Costello’s Butcher Shop – Selecting the Best Cuts
90% of the meat found in grocery stores is Choice or less with top selections with typically found only in a butcher shop or restaurant.
Darren Costello at Costello’s Butcher Shop & Deli in Pensacola, FL, says there are many factors in the stand-out cuts of meat found in the butcher shop he and his wife run. While much of the work happens in the shop, the long process begins with selected grazing lands meeting many requirements:
“We pull mainly from Greater Omaha,” says Darren when asked about the origins of the meat products found in the shop. “Climate is very important, and since heat and humidity are pretty destructive to quality, a lot of good product comes from more northern herds.” The Greater Omaha grazing land – which stretches five states – processes cattle in a single plant, allowing for exacting quality control standards. “They process cattle in one place to check for any deformity, or irregularity in quality.”
Colder temperatures are very good for marbling – a sign of juiciness and flavor. “Marbling and fattiness are what bring flavor to a cut,” elaborates the butcher. “Look at filet mignon: a very tender cut, sure, but one with subdued flavor due to low fat and a lack of marbling. The marbling and fat on a chuck roast, however, lends to much more robust flavor.” After harvesting, the meat typically cures for two or three more weeks, but higher-end grades sometimes cure for as long as 30 days.
The Costello’s staff inspects each piece of meat looking for irregular marks and discolorations, and verifies the packaging date on each item is not more than 35-40 days prior. A large portion of their shipments undergo a wet-aging process; a manner of packaging meat in large, airtight food saver bags that – when first opened –are often misinterpreted as the contents having ‘gone bad’ by the uninformed.
“There is a bit of an odd smell,” Costello admits continuing that it is a part of the natural process. During wet-aging, meat matures in its juices, working down the tough, inner fibers in an airtight environment. Most meats packaged this way are left bone-in to reduce product loss, as a cut aged for seven weeks without a bone might cost thirty percent of product loss to shrinkage.
Only two percent of the meat found on the market today is classified as Prime or higher. “More than anything else, however, a cheap cut will end up costing the most in the long run,” Costello says of lesser grades – such as no roll or choice varieties. Although a food staple seemingly in short supply during the days of COVID-19 unrest, ninety percent of the meat found in grocery stores is Choice or less with top selections – typically found in butcher shops and restaurants – also available but not usually on display.
“We love this!” Darren admits about his family’s connection to the community, running the only female-owned butcher shop in Florida. Indicative of its love of the local community, Costello’s prepared over 150 lunches for area school children on the morning of our interview, alone.
“We could just pack it up tomorrow and go fishing,” Darren joked, “but we do really love what we do here, the quality we provide… and the community we serve.”
Photography by Michelle Stancil
COSTELLO’S BUTCHER SHOP & DELI
8190 W Fairfield Dr
Pensacola, FL 32506