This isn't a rant about the very real evils of the government-subsidized agricultural industrial complex or the superior flavor and health benefits of grass-pastured meats. This is a rant about the cuts of meat available, presumably based on customer demand.
A couple weeks ago I needed shanks for making Osso Buco. I couldn't find any in the sea of 90/10 ground beef, beef fillets, ground turkey and boneless skinless chicken breasts at the fancy new Kroger at Poplar and Highland. I asked the butcher; Cow, pig or lamb; it didn't matter. I just needed crosscut shanks from a four-legged mammal to braise with vegetables in chicken stock and wine in a Dutch oven.
I ended up stopping at the Union Avenue Kroger and the Cash Saver on Madison before I finally found them at the oft-maligned Kroger at Poplar and Cleveland. Laugh and call it "Kroghetto" all you want. At least it had shanks, right alongside the oxtails and neckbones.
Today my shopping list included beef short ribs for yet another braise. The Poplar and Cleveland Kroger failed me this time. The Union Avenue Kroger only had boneless short ribs. Let me repeat that again -- boneless short ribs. Seriously, I'm starting to think the average American shopper doesn't even deserve meat anymore. Luckily Cash Saver had what I needed this time around.
The sad part is, this is mainly due to peoples' earnest but misinformed attempts to eat healthy. The American public's relationship with the food it eats has become so warped that grocery stores are full of overweight people pushing around carts full of whole-wheat breads, margarine, skim milk and boneless skinless chicken breasts. They are trying their best, eating this garbage in the mistaken belief that it will improve their health, not realizing it is the source of their problems. Even worse, many of them are also taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol levels, never realizing the drugs are greatly increasing their future odds of cancer and Alzheimer's disease while doing nothing to reduce their risk of heart disease.
Unlike whole grains and vegetable oils, which are total junk foods, there is nothing wrong with a boneless skinless chicken breast. You should be eating the entire animal. After you roast a whole chicken and eat the most delicious parts like the legs, thighs, and wings while saving the leftover skin and bones for making stock you will be left with plenty of breast meat that is great for making soups and chicken salad.
But a lot of people are trying to subsist on bland cuts like the boneless skinless chicken breast out of needless fear of animal fats. Or worse, some bizarre phobia of meat that looks like meat keeping them from enjoying the healthy culinary wonders of meat on the bone, much less delightful cuts like tongue and heart.
The real food movement should be about eating real food. Yuppies buying ultra-high-priced steaks, chicken breasts and artisan breads at the farmer's markets are missing the point entirely. There is real food at the supermarket. But while the general rule is to stick to the outer walls where the least processed products like fresh produce and meat are found, even the outer edges contain foods that reflect the confusion the food industry has created in the public mind with its misuse of the word "healthy."
This is a product called "fat free cream cheese." It is on the shelves next to the real thing. Obviously there is no way to make actual fat free cream cheese, since cream cheese IS fat. The only way a consumer would buy this chemical-laden imitation is if they were hoodwinked into thinking it was somehow superior to natural dairy fat.
Winter is coming. If your diet has been dominated by boneless skinless chicken breast now is the perfect time to roast a chicken, make stock with the leftovers, and break out the Crock Pot to start exploring all the fatty cuts of meat on the bone you've been missing.