Seeing the Shrink-wrap

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My birthday was earlier this month and one of my presents was a T-fal OptiGrill indoor grilling machine that cooks steaks, chops, fish and vegetables to perfection.

Later that week I had the occasion to visit The Meat House, a very upscale butcher/specialty market in Summit, N.J., a suburban commuter town populated with doctors, lawyers and Wall Street bankers. The Meat House is one of those establishments where an Angus rib eye costs upwards of $26.99 a pound, and is carefully wrapped by clerks in that thick, old-fashioned brown butcher paper. It is also the type of store where Upstate New York milk is $3.99 a half-gallon ($7.99 in glass), and asparagus weighs in at $5.99 a pound, compared to spears of the same quality selling at the ShopRite down the road for $1.99 a pound.

Nevertheless, as a present to myself I decided to splurge on one of their famed rib eye steaks. Since I am not on a Wall Street banker’s salary, I opted for the “cheap” choice cut that was “only” $17.99 a pound. I picked out a nice, moderate-size one in the middle of the tray. Problem was—aside from paying $17.99 a pound for a steak!!!—my T-fal OptiGrill was on back order from Kohl’s and I had still not received it.

Therefore, I asked the clerk if he would mind double-wrapping it for me as I wished to freeze it for use at a later date. He cheerfully replied, “I can run it through the shrink-wrapper in the back for you. Then you can just toss it in the freezer.” And with those words he took the steak and went to the cutting room on the other side of the back counter. About two minutes later he reappeared with my fresh steak all shrink-wrapped and ready to freeze.

What a marvelous idea! I asked him if this was something new at The Meat House. “We’ve done it for quite some time,” he said. “We find it keeps the meat fresher in the freezer as there are no air pockets to cause freezer burn.”

I think all supermarkets should invest in a shrink-wrap machine, especially those that are known for high-quality meats. Tout it with signage on, in and behind the meat case. This will encourage shoppers to stock up when there is a sale, or maybe buy that nice steak they see in the case when they already are planning on going out to dinner that night.

Astute retailers can even offer to shrink-wrap items from the self-serve case, eliminating the need for the shopper to either take the item out of the Styrofoam tray when they get home, or wrap it in foil or a ZipLoc bag to try to keep it fresh.

I also found that my shrink-wrapped steak is taking up substantially less room in the freezer, which is another plus.           


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