Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Center of the Plate

When I say Midwest, you say....?

cornfields?
Idaho?
potatoes?
"meat and potatoes"?

Wasn't that a fun word association exercise?

Typically, the phrase "meat and potatoes" is an adjective that represents stodginess, unexciting, unimaginative.  The phrase is most often used to describe diets, mostly of people my parents' age and older (but is by no means exclusive).  This diet usually consists of three items: a portion of meat (beef or pork usually) and a starch (read: potato)...and sometimes a vegetable (often another starch, i.e. corn).

However, this three-way approach to meals should not be limited to an older generation, because according to a report called "Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report" Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm, relays some interesting information about the way we arrange and plan our dinners:

When dining out, beef choices make up about 33% of consumers' choices for protein.  Chicken is another popular choice at 29%, while seafood and pork come in third and fourth (12% and 9%, respectively).

It would have been interesting, indeed, to see a further breakdown of this data.  For example, how is the 33% dispersed throughout the country?  Where are a majority of these protein eaters located?  Also, a noteworthy little tidbit, this article was written by "Meat&Poultry Staff" at a website called MeatPoultry.com, which touts itself as "The Business Journal for Meat and Poultry Processors".  And if you're anything like me, a sarcastic little buzzer sounds off in your head, followed by a scathing voice that says, "Oh finally, a completely unbiased piece of journalism!"  While I'm reluctant to lean heavily on this particular essay, I don't doubt there is likely to be some validity to it...as eaters, Americans rely a great deal on protein being at the center of our plates.

Then again, according to this piece, ""Innovate Your Center of Plate" courtesy of High Liner Foods, seafood popularity is on the rise.  Of course, High Liner Foods journalists are unable to write this piece without advertising its boldly flavored, minimally processed "Fire Roasters" line of seafood products.

Of course.  You all know it's just a matter of time before The Vegetarian Awareness Council produces their highly researched report that claims vegetarian entrees are gaining momentum with American diners.  (Of course, it's worth noting that since no such report turns up on the Google, the claim is likely to be true.  Ah, the paradox of the Internet.)

At any rate - what is Center of the Plate?  It's the protein showpiece.  It's usually the dominant element on the plate...it gets the most attention, it's what diners pay the big bucks for (which is not Maple-Glazed Baby Carrots, by the way).  How did protein get to be the impresario of the plate production?  I have no idea, and there's no crappy, biased journalism available on the Web that will tell me.

But, I will make it my goal to research this further and get back to you about it.  Then, maybe it would be worthwhile to explore some options to this tri-prong standard?

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