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Questions for Costco

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    Questions for Costco

    A few weeks ago there was a discussion here about why Costco blade-tenderizes their prime cuts of steak, and if it created an added health risk. What stood out to me was the labelling that also recommended cooking the steaks to 160, which none of us do.

    I decided to email Costco's CEO to ask directly, and the next day I received a call from their VP of meat operation and an invitation to meet and tour their operations at a local Costco. That's now scheduled for late next week.

    I'm not a food expert, but have science/engineering degrees, have done technology reporting and authored a couple of books. But I'm sure many of you know a lot more about this subject, and I'd welcome questions you may have that I can ask. I think it's very generous of Costco to go to this length, and I'd like to make the most of this opportunity to benefit our community.

    I’ve asked local Costco butchers about it and they don’t like doing it, but the decision is made higher up. Can’t wait to hear what you find out!


      Cool. I don't have any specific issues that aren't obvious bt...

      1) Give that blade tenderizing is a way to breakup fibers in very tough cuts, why blade tenderize prime steaks etc that are by their nature, tender?

      2) Do they understand the food risk? I have to assume they do but do they realize that they're exposing people who cook steaks to rare/med-rare to food poisoning risks since it risks pushing bacteria from the surface inward.

      3) And that this isn't an issue for tough cuts that are going to be braised anyway?

      4) Finally, why do this at all? It feels like an unnecessary step that adds some cost and health risk for very minimal quality rewards.
      Last edited by rickgregory; July 24, 2021, 02:02 PM.


      • LA Pork Butt
        LA Pork Butt commented
        Editing a comment
        Great questions!

      • jfmorris
        jfmorris commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes, very good questions!

      I have heard that Costco is very good about sanitation at their stores, I think that will be stressed in your tour. Found this:

      "Costco takes food safety very seriously. Costco buys only USDA Choice and USDA Prime Beef from suppliers that have implemented tight food safety controls. These food safety controls help to reduce or eliminate bacteria on the surface of the meat. As a result, bacterial issues related to blade tenderization are greatly reduced. Even though our processes are very thorough and reduce the risk of issues, Costco still chooses to voluntarily label all blade tenderized product to ensure that our members understand our processes. Costco feels that blade tenderization improves the eating quality of the beef that we sell so that our members will be fully satisfied with their purchase."


      • jfmorris
        jfmorris commented
        Editing a comment
        Reduce does not mean eliminate. In brewing, I learned that sanitizing is not the same as sterilizing. Reducing means that they must acknowledge some level of bacteria remains. Unless you cut the meat in a clean room with filtered purified air, at the very least microbes in the butcher shop will drift onto the surface of the meat and get shoved in by the tenderizer.

      I would prepare some handouts using research like the following:



      Basically to make the point that blade tenderization doesn’t improve the meat and instead introduces more e.coli throughout the meat as they know, requiring it to be cooked to a higher temp. if we have academic support, it may be considered more seriously.

      Beyond that, the obvious question is why do they continue to use a process that requires its consumers to destroy the meat for it to be safe to eat?

      I realize none of us actually cook it to 160 or just sous vide it but still.


      • Histrix
        Histrix commented
        Editing a comment
        Do you really believe that Costco has been unaware of the research you referenced?

      • IFindZeroBadCooks
        IFindZeroBadCooks commented
        Editing a comment
        Plenty of business decisions are made based on expected cost savings or revenue gains without consulting academics.

      • IFindZeroBadCooks
        IFindZeroBadCooks commented
        Editing a comment
        That said, you raise a good point.

        It would be a great question to ask : What research or studies has Costco done or relied on to support this decision?

      Politely ask the tour guide how he orders his steaks when he eats out. And then ask him to ask the lawyers who came up with 160° how they like their steaks cooked. Ya know the 160° has to come from the lawyers.

      And tell him that there are a lot of people here that won't buy steaks that need to be cooked to 160°.


      • Huskee
        Huskee commented
        Editing a comment
        A person with authority and little understanding is a dangerous thing.

      • Dr. Pepper
        Dr. Pepper commented
        Editing a comment
        Yep. Respectfully let them know that the AR community only buys their cryopacked meat for this reason. (Also, can they trim their baby backs more on the loin end? 😬)

      • ComfortablyNumb
        ComfortablyNumb commented
        Editing a comment
        He orders his steaks well done, with ketchup.

      My guess is the "anti-needle tenderizing" crowd doesn't come close to the "don't know, don't care, you really don't have to cook meat well-done?" crowd.

      You can't tell a company they're losing money. For all I know their steak sales became big after they started faux ribeye vaccinations. Not my cup of tea but so are a lot things companies make big money on.


        This discussion has been going on for years. It does seem puzzling why they continue to do this but it it what it is.

        What does contemporary research indicate as to the actual cases of food poisoning due to blade tenderized meats? Are people dropping like flies or is it exceedingly rare?

        I think having them blade tenderized by Costco is likely to be far safer than those folks that do it at home with one of those tenderizer stabby gizmos they pull out of the back of their drawer of kitchen toys.

        At home is when the steak is far more likely to become contaminated with something as not everyone is as scrupulous in their hand washing/sanitization/cross-contamination control as the Costco butcher will be.

        One could probably make the argument that Costco is actually saving lives by doing the blade tenderizerization for customers.
        Last edited by Histrix; July 24, 2021, 03:15 PM.


        • CaptainMike
          CaptainMike commented
          Editing a comment
          Interesting point.

        • Mark V
          Mark V commented
          Editing a comment
          This article does not specifically mention blades, but total from all causes. Fatalities are rare overall. This is a study over the 20 years 1982-2002.


        • RonB
          RonB commented
          Editing a comment
          I thnk yur onto something. If they had been sued because of blade tenderizing, they would have stopped.

        Regardless of the discussion and potential outcome of your tour, it is pretty cool that they reached out to you like they did and offered to walk you through their process. Looking forward to reading your post-tour report.


          Never heard of blade tenderizing before. We just re-joined Costco after not being members for a few years. Mostly for the meat. Now I am wondering if I will want to buy steaks there. I don't like the sound of blade tenderizing. Like others have said, it creates an opportunity to push bacteria into the meat. Not good.


          • Dr. Pepper
            Dr. Pepper commented
            Editing a comment
            You can ask the butcher for the unopened cryopacks, if you can deal with the volume. I buy their 'sirloin cap', which is picaña with the fat removed (sad.) There are three whole caps in a cryopack. I take them home, cut them up, and vacuum bag and freeze them. Of course, as Histrix notes, that may be more 'dangerous' than having Costco blade tenderize them and repackage in smaller amounts. 🤔

          I’d be curious also Phil, if they would allow you to take pictures or video during your tour. My guess is probably not, but it’s worth a shot to ask. I’m looking forward to your report as well. Good job on reaching out to them.


            If you remember ask if they follow the same procedures or close to in their International locations like Canada, Mexico and the UK? I avoid the blade tenderizing by purchasing the bulk piece of meat and cutting steaks and/or roasts myself and freezing in appropriate for me size packages.


              Would be nice to know what logic they use in continuing that practice.


                I love that they are doing this. Enjoy the tour and take it in.


                  Agreed at least Costco is stepping up and answering your questions, that being said Walmart up here is doing the same thing with they’re meats as seen in these pics.
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