Only a few decades ago, no self-respecting chef would buy portion cut meat or even primary cuts.
In most mid-sized hotels with one or two restaurants and a bar plus banquet facilities, whole carcass of beef, or lamb, or pork were purchased and the in-house butcher broke it down according to the chef’s needs. In some rural hotels, live calves were purchased, then slaughtered and butchered.
This is why French repertoires of cuisine list a myriad of recipes for roasts, pates, sautéed dishes, grilled items, and pan-fried specialties. Absolutely every part, nose-to-tail of a carcass, was profitably used.
Even today in many Middle Eastern countries you can buy every part of an animal, starting from the brain, all the way to trotters, legs, the rack, and if you want, the whole head which can be roasted.
Starting 2000 many Toronto chefs, and no doubt in other North American cities, chefs, skilled in butchery, started buying whole carcasses and all the parts were used. This lowers the cost of meat, but increases labour marginally, if you can cope with the butchering, and sausage making.
If your servers know how to “sell” pan-fried fresh calf’s liver, or pate, or sausages, or consommés, your profits are bound to increase exponentially.
Even if you have a 50-seat restaurant and limited possibilities to use all the by-products, you can have a butcher shop next to the restaurant or close by, and sell most of lamb, the primal cuts (neck, shoulder, shank, breast, leg, and rack) can be used in stews, for kebabs, braising, stuffing, and grilling.
If you buy the carcass with all the offal, you can use the liver, and other parts for pates, the bones for stock and soups, cheeks for braising, the stomach for tripe, and the brain for scrambled eggs, or breading and pan-frying, and kidneys can be grilled or sautéed, or flambéed at table side, but as emphasised earlier, your servers must be trained and skilled enough to get the orders.
Buying carcasses requires knowledge assessing quality.
For lamb, look for vivid red, firm, healthy looking fat cover; for beef, evaluate colour, marbling, fat cover, and fullness of meat on shoulders and legs. Beef primal cuts are (chuck, brisket, rib, plate, flank, sirloin, tenderloin, top but, round, shank) and only large enough hotel kitchens can use all the cuts profitably.
The major problem is at least in North America, finding suitably trained butchers to generate all the cuts that can be used profitably. It should be pointed out that in Europe and Asia, primal cuts differ from those in North America. Pork primal cuts (jowl, plate, butt, picnic shoulder, loin, short ribs, belly, leg, hock and foot). Each of these cuts can be used profitably if the hotel operates a restaurant and a pub.
The restaurant menu should feature more desirable cuts (loin, short ribs), sausages and bacon, would enrich the breakfast menu, foot and hock the pub menu.
Using the whole animal means respecting the value of a life taken for sustenance, and eliminating waste. Offal meats aka variety cuts, have always been undervalued in North America. In fact, a salesman once said that rural slaughter houses threw calf’s sweetbreads into the garbage. Today, they are either exported or featured in exclusive restaurants.
If you buy a 27 kg., lamb carcass, break it down skilfully, and sell each portion, your food cost percentage could drop to as low as 25 per cent.
You menu or clientele may be unsuitable for adopting a nose-to-tail approach, but you can always find ways to use all the parts of a carcass profitably!