat supplier that Mazzone is using tries to sound small by promoting the fact all their beef comes from a 150 mile radius of the processing plant. But in truth it’s a really really big operation. For Iowa Premium, 388 steer, the amount it would take to feed the Mazzone Hospitality steakhouses for a year, is less than one day’s work. In fact, the plant does many times that volume every single day. My conservative estimate is that they processes one steer every 85 seconds, but the real number is likely much smaller since it’s unlikely they are running the facility 24 hours a day.
It’s just a hunch, but I bet that when people want a great steak these days, they are looking for something better than a piece of meat trucked in from a giant meat processor hundreds of miles away.
When you have a restaurant operator who clearly cares about local food, farms, and farmers, it can be disheartening to see a decision driven by convenience over ideology. I have no idea if Mrs. Meaterson is ready to pick up her knives and get back to the fine art of butchering. But if Mr. Mazzone was committed to having the best, he would be wise to snatch her up and corner the local market on great beef for his restaurants.
Man, that would be great. Seriously, could you even imagine how cool that would be? And I know it can be done. I know it because there was a diner in New Jersey that was doing its butchering in-house, bringing in quarter carcasses from regional farms. Let me say that again. A diner. With two locations.
It just requires the will to make it a reality. And maybe some consumers to encourage a new path.