Friday, February 13, 2009

costco findings and clarifications

here's some information regarding the state of costco's meats.

costco's high end meats (available online) are mainly supplied by niman ranch, the um, costco of natural livestock. i'm not saying that like it is a bad thing, just stating a fact. niman ranch actually partners with family farms and basically enables them to maintain their livelihood while providing an alternative to "factory farming."

that said, the meats they provide are "natural," not organic. here's the difference. in order to be certified as organic, all of the grains the animals eat (that's right, they are pasture-raised early in life and grain fed later) must be certified organic, which would raise consumer costs exponentially. would it be worth it? guess that's up to us. anyway, natural meat (according to the USDA) means minimally processed meats with no artificial ingredients. but they also claim to raise their animals without antibiotics or hormones and on 100% vegetarian feed.

and here's why they are the "costco" of natural farming-- they lord over about 600 small farmers who provide meat to chipotle (yes, that chipotle, the one previously owned by mcdonalds) and hundreds of other restaurants ranging from chain to relatively high-end across the country. is this a good thing or a criticism? that's for you to decide!

regular costco meats (think: kirkland signature brand) are all USDA choice, the second highest ranking on the meat scale which means 4-8% fat with modest marbling and free of artificial ingredients, hormones, and antibiotics.

here's some fun facts:

-costco sells about 150 million lbs. of ground beef annually
-they are the largest buyer of USDA choice meats (check out this article)
-the company has more than 50 million cardholders, many of whom pay a $50 annual fee
-Costco obtains its beef from four major suppliers—Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill Meat Solutions Inc., Greeley, Colo.-based JBS Swift & Co., Kansas City, Mo.-based National Beef Packing Co. LLC and Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based Tyson Fresh Meats Inc.
-many fresh meat selections are cut by in-store butchers- each location typically has between five and 25 butchers, depending on volume...
here's a good article on the stats, if you're interested.

this was just based on bits of research i did. i'm not sure what my conclusion is and honestly, i am not currently a card-carrying costco member. when i have visited costco, i get very excited by their wine, cheese, meat, and produce sections, but completely freaked out that if i want to buy sugar, i have to buy twenty pounds and toothbrushes come in packs of twelve.

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