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> From: “Meltsner, Kenneth”
> Date: Tue Sep 23, 2003 8:18:04 PM US/Pacific
> To:
> Subject: if there’s ever a Nuerenberg trial for food crimes, here’s a
> candidate….
>
> I’m appalled, and I’m living in Wisconsin — I thought nothing could
> surprise me in the fried/cheese-bearing foods category…
>
> Ken
>
> September 23, 2003
> Cheeseburger and Fries, Wrapped Up in One
> By TANIA RALLI
>
> If the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has its way, beef will
> not be just for dinner anymore.
>
> Looking to emulate the success of Chicken McNuggets and fried
> mozzarella sticks, the group is hoping to inject some red meat into
> the American snack food diet with cheeseburger fries. The fries, which
> look like a squat version of standard French fries, are made of a
> meat-and-cheese compound that tastes — as the name suggests — like a
> cheeseburger.
>
> Breaded, then deep-fried and served with ketchup or barbecue sauce,
> cheeseburger fries have found their way onto menus in several states
> including Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas since June. There is also a
> version being made available to public school cafeterias.
>
> “The challenge is getting people to think of other ways to eat beef,”
> said Betty Hogan, director of new product development for the
> association.
>
> Beef, mostly in the form of hamburger, still dominates the menus of
> fast-food restaurants and bars across the country. But even the
> enduring popularity of the hamburger is not enough to counteract the
> long-term decline in national beef consumption. Twenty years ago
> Americans ate 77.1 pounds of beef per capita and 51.3 pounds of
> chicken. In 2001, the figures were 66.2 pounds of beef per capita and
> 75.6 pounds of chicken.
>
> That reversal took place in part because of the popularity of
> McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, which were introduced in 1983, altering
> the public’s perception of chicken by turning it into a quick and
> convenient food. Beef was still largely relegated to the evening meal,
> and the National Beef Council’s popular slogan — “Beef: It’s What’s
> for Dinner” — seemed out of step when fewer families were sitting down
> to dinner together.
>
> Looking for other avenues into the American diet, the beef industry
> noticed that restaurants sell over 900 million portions of chicken
> strips and fried cheese sticks, many of them as appetizers.
>
> “You just don’t see beef-based appetizers,” Rob McLaughlin, vice
> president for product management at the Advance Food Company in Enid,
> Okla., which is manufacturing cheeseburger fries.
>
> The fries themselves are surprisingly light, weighing only about one
> ounce each. The meat, so that it holds together, is firm like a
> meatball. And while the taste is not distinctly beef, biting into one
> does impart the lingering flavoring of processed cheese.
>
> Steve Mason, owner of the Brass Rail restaurant in Beatrice, Neb.,
> said he served five fries in a portion and charged $2.95. “They’re
> very profitable,” he added.
>
> Like most bar snacks, cheeseburger fries pack quite a dietary wallop.
> Each individual fry has about 75 calories and four grams of fat. The
> fries for schools have less beef per serving but still have about 60
> calories and, in fact, more fat — a total of 6 grams — in each fry.
> And nobody eats just one.
>
> Developing a beef-based snack was a process that took about two years.
> According to Dr. Tony Mata, the technical coordinator of the
> association’s research and development branch, the final shape of
> cheeseburger fries was almost an accident. “There’s an interesting
> twist to how this product came about,” he said. “We were actually
> working on a cheeseburger by the slice.”
>
> The idea had been to manufacture precooked patties that tasted like a
> cheeseburger by combining ground beef and cheese.
>
> “It was supposed to have the same dimension of a regular hamburger
> patty,” Dr. Mata said. The consumer would simply heat the burger in a
> pan or microwave, place it in a bun, and dress it like a regular
> burger.
>
> “It looked good on paper,” Dr. Mata said. “Then we tried it at the
> laboratory, and the initial appeal was horrible.”
>
> Dr. Mata and the development group decided to rework the product,
> changing its shape, adding batter and bread and dropping it into the
> deep fryer.
>
> The new prototype was tested in Evanston, Ill., at the Keg of
> Evanston, a popular bar near Northwestern University. Satisfied with
> the response, the association enlisted a food scientist, Steve Moore,
> who is known in the business for his expertise in developing breaded
> coatings. In the past Mr. Moore worked on breading projects like onion
> rings, jalapeño peppers, seafood and even French toast sticks (in
> effect, adding breading to bread).
>
> “I started the project by putting a variety of flavors together with
> coatings,” Mr. Moore said about the cheeseburger fries.
>
> He likened the coating process to walking a tightrope, since the
> moisture of the meat and cheese must be carefully controlled for the
> breading to adhere. Otherwise, when the product is deep-fried, the
> heat of the oil will produce enough steam to blow off the breading.
>
> “You always follow wet by dry,” he said. So, before the meat and
> cheese could be battered and breaded, the shaped mixture had to be
> coated in a fine flourlike substance called predust to dry the surface
> of the moist mixture.
>
> Picking the right cheese was also an issue. Mr. Moore tested
> everything from premium sharp cheddar cheese to processed American
> cheese.
>
> “We didn’t want it so cheesy that we overwhelmed the beef flavor,” he
> said.
>
> “When people bite into it, you want them to get the wow effect: `Wow,
> this tastes just like a cheeseburger,’ ” Mr. Moore said.
>
> After testing different types of cheeses, Mr. Moore settled on a
> processed restricted-melt cheese, meaning that it is manufactured to
> withstand high temperatures.
>
> “Some cheeses are so restricted melt that we bit in and it looked like
> little yellow pieces of plastic,” he said.
>
> He created three flavor profiles. The first tasted like plain beef
> with salt and pepper. Then he made a prototype mimicking the flavor of
> beef fried on a flat-top grill, as at McDonald’s, and another that
> suggested a charbroiled flavor, like a Burger King hamburger.
>
> Tasters like the charbroiled flavor, but said it did not make sense to
> have something like that also taste deep-fried.
>
> “It’s hard to please everyone,” Mr. Moore said.
>
> When Advance Food began producing the cheeseburger fries at the
> beginning of the year under license from the cattlemen’s association,
> the company limited distribution to the central states but the product
> is now available across the country.
>
> “We think that we will sell about a million dollars’ worth this year,”
> Mr. McLaughlin said.
>
> All this, of course, pleases the National Cattlemen’s Beef
> Association. “We want beef in dessert if we can get it there,” Ms.
> Hogan said.
>
> Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
>

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