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?
If Julia Child couldn’t get enough of the dry-aged steaks from Allen Brothers, they must be pretty special (but we already knew that!). How exactly does Allen Brothers create that distinctive, dry-aged flavor? I asked Dr. James Marsden, who helps Allen Brothers implement and innovate state-of-the-art aging and processing facilities at the Chicago headquarters. Marsden knows what he’s talking about when it comes to beef: He’s the Regents Distinguished Professor in Food Safety and Security at Kansas State University, and he’s also a science advisor for North American Meat Processors. (Incidentally, he’s also the father of heartthrob actor James Marsden, who played Cyclops in all three “X-Men” movies—and whose voice you can hear as the German shepherd in the just-released animated film “Cats and Dogs.”) So, what’s all the fuss about dry-aging?