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A Tell-All Guide to Artisanal Butchery

It’s an unlikely story: A vegan chef and his vegetarian wife open a butcher shop that becomes a commercial hit and an industry game-changer. It all started thanks to that omnivore gateway meat, bacon, which for years was Jessica Applestone’s one vegetarian exception. When she started craving more meat she searched for meat that aligned with her ethics: Something raised with respect for the animal and for the environment. But she found meat labels confusing.

She concluded her best option was to buy a whole steer from a farmer, but how to deal with a whole animal when she was the only meat-eater in the family? Jessica’s dilemma revealed a gap in the market: Butcher shops that break down whole, well-raised animals for the average home cook. Her husband Joshua saw an opportunity and the couple began the painstaking training and groundwork that eventually became Fleisher’s Grass-fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, New York. Read more

Farmstead Meatsmith: Mobile Butchery in Washington State

When Brandon Sheard brings his knife across the throat of a sheep, his movements are swift and precise.  The sheep, lying calmly on her side in the pasture on which she has lived her whole life, gently closes her eyes.  Brandon rests his hand on her throat and offers a prayer of gratitude to affirm the sacrifice of her life.

Brandon and his wife Lauren are the proprietors of Farmstead Meatsmith, a small business on Vashon Island, WA, that provides the services of slaughter, butchery, and charcuterie to small farmers in the Puget Sound region, as well as classes in slaughter and butchery. Read more

An Erstwhile Vegetarian Learns the Art of Butchery

I grew up in Kansas – the land of corn-feed beef, boneless, skinless chicken breast, and pork: the other white meat. I never gave much thought to meat except whether it was low in fat and calories, so when I told my family I was becoming a vegetarian, I was met with blank stares and a heated disagreement surrounding my anemia (with the lack of red meat, the family was concerned about my iron levels). My shift towards vegetarianism began slowly with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation followed by Peter Singer’s The Ethics of Eating Meat, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and eventually, I found myself reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Face On Your Plate. For three years, I was vigilant about my food, checking the labels of grocery store purchases and grilling restaurant servers about the ingredients in each dish. It took me nearly 6 months to go completely meatless and only one In-and-Out cheeseburger, three years later, to fall off the proverbial wagon. What happened? How did I devote such a significant amount of my life vegetarianism only to be tempted by a cheeseburger? Read more

Pig Day: Know Your Salami

Pig Day starts early in the morning with a rushed drive to pick up a beast and haul it back to our house in Oakland, California. Usually the rendezvous with the our pig is at a farmers’ market or a collaborating restaurant. We pick up the animal – whole and gutted – and realize again that a whole pig is a nastily unwieldy thing as we struggle to get it into the car. At this point, my husband Renato’s grumbling – which has been a low gurgle for the few days preceding Pig Day – grows louder. Read more