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Note: In the spirit of the holidays, I am going to be recharging my batteries and taking some time off to celebrate and reflect. I will return with my next post on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, so I hope to see you all then and thanks for being a loyal reader! Happy holidays and a healthy new year!
Remember the old days when you would accompany your mother to the butcher shop to buy fresh cuts of meat for the family’s dinner? Every town, it seems, had a local butcher who knew everything there was to know about beef, pork, chicken, veal, and any other meaty delight he had for sale. He’d sell you the best steaks, the juiciest pork chops, and the ideal chicken for frying. He was the expert!
My, how things have changed! Today, most people purchase their meat at the supermarket from vast cases full of pre-packaged choices. Occasionally, the butcher will appear if you request a special cut or some other service that requires his attention. Otherwise, there’s rarely a connection between the two. And even less connected is the option to order steaks online.
Ordering meat online has become more and more common. During the past decade (even before COVID-19) many individuals turned to the internet for all kinds of food shopping. While some people still prefer the traditional shopping experience when it comes to food, many have decided that online is a good way to have fresh, tasty meat and other foods delivered to their front door with little or no hassle.
I guess that is the real reason that shopping online has become such a big deal. So you have to ask yourself this question: What exactly are the pros and cons when you order steaks online?
Check Your Inbox
I get emails almost every day featuring online services selling the most attractive cuts of meat ever, and I am really tempted to try them when I see them. This was especially true this year, with so much online ordering and the avoidance of the grocery store whenever possible. Frankly I did almost pull the trigger on it.
I guess I have often thought that sometimes the odds of finding a quality cut of meat at the supermarket were lower than that of winning the lottery. But when you live in an area without a good butcher, what’s left to do but sift through the super-stringy cuts of meat for something that (hopefully) doesn’t turn out as bad as it looks?
Staying In and Online Shopping – 2020’s answer to almost everything
Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to run to the grocery store or local restaurant for your food choices. You definitely can expand your horizons and try almost anything in food from countless online merchants.
For example, you don’t have to settle for beef of questionable quality: you can order high-grade steaks online and have them delivered. But there are a few caveats to consider before taking the plunge, primarily with pricing, quality, and food safety issues that can pop up during shipping.
So is buying meat online really better than hitting up the supermarket for fresh slabs?
The Pros and Cons When You Order Steaks Online
Pro #1: The Convenience Is Tough to Beat
Unlike at the supermarket, where you have to plan your meals around what’s available, buying from an online butcher means you can score super-specific cuts of meat that your supermarket won’t necessarily carry. You won’t have to worry about adjusting your menu if your go-to meat isn’t in stock or the quality isn’t great. Instead, the exact meats you want will be shipped right to your front door.
Pro #2: With a More Diverse Selection Comes Higher-Quality Options
Because cattle from certain parts of the world are raised differently, ordering online gives you the chance to select from more diverse options that better suit your dietary preferences (an especially handy perk if you don’t live near a good butcher).
Products from Japan, New Zealand, and even Argentina, where cattle are raised on grass rather than corn, and are hormone and antibiotic-free, are available at your fingertips.
Pro #3: The Food Will (Probably) Taste Better
When researching online steak retailers, go with companies that flash freeze their meats (you can tell this by the small ice crystals that will be on the cuts when they’re delivered). Flash freezing is a best industry practice that contains the product with minimal time at temperatures that can affect quality or safety. The small ice crystals mean less moisture will leave the meat upon cooking, resulting in a better tasting steak. Had the meat been sitting out for a while before freezing, moisture would be pooled or evaporated.
Pro #4: There’s Greater Transparency in What You’re Buying
Many online steak retailers will tell you exactly the farm that your steak was raised. Compare that to many grocers, who might purchase meat from imported farms, and consumers won’t necessarily be the wiser.
If you’re purchasing your meat from an old-school local butcher, you likely will have that transparency that’s not usually afforded from a supermarket chain. But besides having the opportunity to vet the online steak company before you buy from them, some companies also give you the chance to get in touch with questions about the food, and receive answers directly from the people who package it.
Con #1: Buying Steaks Online Can Get Pricey
The main and number one con when buying your meat online is that the price of these products can be expensive, with the average price of one steak cut hovering around $20 before shipping cost…and that is around what you’d pay for a steak at a run-of-the-mill steakhouse. That’s not to say it can’t be a cost-effective shopping experience, but you’ve got to do your due diligence. For example, many online steak companies offer memberships where certain cuts are sent at a set fee every week or month and the prices won’t change despite any fluctuations in the marketplace.
Another option is to buy a package of assorted meats that gives you a discount over buying each cut individually. But at the end of the day, it’s a convenience service so it will almost always cost more than taking a trip to your local butcher or supermarket.
Con #2: The Vetting Process Can Be Time-Consuming
To make sure the company you’re buying from is reputable, it’s important to do your homework. The primary qualities you should look from an online steak retailer are a good food safety culture and their transparency. You should know where the meat’s coming from, how it’s sourced and prepared, how and where it’s packaged, and how quickly it’s shipped from the time of your order.
Read reviews, and check the company’s local health department for inspection reports, too. Yes, this can be tedious, but it’s well worth it if you want to make buying steaks online a regular thing.
Con #3: Food Safety Can Be an Issue
If it’s difficult for someone to stick around the house and accept a meat delivery, then it’s best to hold off on taking the service for a spin until that changes for you. Yes, the package will arrive frozen, but this doesn’t mean it can sit on your doorstep all day long. The steaks need to be put in the freezer right away. But even if you’re home to sign for them, there are always food safety concerns when it comes to the shipping of food. The best rule of thumb is that cold foods (frozen steaks) must stay at a temperature of at least 40 degrees F or below that to stay safe to eat.
The USDA estimates that Americans order nearly $6 billion in food over the internet just at the December holiday season and the rest of the year accounts for several additional billions. Most of these food items are perishable. They are usually orders for themselves or as gifts for friends or loved ones.
So, how do you know whether they will be good when it arrives at your door or the door of the recipient? First of all, it’s best to start by choosing a reputable company for your purchase. You’ll recognize some names, such as Omaha Steaks, from their extensive advertising campaigns. Others won’t be so familiar.
Don’t hesitate to use the internet to search for feedback on any company from which you are considering placing an order. Bad feedback makes the rounds quickly, so if it’s there, you’ll probably find it.
Once you’ve chosen a company to order steaks online, ask them how they package their meat for shipment. Meat should always be shipped cold or frozen and should be packed along with some sort of cold source, like dry ice or gel freezer packs in order to maintain the temperature. The company should also use a foam box or very heavy corrugated cardboard box to ship the meat.
If you have any problems, call the company and if they’re reputable, they’ll immediately agree to send you a replacement or to refund your money.
When you order steaks online it can be a super-convenient way to stay stocked on your favorite cuts, or simply have more control over the quality of your food and where it comes from. It’s also a great option when you’re in need of specialty cuts that aren’t easy to find in your area, or if you’re having people over for a feast and would rather not have to make do with what the supermarket has available. If you’re not big on buying in bulk or researching the best deals before jumping in, however, it can be a pricey and chancy way to go.
Many companies that offer meat online sell in large quantities or in “packages”. These packages might include, for example, multiple steaks of different cuts along with burgers, franks, chops, and sometimes even seafood. These assortments might also include side dishes, like baked stuffed potatoes or a tray of potatoes au gratin. That means you’ll just need to add vegetables in order to have a full meal to serve your family. These packages are usually a good value as long as you have space to store all the food that you’ll get with your order.
There are also special introductory deals, coupons, and discounts to get you to simply try the services both online or by direct mail and email, too.
The prices may be a little higher than you’re accustomed to paying, but remember that ordering food that you will enjoy and eat without waste can offset the costs. Plus online foods are all about the conveniences. Trying out these services to see what works best for you at the best prices is a worthy effort.