Murphy: GQ’s Meat I.Q.

January 22, 2018 11:00 AM
One of the (self-described) premier men’s lifestyle magazines waxes poetic about how modern man is supposed to relate to red meat. Hint: Have your platinum Visa available.

Even as print publications in the business sector have declined over the last two decades, so-called “lifestyle” magazines seem to be stuffed full of more ads than ever before — to the point that it takes several minutes for the average reader to flip through dozens of pages just to get to the table of contents.

One of the leading such magazines for the men’s market is GQ, which was once known as Gentlemen’s Quarterly but was a generation ahead of Kentucky Fried Chicken in going to a corporate acronym. GQ focuses on “style advice, fashion, fitness hacks, culture, fitness, movies, sports, technology, and of course, sex.”

That’s the magazine’s self-description, not mine.

It’s a publication that’s self-consciously pretentious about buying the best (and almost always the most expensive) gadgets, clothing and status symbols to be certified as an enlightened and presumably affluent American male.

Hence, the thousands of pages of ads that run every year for high-end products aimed at their more than 850,000 readers.

Want to step up to the plate, fashion-wise, in your trendy circle of upwardly mobile achievers? It’s as simple as throwing down for a Brioni hand-tailored Italian suit ($5,420), a pair of Christian Louboutin Cap Toe Lace-Up shoes ($945) and Balenciaga mid-calf dress socks ($59), paired with a Massimo Alba knit polo short ($192), and you’re magically transformed into Mr. Cutting Edge, both in terms of style and (allegedly) business acumen.

Becoming a Modern Meat Man
However, for all its ultra-high-end merchandising, which the average consumer wouldn’t waste their money on, even if they could afford it ($5,420 for a suit? I have way better ideas for spending five grand than buying a jacket and pants), GQ recently did a nice job with a lengthy article that contained the magazine’s top ten meat hacks.

C’mon. You don’t publish tips or tricks; that’s old school. We’re all lifestyle hackers now.

The only drawback is that the article, titled, “How To Be a Better, Smarter, Happier Meat Eater,” was that it was authored by Mark Bittman, the former New York Times food and cooking writer now an independent journalist and fellow at the activist Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization that’s often as anti-factory farming as it gets.

Nevertheless, Bittman offers some valuable suggestions, and to be frank, it’s heartening just to know that a prominent publication decided to run an article that’s unabashedly favorable on the subject of red meat consumption (although the piece is couched with an introduction referencing the notion that “you’ve heard that red meat is cruel and unsustainable, and that it’ll destroy the environment if it doesn’t give us all heart attacks first”).

One memorable explanation offered high up in the story is Bittman’s summary of beef production: “Under natural conditions, cattle are an almost perfectly beneficial part of a regenerative agricultural system. Their waste feeds the fields on which they’re pastured; carbon is sequestered in that grass; and their meat, in limited quantities, is good for us, good for the land, and good for the community of farmers, ranchers, butchers, and the variety of small businesses that raise, butcher, and sell it.”

If a marketer hired a PR firm to promote its product, it’d be tough to come up with a more powerful statement than that one.

In addition, the article urged readers to expand their appetites by considering what Bittman termed “weird cuts,” such as deckle, the “succulent part of the prime rib that always tastes so good,” and boned lamb neck, “which, simply roasted, is incomparable.”

Other articles have done much better with recommendations about organ meats and “exotic” cuts, but at least Bittman gave a nod to choices other than ribeye, ground beef and strip steak.

Finally — and producers, processors and purveyors will love this — readers were urged to “open your wallets” when purchasing fresh meat. That’s partly because what was termed “pasture-raised beef,” which was positioned as the preferred choice, tends to cost more per pound, but also because … well, because this is GQ.

The magazine’s editorial philosophy (and marketplace positioning) simply doesn’t permit encouraging anyone to consider buying “economy” products. After all, if you’re shelling out six or seven grand for a business casual outfit, what’s $10 a pound for ground beef, or $30 a pound for high-end steaks?

Those are the actual prices GQ suggests its readers should be willing to fork over to get in on a meat hack at one of the upscale retail butcher shops Mr. Bittman practically demands that you patronize.

On last hack GQ urges on its clientele is captured in the phrase, “Killer Meat Demands Killer Technique.” Much of that advice is Grilling 101 (“Use a lot of salt and pepper and some rosemary; get your grill as hot as it’ll go, but when you’re ready to cook, shut off the gas under one part of the grill or bank the coals over to one side,” etc., etc.). but there are also some good ideas about using sherry vinegar, Worcestershire, Tabasco and cornichons (aka, gherkins), as well as fresh Parmesan and even anchovies as accoutrements.

Best of all? None of those ingredients will set you back a month’s pay.

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.

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