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How clashing origin stories of St. Louis’ pork steak tangled Schnucks, Google and Wikipedia

Pork steaks line the shelves on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, at the Schnucks in Ballwin, Mo. The grocery store chain claims that the pork steak was invented by members of the Schnuck family in the 1950s. Food historians disagree.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Pork steaks line the shelves on Tuesday at the Schnucks in Ballwin. The grocery store chain claims that the pork steak was invented by members of the Schnuck family in the 1950s. Food historians disagree.

Who invented the pork steak? It depends on where you look for the answer. For at least several years, Wikipedia and Google results have credited a Florissant resident named Winfred Steinbruegge, suggesting he invented it in 1956 to honor the birth of his youngest son.

But if you consult the website of supermarket Schnucks, you’ll find something different. On a page dedicated to “How the pork steak was born,” Don and Ed, members of the Schnuck family, are named the pork steak’s inventors — two culinary innovators who in the 1950s “wanted to offer a cut of meat for grilling that was inexpensive enough to fit every family’s budget.”

Both claims are wrong. That’s according to Robert Moss, who serves as the contributing barbeque editor for Southern Living magazine and restaurant critic for the Post & Courier. He scoured newspaper records, finding that the history of pork steak stretches much further back in history — though he does credit St. Louis for jumpstarting its popularity.

“You can certainly say that St. Louis is the home of the pork steak,” Moss told St. Louis on the Air. “For a long time, it was about the only place you could find them.”

Moss first stumbled into the contradictory origin stories of pork steak in 2020, but the issue has recently resurfaced on local news. In September, a KSDK fact check concluded that Schnucks' claim of inventing the pork steak lacked evidence — finding it “false.” A spokesperson for the supermarket conceded it could not back up the claim because “there is no one who is working at the company now that would have been around back then” to share more information.

Moss believes there is no single inventor of the pork steak. His research on the topic turned up numerous references to pork steak in newspapers across the country. He found nothing that could corroborate the story crediting Steinbruegge or the claim by Schnucks. (Both claims no longer appear on Wikipedia and in Google searches.)

“I don't think it's true that anyone at Schnucks was the very first person to think to carve a pork shoulder up that way … there's plenty of evidence of people doing it 50 years before that,” he said.

What the record does show is that the 1950s was the decade pork steaks became an undeniable hit for St. Louis palates — just as it is today.

“There's no doubt,” Moss said, “a lot of people started grilling pork steaks in the 1950s, particularly in St. Louis. I have no doubt Schnucks started selling a lot of them around that time.” He added, “It's just they weren't the first ones to dream up the cut of meat itself.”

To hear more from Robert Moss, including how Google used his own writing to spread the origin story he was trying to debunk, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast or by clicking the play button below.

Pork steak: The perplexing history of a St. Louis-made delicacy
Listen to Robert Moss on "St. Louis on the Air"

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."
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