It looks like summer outside and your deck and patio have probably never looked better with all that stay-at-home time in March and April to clean and garden. But given the price and availability of fresh beef, pork and chicken, you may now be thinking twice about how often you fire up the grill this summer.
Major coronavirus outbreaks at Tyson Foods, Smithfield and other meat processing plants have dramatically reduced the availability of meat and has spiked prices. You may have noticed the empty cases at grocery stores, the “limit 1” signs, and the communications from Wendy’s explaining why the fast food giant famous for its “Where’s the Beef” ad campaign has run out of hamburgers.
With thousands of employees in states like Indiana, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota testing positive for Covid-19, the meat processing plants have either had to scale back production or shut down. And industry analysts believe the worst is not over – that the supply could shrink as much as 35 percent, with prices increasing 20 percent more later this year.
Danielle Dimengo, a dietitian at Akron Children’s Hospital, has several ideas to help meat-loving families through the summer.
Beyond the 1950s dinner
Many people still envision “dinner” as a plate with a large cut of meat, a side of potatoes and a small serving of vegetables for good measure.
“Instead,” said Dimengo, “think about entrees that use less meat because they share the spotlight with vegetables and whole grains. This includes stir fries, casseroles, tacos and fajitas, and large salads topped with grilled chicken or steak strips.”
Here, it’s important to remember the new “” recommendations: the ratios of a healthy plate should be ½ non-starchy vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ whole grains.
Get two meals out of one
Think about ways you can get two meals out of one meat purchase. The dark meat of a rotisserie chicken can be served with sides on the first night. Then, mix the white meat with Greek yogurt, celery, grapes and almond slices for a chicken salad, a summer dinner that doesn’t require the oven. Or the white meat can be mixed with your favorite BBQ sauce and spread over naan bread for a quick and delicious BBQ chicken pizza. Top the BBQ chicken mixture with slices of red onion, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and bake until edges are nicely browned and cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro.
Grill seafood or veggies
“If you want to cook out, it’s doesn’t have to be meat,” said Dimengo. “Salmon cooks really nicely on a grill, in foil, on a cedar plank or in a basket. And, if you have a grill basket, you can grill shrimp and all kinds of vegetables. I like to marinate zucchini slices in Italian dressing before grilling in a basket.”
Opt for Meatless Mondays
If you have ever considered going vegetarian or vegan, this may be the ideal time. Lentils, chick peas, tofu, quinoa, edamame, and dry or canned beans are packed with dietary fiber, minerals and protein and are very versatile. Think soups, grain bowls, wraps, hummus, gyros, and salads.
“Most people think they need a lot more protein than they really need,” Dimengo said. “You need about 1 gram of protein for every 1 kilograms of body weight.”
The incredible, edible egg
“There’s nothing wrong with breakfast for dinner,” said Dimengo. “And you can do so much with eggs from omelets and frittatas to breakfast casseroles and egg salad sandwiches. Hard-boiled eggs and sliced mushrooms pair very nicely on a spinach salad and fresh spinach is packed with all kinds of good nutrients.”
Finally, if you typically shop at a grocery store or warehouse club and are finding it difficult to find what you want in the meat case, consider visiting a local butcher shop.
“They get their meat from local farmers and while the prices may initially seem high, it probably averages out to about the same or maybe less than what you have been paying week to week,” said Dimengo. “You may, for example, pay several hundred dollars for a side of beef but you will have the freezer stocked and can pull out steaks or burgers whenever you are ready to fire up the grill.”