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The Food Safety Perk That Makes Bulk Store Membership Worth So Much More

The Food Safety Perk That Makes Bulk Store Membership Worth So Much More

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Retailers like Costco and Sam's Club are able to go the extra mile to keep your family safe.

There's no denying that memberships at wholesale retailers like Costco offer many families a great deal of savings and convenience—there's a reason that, according to data from Forbes, Costco is America's second largest retailer behind Walmart, which owns Sam's Club.

But unlike other supermarkets, the membership-only model gives bulk retailers access to something that other stores don't have—the contact info and purchase history of every single shopper. While some might worry about what's being done with all that data, there's at least one potentially lifesaving perk, when it comes to food recalls.

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If a food that either Costco or Sam's Club stocks has been recalled, both retailers reach directly out to all the members who purchased affected products, with a warning to discard the item and get a refund immediately.

Retailers like Costco offer upwards of 4,000 different brand-name items to members at any given time, according to Forbes, which makes keeping tabs on what's being recalled difficult even for an expert. But wholesale retailers will email, call or even mail a letter to let customers know that an item has been recalled.

Amy Wyatt-Moore, a senior communications manager for Sam's Club, explains that it's just part of the benefits of membership: "It's more than what many other retailers would have the opportunity to do, but since we have member's purchase history and dates on file, we're able to know who purchased what and when," says Wyatt-Moore. "We know immediately if you've purchased a potentially affected product in our stores."

More on how to take advantage of your wholesale membership:

At Sam's Club, members will receive automated calls from a corporate safety team to let them know if they've purchased an item that could be potentially harmful, Wyatt-Moore confirmed. If they're unable to reach you on the phone, letters are mailed out, but Wyatt-Moore also says that teams will also work to address the situation the next time you're in their store.

The same is true at Costco, where a customer service representative confirmed that a safety team remains on standby to contact affected members when recalls occur—including any issues with their private-label items. Costco also keeps recall notices up to date on their website, which you can find right here.

While it's unclear just how many shoppers have been saved from eating recalled food, Wyatt-Moore says that many Sam's Club members have taken time to write emails and letters on how the early heads up has made their lives so much easier. The best perk of being part of a membership club may actually be the sense of relief knowing that you'll be the first to know if your safety is at risk.

How to Eat More Vegetables and Fruits

Though it’s true that nutrition ­experts sometimes disagree on the healthfulness of certain foods, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who would put fruits and vegetables into the questionable camp. They supply a lot of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and ­fiber for very few calories. Plus, with their high water content they help you stay hydrated. And studies show that people who have a produce-rich diet are at lower risk of many health problems, including dementia, depression, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Yet 58 percent of Americans consume fruits, vegetables, or juice less than twice a week—and 2 percent don’t eat any at all, according a 2020 survey from the nonprofit Produce for Better Health Foundation.

It’s not for lack of trying. More than half of American adults have the goal of eating more fruits and vegetables, the foundation’s survey found. But all too often they’re derailed by common obstacles, says Maya Feller, RD, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.

Affordability is one. If money is an ­issue, it can be hard to prioritize produce. “We know that when finances are of concern, people tend to choose high-energy [high-calorie], low-cost foods,” Feller says. “That can mean more packaged food and less produce.” Another challenge is that doing a lot of produce prep can feel like a chore.

And for people who aren’t sure how to serve fruit and vegetables in easy, tasty ways, incorporating them into meals may seem daunting, says Wesley McWhorter, RDN, an assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. But there are easy ways to address these hurdles.

Wine Buying Guide

Consumer Reports no longer updates this product category and maintains it for archival purposes only.

Getting Started

Food and wine are natural partners and, when they're compatible, they can each lift the other to a higher level of flavor. The problem is finding a perfect pairing. Consumer Reports' wine experts will not only help you find the best wines at a reasonable price but can also choose the best food-and-wine combination.

Consider the Flavors You Favor
Wines of a varietal share basic characteristics. Merlots, for example, typically have varying degrees of ripe fruit aromas--cassis, raspberry, black cherry, and plum--along with herbaceous or spicy "notes." But even within a varietal, wines can differ quite a bit because of their style: characteristics derived from the wine-making process. For example, some merlots have a woody or smoky/char flavor resulting from the toasted oak barrels in which they're aged. Pinot grigio typically has a dry and tart Old World style. Pinot gris, made from the same grape as pinot grigio, typically has a fuller-bodied, and sometimes "off dry" (sweeter), New World style. So don't write off a varietal because of a few bottles you didn't like. You might not have experienced its range of styles or quality.

Consider Other Taste Attributes
Bitterness and astringency from grape tannins are among the qualities of "taste" that can characterize the total effect of the experience of a red wine, and might affect your preference.

When wine experts speak of structure, they mean a combination of alcohol, sweetness, acid, and tannins--the wine's basic taste components--that creates an almost three-dimensional sensation in your mouth. In general, better wines have a more detectable and pleasing structure.

Finish relates to how long the wine's taste and texture linger after swallowing. While all wines have alcohol, some create an undesirable sensation of heat in your mouth when the wine's alcohol level is too great.

Consider the Food Being Served
Full-bodied wines (such as most cabernets and merlots) generally complement rich dishes, while fruity-style wines (such as sauvignon blancs or pinot grigio/gris) work with lighter fare, such as grilled fish. Fairly simple wines work well on their own as aperitifs. The more complex a wine, the wider the range of food flavors that will complement or enhance it.

Although particular wines are often associated with particular foods (as in the proverbial white-wine-with-fish rule), good wine pairing often has as much to do with sauces or a food's preparation as with the underlying fish, meat, or fowl. For example, spicy dishes can work well with off-dry wines that are low in tannins. A classic pairing for rich, fattier foods, including red meat, is a tannic red such as cabernet sauvignon.

Consider When You'll Drink the Wine
Most wines are fine for immediate consumption, but our tests have identified a few red wines with qualities (including the presence of mouth-puckering tannins) that could soften and improve if they're aged a year or two.

Don't Automatically Equate High Price With High Quality
It's true that many higher-priced wines are superb, and that the world's best wines rarely cost $5 or $10. But in our tests, some of the best wines are often relatively inexpensive. Conversely, some much more expensive wines have had mediocre scores.

Don't Depend on Consistency
Even the best wineries cannot produce consistent quality from one vintage to another. Wines can falter from one year to the next so taste the new wine before you order a case of it based on enthusiasm for an old vintage.

Don't assume all of the varietals a winery produces are as good as a paricilar varietal just because the winery maintains consistency within a varietal. Some producers, including many of the biggest California and Australian wineries, produce a wide range of varietals. While some such brands score well across their lineup, just as many have bottles that vary widely in quality among, say, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and sauvignon blanc.


No matter which type of wine you buy, remember that wine, especially a good one, is more enjoyable when served at a temperature that best brings out its flavors, aromas, and structure (that's wine speak for how it feels on your tongue).

Red Wines
Some common red-wine varietals include: cabernet sauvignon, syrah/shiraz, malbec, merlot, zinfandel, and pinot noir.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A good bottle should mix herbal notes with dark berries and cassis. It might have notes of raspberry, black cherry, plum, and raisin, and bell pepper, pepper, and mint.

Carménère: This varietal has dark berry, vegetal, herbal, spicy characteristics, and might display some chocolate, tobacco, and leather notes. It should please anyone who enjoys merlot for its casual unpretentiousness.

Grenache/Garancha: A red, berry-flavored, jammy, and sometimes spicy varietal that is generally blended with other varieties.

Malbec: A grape variety from Bordeaux, France, where it is used in blends, malbec is now especially successful in Argentina, bottled on its own as a varietal. This deeply colored red wine is fruity, medium bodied and, at its best, fairly complex.

Merlot: Merlots may have predominantly fruit aromas or offer a mix of fruit and wood on the nose. They may have herbaceous aromas in addition to typical dark-berry and spicy notes. Several merlots have been repeat high performers in our tests over the years, illustrating their typical dependability. We have found exceptional values that cost $10 or so a bottle.

Pinot Noir: Subtle and moderately complex. Flavors include raspberry or strawberry, spicy notes, and cedar shavings. Typically dry, with medium finish.

Rioja: Wines from this region in Spain have a white version and a red version that is more popular. Red Riojas can have an assortment of fruity, spicy, and woody (oak, vanillin, cedar, smoky/char) notes. It is sometimes blended from several grapes and therefore might display elements of each individual grape.

Syrah/Shiraz: This varietal, known as shiraz in Australia, syrah in France, and either term here in the U.S., should have a balance of fruit, tannins, acidity, and oak, with an assortment of fruity, spicy, and possibly woody aromas.

Tempranillo: This major red grape used in Rioja has aromas and flavors of berries and plum, and hints of tobacco and leather.

Zinfandel: Flavors may include raspberries and dark fruit, ripe and/or jammy fruit, spicy, peppery hints, leather, tobacco, and oak or smoky/charred notes. This varietal should be medium- to-full bodied, highly complex, well balanced, dry to slightly off-dry, and have a medium-to-long finish. It often has more alcohol than other varietals.

White Wines
Common white varietals include: chardonnay, pinot grigio/gris, prosecco, Riesling, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, and sparkling wines.

Albariño: A tart fruity Spanish wine that pairs especially well with seafood.

Chardonnay: Fruity-style chardonnays have apple, pear, citrus, and tropical-fruit flavors buttery/woody chards emphasize butter or butterscotch flavors and wood/vanillin notes.

Pinot Grigio/Gris: Pinot grigios tend to be fairly simple white wines, light-bodied and dry. Excellent bottles have an intense yet balanced mix of tropical fruit, citrus, and Juicy Fruit gum flavors (no kidding all are characteristic of pinot grigio), punctuated by a crisp acidity.

Prosecco: This Italian sparkling wine is simpler, less austere, and a more relaxed experience than Champagne. It has softer bubbles than Champagne, and is generally fruitier. Like Champagne, it usually lacks a vintage year, because it may be a blend of wines from more than one harvest.

Riesling: If you think wine must be dry to be sophisticated, try a good bottle of riesling. Rieslings can vary in the degree of sweetness, which makes them compatible with a wide range of food. Many of the better Rieslings we tested cost about $10.

Sauvignon Blanc: This white wine is on the tart, acidic side. It's generally dry and has herbal flavors and notes of tropical and citrus fruits such as banana, passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple, and mango. Many of the sauvignon blancs in our tests were from New Zealand, demonstrating how a "New World" country can take a varietal that Europeans once dominated and also produce pleasing wines and often at prices below $20.

Torrontés: Associated with Argentina, it is recognized for its fruity and floral characteristics, but is dry. It pairs well with smoked meats, spicy Thai or other Asian foods and seafood dishes.

Sparkling Wines
In our tests, some expensive, big-name Champagnes were bested by sparkling wines that cost as little as $10. Some top sparkling wines in our tests were produced in California. Since many Champagnes and sparkling wines traditionally lack a vintage year listed on their labels, it's difficult to know how long they've been sitting on a shelf. Our advice: Buy from a high-volume store with quick turnover to increase your chances of getting a fresh bottle.

Prosecco: This Italian sparkling wine is simpler, less austere, and a more relaxed experience than Champagne. It has softer bubbles than Champagne, and is generally fruitier. Like Champagne, it usually lacks a vintage year, because it may be a blend of wines from more than one harvest.

Other Wines
Wines that don't fall neatly into either the red or white categories include rosé (white zinfandel is included in this category).

Rosé: Made from red grapes, this wine has minimal contact with the grape's skin, so it's lighter in color than reds. Some bottles may have a touch of sweetness and nice fruit flavors that stand up to savory or spicy foods. Others may be drier and leaner, with a prominent acidity that would pair well with sushi, grilled, stewed, or smoked seafood, or barbecued meats. It's best served well chilled.

White Zinfandel: A rosé wine made from red Zinfandel grapes and known as pink rosé or blush, this varietal is usually known for being simple, sweet, soft, and low in alcohol. It pairs well with lighter foods such as a fruit salad.


The world's wine regions are favorite vacation destinations, as any visitor to California's Napa and Sonoma valleys will attest. But you can go around the wine world by just going around the corner to your local wine store. Here are the top wine-producing regions.

Argentina's wines are being discovered by the United States. Most Argentine wines come from the country's Mendoza region, in the West. Like Chile, Argentina produces a great deal of wine in the biggest selling varietals--chardonnay and cabernet. But even more than Chile, Argentina is increasingly producing less-familiar varietals that are distinctive to the country, or at least flourish there. The best example is malbec (see Red wines), but there's also torrontés (see white wines) and bonarda (another red).

Australia is the biggest force in New World wines. It has a reputation for value. Like other New World producers, Australia is furnishing more higher-end wines to the U.S. market. Specialties include shiraz and chardonnay, which are widely grown, and merlot, cabernet, sauvignon blanc, and others. The giant Australian producer Yellow Tail produces a dazzling range of varietals, many of which have done well in our tests.

California has growing competition for American wine palates, but the Golden State is still the single greatest source of the nation's wine. California's signature grapes are the most popular white and red varietals in the U.S.—namely, chardonnay (sometimes in the more woody and buttery style for the varietal) and merlot (typically in a big and bold style). Some California chardonnays, especially, fare well in our recommendations. But California bottles show up in virtually all of our tests, including those for sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, merlot, and pinot noir.

Chile is the biggest exporter of wine to the U.S. among South American countries. While most Chilean imports cost $10 or less per bottle, more premium Chilean wines are emerging, with reserve bottles from the big vineyards such as Concha y Toro. Dominant varietals here include cabernet and chardonnay, though Chile also has a reputation for some fine sauvignon blancs. In addition, more of the country's distinctive varietals are coming in to the U.S., notably carménère.

France is perhaps the most famous wine country in history and the role model for many of the New World's wines. As such, French wines continue to command some of the highest prices in the world. French wines, such as those from Bordeaux, tend toward blends more than wines from some other regions and are therefore hard to compare side-by-side with varietal wines.

It's more difficult to identify the varietals in French wines, which tend to be named for their region, rather than for the grape.

Italy boasts a dazzling array of native wine varietals, more of which are making their way to wine stores in the U.S. Most of the Italian wines we've tested have been in two such varietals, pinot grigio and prosecco. Italy's pinot grigios tend to be dry, light, and tart. Prosecco is a sparkling wine that's simpler and less austere than most sparkling wines, with softer bubbles and generally more fruitiness.

New Zealand
New Zealand, which has emerged more recently than Australia, has a reputation built mostly on its sauvignon blanc (especially from the country's Marlborough area), Yet New Zealand is also growing other wines, especially pinot noir in the country's cooler regions, the best of which are beginning to gain some acclaim, but not on the same level as its sauvignon blancs.

Spanish wines are among the best values in wine today, even though Spain's greatest wines can cost hundreds of dollars. Spain produces a host of wines that offer high quality, often at very reasonable prices. Spain's varietals tend to be less well known in the U.S.--there's very little Spanish chardonnay, cabernet, or sauvignon blanc, for example. Instead, Spain's wines tend to emphasize the country's traditional varietals, including tempranillo and garnacha (grenache) in reds, and whites that include albariño and verdejo.

Washington State
The State of Washington is a relatively new wine-growing area that provides many wines that offer decent (or better) quality at a reasonable price. Offerings from Columbia Crest and Hogue, two major producers, have often shown up in our recommendations in varietals that include chardonnay, riesling, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon.

  • Storage space– If you don’t have the space to keep it, buying a huge amount of food and supplies is not a great idea. If you do have space, remember the LIFO Rule– Last In, First Out. Figure out a system to make sure you use older stuff first . Writing the purchase date on the package can help.
  • Membership fees– Warehouse clubs (Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, etc.) charge membership fees in order to shop there. These stores all accept EBT, so if you think the savings outweigh the membership fees , which start at round $50 a year (based on my quick web search this morning), you can stock up on your Better Pantry staples.

Warehouse clubs can be a good place to stock up on staples, if the savings outweigh the membership fees.

  • Fresh products– Only buy what you can eat before it goes bad. Wasted food is never a good buy , no matter how great of a deal you got when you paid for it. In general, non-perishable foods, those that last a long time at room temperature or in the freezer are the best items to buy in bulk.
    • If you are willing to put in a little extra work, you can freeze or can extras to use later. But be sure to weigh the extra time and effort against the cost savings. Compare the price of commercially frozen or canned items with how much you would end up paying to do it yourself.
    • Nutrition– Don’t get sucked in by the low prices. You still need to read labels and make smart choices when shopping in bulk . While buying a “sometimes” treat at the normal size probably fits in a healthy diet, buying that treat in bulk might cause you to eat it more than you should. So skip the jumbo bag of chips and get your crunch from unsalted nuts or whole-wheat pretzels.
    • Necessity– Similar to the temptation of low prices to buy unhealthy foods, make sure that you are only buying what you truly need. A meal plan and a grocery list come in handy here. No matter how much you’ll be saving, if you don’t need it, it’s not a good buy. The point is the warehouse club is not the best place to try a new and unusual food. Unless you want the other 24 servings of the dried papaya your kids won’t eat haunting your pantry for the next year.

    Do you ever shop at these bulk stores? What are some of your recommendations of good items to buy in bulk?

    Member Benefits

    Restaurant Depot membership is FREE for qualified* businesses. Just apply here for membership. The application is quick and easy. We are not open to the public.

    Enjoy all of these rewards with your FREE membership:

    • Low Prices: We offer everyday low prices and monthly specials for extra savings.
    • Huge Selection: We stock an enormous selection of brand names as well as our own quality brands.
    • One-stop Shopping: Don&rsquot just save money, save time! Our inventory includes everything a foodservice operator needs so you don&rsquot have to make several stops to stock up on food and supplies.
    • No Minimum Purchase Required: You do not have to buy in bulk to save at Restaurant Depot. Savings are guaranteed whether you buy one or a hundred items.
    • Shopping Made Quick and Easy: You won&rsquot waste time searching for products or calculating costs. Items are grouped and merchandised by category, and prices are clearly displayed.
    • Open Every Day: Never get caught short on inventory. We&rsquore open convenient hours 7 days a week to serve you. We only close on New Year&rsquos Day, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
    • For Members Only: We are not open to the public. Free membership cards are issued at our warehouse stores to those who own or manage a restaurant, coffee shop, bar, pizzeria, night club, caterer, deli, foodservice distributor or non-profit organization.
    • Advertised Specials: We keep our members informed about special pricing offers and events by direct mail and by email.

    You can apply here for your free membership.

    Once you&rsquove completed the application, visit the store you selected as your Preferred Store. Be sure to bring a valid reseller's permit (business license) and tax-exempt certificate (for a non-profit organization) and proof that you are authorized to purchase for that business or organization. If you wish to purchase beer, wine or spirits, also bring your state license. The store will then print a membership card for you.

    Use your card to shop at any Restaurant Depot location across the USA. Once you&rsquove purchased, you will be able to log in to our Online Catalog . There you can check your purchase history, search for products, create shopping lists, obtain recommendations for future purchases and manage your inventory with our order guide. We&rsquore adding new features all the time, so check back often.

    *Restaurant Depot is wholesale only. To qualify for a free membership account, you need to show a valid reseller's permit (business license) or tax-exempt certificate (for a non-profit organization) and proof that you are authorized to purchase for said business or organization.

    Meal Plans (Recipe Services)

    Maybe you are willing (and able) to make the trip to the grocery store, but what to buy stumps you. Not everyone likes to cook, even if it is a great strategic hobby. If you have other responsibilities that take up your mental bandwidth, it can be challenging to make a list that does the following:

    Includes everything necessary to get you through a week, and

    Maximizes your use of ingredients

    In a situation like this, a meal-planning service like $5 Meal Plan may make your life easier. A recipe planner comes with a list of everything you'll need to buy at the store, so you don't have to make your own list based off of looking at the recipes. Additionally, they may also maximize use of ingredients by using the most perishable ingredients first, reusing leftovers in future dishes, or choosing recipes that use similar ingredients (like half a bell pepper) so that everything gets used. So make sure you cook the food in the order given!

    A potential downside is having to adjust recipes if you have one or more picky eaters in your midst. However, with a little practice, this may become second nature, and some app-based meal planners will let you identify foods that are a no-go and make the adjustments for you. Some apps will also let you mark recipe hits and misses, so that over time the recipes that are selected become more attuned to your family's likes and dislikes.

    Another benefit: These types of services tend to be pretty inexpensive. An app that costs $5 but buys you your sanity (and cuts down on food waste) could be well worth the money. Subscription services may be slightly costlier but once you have identified some recipes and shopping lists that work for you, you can always cancel your membership and upgrade to the Pinterest strategy.

    Beets Come in Many Forms

    Beets are a surprisingly versatile vegetable. Sliced thin or shredded, they are delicious raw in salads and slaws. Or you can boil, steam, or roast them. “Because they’re higher in sugar, they’re naturally sweet,” Sasson says. “And when you roast them, that sugar makes them caramelize.” That brings out their sweetness even more. Beyond the classic red beets, look for yellow, orange, and even striped varieties.

    Fresh, frozen, canned (if low in sodium), and vacuum-packed beets are all good choices. But a variety of new beet products are showing up on store shelves. “Be wary of beet snacks that have a health halo but are really just another unhealthy processed snack food,” Sasson says. Avoid beet chips that are fried in oil and loaded with salt. And check the ingredients on things like beet crackers or thins. In many cases, the only beets they contain come from a sprinkling of beet powder.

    And if you’re concerned about GMOs, you don’t have to worry about beets. The beets we eat (known as table beets) are not a genetically modified crop. However, the vast majority of sugarbeets—which are grown to make white sugar—are GMO.

    Should You Buy Your Steak From Costco?

    Costco is at once a wonderland and a hellishly vast maze of obstacles (read: other shoppers with giant, overflowing carts all getting in each other’s way). My household only signed up for membership in the cult store once we’d purchased an actual house with room to hoard things, and now we go primarily for dog food, army-supply amounts of toilet paper and paper towels, monster packs of string cheese, and oversize jars of fantastic (and fantastically priced) almond butter.

    There are a few other staples we stock up on, and always several impulse buys we’ve gotten electronics there too, but we usually skirt the steak and other meat options. The quantities are just so big. And we don’t eat a ton of meat in general, so it doesn’t seem to make sense, but with professional chefs praising the quality of Costco beef, it is tempting to try it out.

    There are several factors to consider when deciding if it’s logical to buy your steaks at Costco. The three most important are probably cost, quality of meat, and the sheer amount of it, which are all intertwined. Then there’s also the matter of what’s in stock at your nearest Costco, and whether you can even get inside to shop. So let’s try to break it down.

    Related Reading: The Best Keto Costco Buys

    Money Is No Object…Is Something Not a Lot of People Can Actually Afford to Say

    A basic Costco membership is $60 per year, which isn’t too bad as long as you shop there enough to make it count. According to one Clark Howard producer, buying tires, wine, movie tickets, and baby formula (among other key items) at Costco definitely makes it worth the annual fee, and saves you lots of money in general, versus buying these things at other stores. Getting gas at Costco is another smart move, and prescriptions are usually way cheaper there (both medicines and corrective lenses). Even milk by the gallon is a better deal that adds up if you go through a lot.

    But of course, it all depends on what exactly you’re interested in buying, and how much of it you can realistically consume. Non-perishables are safe bets, as long as you have room to store them, but things with shorter shelf lives, like fresh vegetables or gargantuan hunks of cheese, can easily go bad before you use them all.

    Even Costco employees admit some things aren’t worth buying at the store. Happily, steak is not on that list—well, not by name. It is a perishable, but one you might actually have occasion to cook all at once (4th of July and Labor Day barbecues come to mind), or which you can otherwise preserve (more on that in a bit).

    As to the cost of the steaks themselves, in general, all Costco meat prices will be cheaper per pound than at specialty butcher shops and certain grocery stores like Whole Foods and ALDI, but potentially on par with or even more expensive per pound than what you’d pay at, say, Safeway or Walmart (especially when those other stores are running sales).

    To determine if you’re getting the best deal, though, you have to pay attention to the quality of the meat, not just the price/weight ratio. Certain cuts, like filet mignon, will always be more expensive, no matter where you buy them, compared to far cheaper varieties like flank steak. But the grade of the meat is also important.

    Costco Stocks Both USDA Prime and USDA Choice Cuts—But What Does That Mean?

    USDA Prime certification is awarded to a relatively small fraction of all U.S. raised beef—the standard number cited for several years was 2 percent, but according to Serious Eats, now the Prime label is given to more like 3 to 3.5 percent of all U.S. beef, meaning it’s easier to find in stores these days, Costco included, although it’s still more expensive wherever it’s sold.

    Prime beef basically has the highest amount of marbling (i.e. intramuscular fat evenly distributed throughout the meat, making it more tender and juicy) and is younger. USDA Choice is the next step down, thus more affordable, but is still great quality beef in fact, some consider it the better option, because while it may not be quite as tender, there’s a bigger, beefier taste, and a lighter hit to your wallet.

    Which specific cuts you find in your local Costco will vary some shoppers suggest you’re more likely to see extra-impressive cuts on weekends when the store is busier, but you’re pretty likely to always spot old favorites like rib-eye and sirloin, two steaks that happen to be great for grilling. At the time of this writing, in the Portland, Oregon area, Costco has boneless USDA Choice rib-eye steaks for $13.99 per pound and boneless USDA Prime rib-eye steaks for $24.39 per pound. For comparison, a local Kroger store (Fred Meyer) lists boneless USDA Choice rib-eye at $14.49 per pound, a local Safeway has it for $17.29 per pound, and a local Whole Foods has pasture-raised boneless rib-eye for $13.99 per pound (but they do not specify the grade). None of those stores have USDA Prime rib-eye on offer, but if they did, it would certainly be more expensive than at Costco. Some other low prices spotted at Costco: USDA Choice New York steak for $10.99 per pound and USDA Prime New York steak for $21.99 per pound..

    A Lower Price Per Pound Is Great, but When You Have to Buy in Bulk, the Total Price Can Still be a Bit of a Shock

    Economically, it helps to buy whole roasts or loins and carve them into steaks yourself, but even then, they’re usually hefty, and hence, more expensive as a single purchase (not to mention more work for you). For an extreme example, on the Costco website, you can find imported Japanese wagyu boneless rib-eye roasts for about $82 per pound—but you have to buy 11 pounds at once, so you’re dropping $900. (For comparison, 12-pound American wagyu boneless rib-eye roasts from D’Artagnan are currently discounted to $33.33 per pound on the Costco site. The same meat, already cut into steaks, is also on sale on the D’Artagnan website, for $59.99 per pound. Even once all sales are over, the price differences between stores, origins, and cuts should still be noticeable.)

    Wagyu New York strip steaks, Costco

    If any amount or form of wagyu is out of your price range, $24.76 per pound for USDA Prime dry-aged porterhouse and strip steaks from Rastelli’s at Costco sounds much better—but (online) they come in 8-count packages, so that’s still $259.99.

    Luckily, shopping in the store and buying the Kirkland labeled steak will net you significantly lower prices and more reasonable amounts of meat the average package of steaks of all varieties in my Costco seemed to be around five pounds, with outliers both lighter and heavier. So a pack of Choice rib-eye steaks would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50. That’s obviously worth it to many, end of story.

    One Other Factor to Keep in Mind, Though: Most of Costco’s Steaks (At Least the Ones Sold Under the Kirkland Signature Label) Are Blade-Tenderized

    This is also known as being needled, and means they’ve been mechanically punctured to make them more tender—whether that should be necessary to do to Choice and Prime beef is up for debate, but the fact is, they do it.

    This has the potential to drive surface bacteria deeper into the meat, so to be safe, you should cook these steaks to the recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees. If you like your steak rare, you can ignore the suggestion and chance it (and honestly, you will probably be just fine!), but food safety standards strongly advise against it.

    If you buy a whole roast or loin to carve into steaks yourself (and handle them properly, of course), this won’t be a concern.

    What Might Still Nag at Some Is Why Costco Has Such Low Prices

    There are several reasons, outlined here.

    They save money by not advertising and not offering anywhere near the number of different items that traditional stores do, which is partly why they’re able to keep markups low.

    But when it comes to meat, with some exceptions, there is generally not a ton of transparency about its exact origins. Many stores and specialty butchers that do tout the provenance of their meat—which is usually also certified organic and humanely raised—unsurprisingly, will charge more for it, since it’s more expensive to rear and more highly valued by customers for whom those factors are important.

    Costco’s policies regarding animal welfare don’t offer many details about beef in particular, except to say that they “subscribe to and support the Five Freedoms of Animal Well-Being,” and that since 2005 they have required “animal welfare audits at slaughter in accordance with the American Meat Institute Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines,” with all animal welfare auditors auditing their suppliers being PACCO certified. In contrast, Whole Foods, for just one example, provides more specific information about their beef sources and standards.

    If you still think Costco steak sounds like a no-brainer, there’s just one more thing to consider.

    Quantity vs Quality

    If you won’t be able to cook all that steak right after buying it, you’ll probably want to freeze it—only, what if that ruins the quality of the meat, thus making the savings worthless?

    According to some sources, freezing meat can actually make it more tender, but that’s apparently only true for certain cuts (like strip loin). Freezing steaks (and any other meat) will definitely negatively impact the flavor and texture if you don’t wrap it well, and/or if you keep it stashed in the freezer for too long. Vacuum sealing your meat is the ideal option if you need to freeze it.

    NutriChef Vacuum Sealer, $53.27 on Amazon

    The ideal way to protect your steak from freezer burn.

    If you don’t have the set-up for that, try this tip: set the raw steaks on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, place the tray in the freezer for a couple hours until the steaks are fully frozen, then tightly wrap each one in plastic, and finally, place the securely wrapped steaks in a firmly-sealed plastic bag with all the air pressed out.

    It’s a little more work than chucking them right in a Ziploc and then on top of the ice cubes, but it’ll help prevent freezer burn and protect your investment (and make you happier when it’s time to eat).

    When you’re ready to cook some, you have to make the choice between properly thawing the steak, or simply cooking it straight from frozen, but that’s a matter for another day.

    So, Should You Buy Your Steaks at Costco?

    The answer is that famous cop-out that also happens to be true: Only you can decide!

    If money is no object (and you live in an area where it’s feasible), getting your steaks and other meat from a trusted, skilled, local butcher is probably always the best bet, but if you want high quality at a lower price per pound, aren’t worried about dealing with excessive quantities, obscure origins, or blade tenderizing, and you can get in to shop at a Costco, then make haste to their meat department.

    What If You’re Not a Costco Member?

    If you’d like to peruse their steak options in person but aren’t a member (and don’t want to commit to becoming one just yet), you can get in the door with Costco gift cards—but you might need to ask an existing member to purchase them for you first. Or just tag along with a kind friend or family member who holds the keys to the Costco kingdom. Failing that, try ordering from Costco through Instacart or Google Express where available (that is, if markups, delivery fees, and surcharges still seem worth it).

    And whenever you do finally get your hands on some steak, wherever it’s from, find great ways to cook it here. But don’t forget about the perfect steak side dish. And if you can’t finish your plate, find out how to reheat steak without overcooking it, and the best leftover steak recipe ideas to try.

    So, should you buy your steaks at Costco?

    The answer is that famous cop-out that also happens to be true: Only you can decide!

    If money is no object (and you live in an area where it's feasible), getting your steaks and other meat from a trusted, skilled, local butcher is probably always the best bet. But if you want high quality at a lower price per pound, aren't worried about dealing with excessive quantities, obscure origins or blade tenderizing and you can get in to shop at a Costco, then make haste to their meat department.

    Going organic: Here&rsquos the hit to your wallet

    Consumer Reports shopped at select grocers, comparing a market basket of conventional perishables and packaged goods with their organic counterparts. We sought identical brands and sizes, when available, and otherwise chose similar goods. We then calculated the unit price—that is, the cost per pound, per dozen, and so forth. Blank columns mean that both options weren’t available. The bottom row shows the average premium for the entire assortment of organic goods at each grocer.


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