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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Culinary no-no #382

Culinary no-no's

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF
FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-
NO!


What to eat/serve this Independence Day? Burgers and hot dogs are the popular, go-to, 4th of July staples, and why not.

But suppose you’re wanting something a bit different?

Let’s start with beef. After all, it’s what’s for dinner.

How about some kabobs?



Spicy Beef Kebabs



Courtesy of Alton Brown.

Barbecued chicken? Always popular. Anyone for Carolina-style?






Carolina-Style Barbecue Chicken




Sounds amazing and easy to make.

Seafood? Got 'ya covered.




 


That of course is the unmistakable cedar planked salmon with cayenne lime butter.

These are all quite tantalizing and would be a terrific departure from the usual July 4 fare. But alas, this isn’t a Yes-Yes blog. Somebody else has that luxurious duty. Mine is a no-no. So what could be possibly be wrong with spicy beef kabobs, Carolina BBQ chicken, or cedar planked salmon brushed with cayenne lime butter?

Nothing.

Nothing at all.
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Unless we’re talking…
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Economics.


In April, the price of a pound of ground beef hit $3.55 a pound, a record high even when adjusted for inflation. That's up 56% since 2010. The increase is being blamed on bad winter weather (I’m personally getting tired of that excuse. Doesn’t everyone know it gets cold in winter?).

Growing demand for U.S. beef from overseas markets like Asia is a big factor driving up prices, said Ricky Volpe, economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "These record high beef prices are here to stay," said Volpe. "It'll be a long time until supplies will be more in line with demand once again."

So forget steak. Even burgers will cost more if that’s your bill of fare on the Fourth. Even worse if you toss some bacon on top.

Chicken? Carolina-style, doesn’t matter what style.
A decade ago, in May 2004, a pound of fresh chicken cost $1.04. Since then, the price has increased 50%.

Seafood prices have also gone up sine earlier this year, with the explanation being the one-two punch of Katrina and Rita, storms that wiped out much of south Louisiana's seafood industry.

Then there’s the Food Price Index, "a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.”

The seasonally-adjusted price index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs hit an all-time high in May, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In January 1967, when the BLS started tracking this measure, the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs was 38.1. As of last May, it was 234.572. By this January, it hit 240.006. By April, it hit 249.362. And, in May, it climbed to a record 252.832.

Technical, yes. But you get the picture.

Think about it. Surely you’ve notice the difference in prices on the menus at restaurants you frequent. Savvy businesspeople are aware of what’s happening and are taking action.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Faced with soaring beef prices, many restaurants and food retailers are shifting strategies to woo consumers and protect profit margins.

The record costs are forcing beef purveyors from Ruth's Chris Steak House to Carl's Jr. to choose between asking customers to pay more for steaks and burgers and eating the costs themselves. Many are passing along the higher prices while embellishing their menus with new items, smaller-portion cuts and more sauces, toppings and side dishes. Others are seeking to control costs by locking in beef purchases at current prices as they envision further inflation to come.

The scramble shows how a prolonged drought in the southern U.S. Great Plains that has shrunk the nation's cattle supply to six-decade lows is rippling from slaughterhouses to drive-ins and high-end steakhouses.

"There are people out there that are panicked," said Gregory Schulson, chief executive of Burrito Beach Mexican Grill, a Chicago-area burrito chain with six locations. "Restaurants have a philosophical choice to make. Are you going to maintain your current products and eat the margin, charge your customers more, or adjust your product to meet the consumer at their price point?"

Wholesale prices for choice-grade beef—the main variety consumed in the U.S.—surged 11% over the 12 months through May as cattle prices reached all-time highs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The gains come as supermarkets gear up for the week of Fourth of July—typically the year's busiest period for beef sales.

In many cases, companies are sticking consumers with that higher tab. Average retail fresh beef prices rose 12% to $5.45 a pound in May from a year earlier, according to the USDA, and were just shy of the all-time high reached in April. The government forecasts that consumer beef prices will increase as much as 6.5% for all of 2014, compared with gains of up to 4% for both pork and chicken.

Some consumers are balking at the higher beef prices in favor of lower-priced chicken, creating challenges for restaurants and retailers that emphasize red meat. Rich Brashear, a 23-year-old accountant in Chicago, said he has cut back on burgers and buys more chicken at the grocery store. "I eat a lot less beef," he said while munching on a hot dog at a sports bar one recent afternoon. "You don't have much choice. It's either spend more or eat less."


That’s restaurants. What about your backyard BBQ this Friday? Depends on how you approach it.

It’s a once-a-year celebration, our nation’s birthday, a national grill out. Splurge?

Or have soaring prices transformed you into a bargain hunter?

If so, maybe burgers and hot dogs is it.

Of course you can always cross your fingers and hope to be invited to someone else's party.


CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

A summer rerun.

Sadly in this great nation of ours, there are far too many who love to grouse, find fault with and try to ruin our holidays, including America's birthday.  Can’t we just celebrate by eating what we want without some ninny playing spoiler? NOPE.” Here’s a previous no-no.

Celebrity chefs who can't afford the rent.

Obama screws up again.

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