Back To The Old School–Sides of Dry Hanging Beef Return To Cappuccio’s Meats In South Philly

You’re saying that you’re marketing the entire animal, that you have to make sure everything is used/sold.
Right.

cappuccios

Courtesy of Cappuccio’s Meat In South Philly

How was the infrastructure different back then? We previously talked about how there used to be a couple of slaughterhouses nearby.
There used to be a slaughterhouse around the corner on Carpenter. We used to go there for whole hogs, lambs, goats. We used to have a slaughterhouse at the stockyards. They’d get what we requested and they would kill it and everything, let it hang a day or so, call us up, tell us it was ready, and we’d go pick it up. We did veal calves, pigs, lambs, and goats at the slaughterhouse. Sides of beef came from a different supplier. One of the problems with the consumer is that they want to see red—bloody red. They don’t understand that that’s not what you get with a bloody steak. Your hanging beef is going to be less bloody red and drier because you’re aging it more. Previously, you had one, two cuts from every hog, every calf. The volume has changed around a lot because of the nature of the customer and you weren’t moving as much as say the whole veal calf. Those slaughterhouses eventually closed. Now we’re dealing with a slaughterhouse up in Berks County. Our veal, we get locally as well from a slaughterhouse in Jersey.

Can you go into more detail about how customer preferences changed?
Years ago, you had customers who only knew to come in and buy things as they were back then. They didn’t go to the supermarket and see things packaged and pretty. The butcher cut it up right in front of them. The consumer back then grew up differently. They went where their parents went. Maybe they went to the butcher every two or three days and bought just enough for a day or two. For the past 20-25 years, the consumer has been trained to grab a prepackaged product, throw it in their cart, and not raise their children to see what they’re buying as part of a whole animal and distance themselves from the reality that animals have to die for us to eat, to survive. We’re carnivores. In the case of many young families now, they don’t want their kids exposed to the part where the animals have to be slaughtered. They’re more suburbanites. More white collar, not blue collar. That’s how all that kind of evolved. Meanwhile, the conglomerates kept merging and buying the small guys. Now, somebody like me, I want to go into a little bit of a different direction and let my customer have the option of buying a better product. It’s a different line of product that’s going to be offered—you can go to the car dealer and buy a Ford or you can buy a Mercedes.

So people were trained to stay away from offal and the less popular cuts.
Exactly. People were trained to get the primal cuts, the steak cuts, your ground beef, things like that. It’s your immigrants who know about the offal cuts. It’s your older customers, your eastern and western European customers, who are used to buying the offal cuts, as opposed to just the primal cuts. With the beef that we’re able to offer now, we’re able to offer a bit more.

What are some things that you’re able to offer more of now that you’re doing hanging sides of beef?
People are now interested in buying suet. Suet is the fat off the steer. It’s the fat around the kidney area, inside the filet mignon, on the outside of the belly area. People are interested in that. With boxed beef, they trim it so much that you can’t get it. The consumer doesn’t want to see that fat—it has to be perfectly pretty. With the hanging beef, I can make more offerings than in the past. People were interested in the big femur bones and knuckle bones for their dogs or bones for bone marrow—now I’m able to offer that. There’s some cuts—I have a few customers used to getting some cuts [back home] in Argentina that are very difficult to get via packaged beef. Now I can offer that to them. One is called a matambre. It’s an outside flank steak, which is on the belly flap of the steer. It faces the ground. It’s very popular in Argentina. They take it and stuff it and roll it with a pinwheel. Another cut called the picanha is off the sirloin tip. We’re able to dissect the beef a little bit more and make some better offerings.

So you got the first sides of beef in around Christmas?
Yeah.

How much of your total volume of beef is going to be coming from hanging sides of beef?
Probably about 50% now. It’s a work in progress. The word is getting out. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. People are just starting to notice we’re handling beef in this way. In the past, people would ask us for cuts we weren’t able to offer. You turn somebody away so many times—you tell them, we can’t get it that way or we don’t have it. Now that we have it, it’s going to take people to get used to and come in and start asking for it. Not everybody wants it. Those who are really interested in your better cooking, better quality product, local, and better raised are gonna want it and be willing to pay the extra couple of bucks for it.

You in your early to late twenties the last time the shop was doing this, right?
Yes.

How does it feel to be going back to this personally?
I’m having a lot of fun with it. You have to be a little more cautious as far as how you handle it. It has to be handled a little more delicately. You have to make sure you’re aging it enough but not too long. That you’re not over-handling it and you have to be more specific in how you’re cutting it. I learned from the guys who did it best back in the day. It’s taking a little bit of practice to relearn it. Back in the day, we didn’t dissect it as much to get the individual primal cuts as we do now. We always had the main cuts, but certain things, such as what Argentinian customers want, we never did that. So there’s more attention to getting your short rib, your brisket right, and going after these other cuts. Now it’s taking a little bit of reeducating myself and paying more attention to detail when I am cutting the beef down, but I’m having a lot more fun.

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