Convention Center beefs up menu with its own cows
by Sarah Tully
Anaheim Convention Center’s food director was frustrated that supplies often ran low on free-range beef for his environmentally friendly menu.
So, he decided to ask the city to buy him a herd of cattle.
“I said, ‘I’m going to buy the whole cows.’ That’s what we did. We bought the whole cows,” said Jim Tripp, general manager for city-contractor Aramark at the center.
The purchase is believed to be the first time that any convention center has bought cattle. The 75 city-owned cows reside at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, where they will be slaughtered, cut to the city-owned center’s specifications and then served to convention-goers near Disneyland.
It’s just one way that the center has become an industry leader for its green practices. The center also provides free-trade coffee, local produce and utensils made of cornstarch. “Inhumane” foods are banned from the center. About 15 percent of its fruit and vegetables are organic.
Tripp, who launched the center’s green program, said he projects that the cows will provide a four-month supply of beef. The cows cost about $100,000, saving the center about 10 percent in food costs. If the pilot program goes well, the center could buy more cows.
The city-owned Anaheim Convention Center bought the cows, so they technically belong to the city. But the beef is managed by Aramark.
Although the cows don’t live nearby, Tripp made a point of visiting them during a trip to the ranch where he slept at the bunk house.
“I don’t take things on their own press. I have to see it for myself,” Tripp said.
With the beef, the center was able to expand its food options, creating a new Hearst Ranch menu. Meal options include Sarsaparilla Hearst Ranch Braised Short Ribs, Mustard-Crusted Beef Tenderloin and Hearst Ranch Striploin Steak Salad. The prices will be roughly the same as similar dishes, Tripp said.
The center will also use the beef for about 70,000 hamburgers that it sells each year. The one-third-pound burgers sell for $7.
Debbie Juliani, marketing director for Aramark, said customers have been thrilled with the new menu options, which were offered at a tasting for the first time this week. “People are really intrigued,” Juliani said.
About 1 million visitors attend events at the center each year.