Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail [email protected]
For many years, meat's been the star attraction of the American plate. But with the world's population increasing, the demand for sustainably raised meat booming, and with an industry in need of serious change, can meat continue to play the same role it always has 20 to 50 years from now?
I picked the brains of Valley chefs and restaurateurs and asked them to do some crystal-ball gazing on the future of meat. Here's what they had to say.
Aaron May Chef and Restaurateur
I grow more concerned over our meat supply every day. The feed these animals are eating coupled with the hormones and antibiotics have got to be impacting us. It's also more expensive to source responsibly raised meat, which a lot of customers don't really want to pay extra for at the end of the day.
Chef Gregory Wiener, Top of the Rock
Meat prices will continue to climb and production will not be able to keep up with demand. In vitro meat (meat grown in a lab) is not fully viable right now, but looks like it could be in the future. There will always be a market for the real thing, though. Once in vitro is viable and economical, it will change how we eat forever.
Chef Marlene Portillo, Half Moon Windy City Sports Grill
We are carnivores. Always have been and always will be. Meat will continue to be the focus of every menu.
Joe Johnston, Restaurateur
Meat is here to stay, but I think customers are more interested in how it's produced. We already see leaders like Chipotle emphasizing the sourcing of their meat. At Joe's Farm Grill, we use local natural beef, antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken, and wild-caught salmon. These items cost up to twice as much as the commodity versions, yet we must compete with others in the "common food" arena. We are able to do this through system efficiency and the fact that people do care and are willing to pay for it.
Gary Lasko Proprietor, The Stockyards
If my business is any indication, the future of all meat -- especially beef -- will remain strong. The new generation of chefs have embraced pork because it's diverse and economical, but nothing can touch a slow-roasted prime rib or a 16-ounce rib-eye for pure flavor and decadence.
Chef Admir Alibasic, Ben & Jack's Steakhouse
With the constant progression in technology and science, the sky is the limit with what happens with meat. Ever think one day your plate will have meat that was once in a laboratory or printed? In the end, meat has not changed for the past 100 years, but you never know.
Chef Massimo De Francesca, Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, Kimpton Hotel
There will always be a demand for meat; however, vegetables are making a comeback in restaurants and will be more prevalent on menus. Meats will act more and more as garnishes as opposed to being center-of-the-plate items.
Aaron Eckburg Owner, Go Lb. Salt
Meat is here to stay. More of us will begin to move away from commodity products -- no antibiotics, no hormones, and humane treatment will become preferred, even expected. Processed meat products have a long way to go. The use of additives and accelerators isn't necessary. A great basic bacon shouldn't use anything other than sea salt, sugar and sodium nitrite.
Michael Brown Chef and Owner, Jamburritos Cajun Grille Express
Meat will always be at the center of most plates but will have to share the landscape with other proteins like tofu and Tempeh.
Michael Rusconi, Chef and Owner, Rusconi's American Kitchen
The future of meat is strong, with new sources available for natural products that are hormone-free. Our Durham Ranch buffalo is produced in a very holistic manner that doesn't damage the environment. The Opal Valley lamb we use is allowed to graze freely and is not fed antibiotics or growth hormones. In many cases, many of the specialty producers have become more responsible and ethical in the manner in which they produce product.
Chef Maurice Gordon, The Westin Phoenix Downtown
Pork seems to be making great strides right now as being the meat of choice for chefs. The affordability of pork makes it more accessible. Beef prices are so high it's starting to be more of a special occasion or restaurant type of meat.
Cullen Campbell Chef and Owner, Crudo
I think more chefs will develop a better relationship with the farmers to know how the animals raised and fed.