Ask Dr. Marsden: A sneak peek behind the scenes at Allen Brothers

Lately I’ve been wondering: How does Allen Brothers keep its strong competitive edge, decade in and decade out? How does it attract and maintain its fiercely loyal, ever-growing clientele amid a sea of wanna-be competitors?

Well, first of all, Allen Brothers sells the hands-down best, most delicious USDA Prime steaks in America, plus a whole range of unique, premium-quality, signature meats and seafood and prepared foods—but we die-hard Allen Brothers fans already know that. Still, how exactly does a family-owned Chicago company that has been in business for more than a century stay at the very top of its field year after year?

To find out, I called up Dr. James Marsden, Regents Distinguished Professor in Food Safety and Security at Kansas State University, science advisor for North American Meat Processors, and a valued consultant to Allen Brothers, and I learned there’s another secret to the Allen Brothers success story: Every day, behind the scenes at the Chicago headquarters, entire squadrons of staff are hard at work ensuring that Allen Brothers maintains the shiniest, most hygienic, most state-of-the-art facilities, so that every single product lands on your doorstep at its tip-top flavor and in perfect condition.

So what’s it like inside the gleaming, high-tech plant where Allen Brothers does all of its packing and shipping? The technology details are top-secret! But I learned a few tantalizing details:

Dr. Marsden told me he’s been working closely with Allen Brothers for the past five years, helping to implement food-safety technologies that are at the cutting-edge of the field. He emphasized that Allen Brothers begins by sourcing only superior-quality meats and foods that are already USDA or FDA inspected and approved, but he explained that the company goes the extra mile, implementing its own high-tech, in-house system for making sure every single product is up to Allen Brothers’ own exceptionally high standards.

Ever heard of Advanced Oxidation Cells? Neither had I. When Dr. Marsden mentioned these, my best guess was that they’re some kind of expensive beauty treatment for youthful skin. But Dr. Marsden set me straight. “UV based Advanced Oxidation Cells, in addition to providing a germicidal effect from the ultraviolet light, produce low levels of vapor hydrogen peroxide which kill harmful bacteria on the surface of meat and in the environment.” These AOCs are strategically located at Allen Brothers headquarters to keep all of the products extra-safe and at the peak of freshness and taste.

And then Allen Brothers doesn’t stop there. “Working with Kansas State University specialists, Allen Brothers conducts constant in-house microbiological studies to document the effectiveness of its food safety systems,” Dr. Marsden revealed. The result is a record of quality and safety that makes Allen Brothers the envy of its competitors—and it’s another big reason why customers come back again and again and again.

After all that science talk, I asked Dr. Marsden a slightly easier question: What are the Thanksgiving dishes you love most?

“My favorite holiday dishes are traditional ham, made the way our ancestors cured ham a century ago, and fresh turkey with homemade dressing,” he told me, making me instantly hungry for Thanksgiving dinner. And where does his family, which includes his son, the young Hollywood movie star James Marsden (of X-Men and Cats and Dogs), buy its favorite meats and food products? “I live in rural Kansas, and my family always relies on the Allen Brothers catalog for our special food purchases.”

But of course!
Bon appétit!


Allie B.

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