Why can’t I buy hanger steaks?

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We’re often asked why we don’t have more of certain meat cuts to sell, including popular items such as hanger steaks. Lately, as demand for beef rises, we’ve been getting this question more often. The answer is because we purchase and sell whole animals and there are limited quantities of each cut per animal. Hanger steaks are the classic example. Chefs love hanger steaks for their texture and full flavor and we wish we had more to sell. But anatomically, the hanger steak is derived from the diaphragm and a beef animal only has one diaphragm. Other cuts are limited because the originating muscle or “primal” is small, like the tenderloin. We get 10-12 tenderloin filets per animal. In contrast, each beef animal generates 300-400 pounds of ground beef.

Selling limited quantity cuts plus large volumes of grind in balance is THE challenge of our business. We call it “whole animal utilization” or, sometimes when we’re joking around, “meat tetris.” We’re dedicated to whole animal utilization because it is the best way to serve our local network of small-scale farmers. We take responsibility for the entire animal once they drop it off at one of our cooperating processors. This allows them to focus on farming, which is what they do best.

But it means that we don’t get to pick and choose which meat cuts we carry based on market demand. Instead we focus on developing a diversity of customers who collectively help us use whole animals. For example, customers like Bull City Burger and Brewery and Weaver Street Market are key partners because they move a lot of grind cuts (e.g., ground beef and sausage). Chef customers like Cheetie Kumar at Ajja or Drew Maycuth at The Stanbury assist by menuing high volume cuts like spareribs and pork loin. And our specialty retail partners like Bradford Market are valued because they can use small quantities of a wide variety of cuts.

While we’ll never meet the demand for hanger steaks, we are in the process of adding more beef cattle to the schedule to keep up with overall demand. Throughout this process, we are grateful for our customers’ patience and flexibility in menuing cuts that we have to offer.


Photo Credit:  Sergey Kotenev from Unsplash