I never used to be a butcher person. As a poor grad student I was under the impression I couldn’t afford their high-end meats, and most of the time the selection at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods was, well, good enough. And it was good enough–until we moved to San Francisco last March and met Joey.
Joey’s our neighborhood butcher–the man who slices our sirloin and filets our flank steak. My husband knows him much better than I––you can tell who fetches the food and who cooks it in our house––but after a nice roast-related chat recently, Joey and I are now on a first name basis.
On my walk home I realized the hubs and I rarely purchase meat anywhere but our butcher these days. We’ve gotten to know the staff, trust their meats and very much appreciate their insightful cooking tips. I would never have thought I’d say this but having a butcher has made purchasing meat a culinary experience rather than a routine errand every Sunday morning.
For that reason, I thought I’d write a little ode to butchers everywhere. Here are 5 good reasons you should have one too:
1. They love animals as much as you–maybe more. If you talk to a butcher you’ll realize they have a deep respect for animals, which is precisely why they buy from farms where animals have happy lives. Their animals are fed natural diets, not pumped full of steroids or antibiotics and are slaughtered as humanely as possible. On top of that, hardly any of their animals go to waste which, to them, is honoring the life of the animal. Animals are a butcher’s livelihood and they nourish the people who support their business.
2. You’ll always know what you’re getting. The recent horsemeat in Ikea meatball scare has exposed the lack of care at mass meat processing facilities and strange happenings behind the supermarket meat counters. A proper butcher can tell you the farm the animal was raised on and what part of the animal that particular cut came from. More often than you’ll even see your butcher grind or cut pieces of meat right in front of your eyes.
3. Butchers offer better selection & quality. Walk into a butcher shop and I guarantee you’ll see a cut or type of meat you can’t find at the average grocery store. Not only that, it will have been humanely slaughtered, properly cut and stored. You won’t find chicken breasts plumped with saline water or vibrantly red steaks gassed with carbon monoxide. And you definitely won’t find pink slime, ever.
4. They deliver top notch service. Expect meat buying to become a personal experience. Unless of course you go the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas… but that’s to be expected. Butchers want nothing more than for their meats to be the best thing you ever tasted. That’s why they’ll offer meats cut to order, less expensive suggestions, cooking tips and as many free samples of their deli meat as you like. For you venison- and boar-lovers, a butcher can also give you a heads up on seasonal specials like game and the ability to special order less common cuts.
5. You keep your dollar local. I thank Michael Pollan for opening my eyes to industrial farming and the benefits of eating more locally. Sure farmer’s markets can be more pricey but I can honestly say I’ve never experienced sticker shock at our butcher, who’s meats are usually priced below what I see at Whole Foods. By going to a local butchers, less dollars end up in pockets of the large meat manufacturers and distributors which means more for the farmer & small business owner.
That pot of beef stew or grilled chicken breast may cost a few cents more than if you shopped at Costco in bulk, but buying from a butcher has made us more appreciative of farm animals and more knowledgeable meat eaters—-which in my opinion is worth more than what I’m paying our butcher, Joey.
Local butchers: If you’ve got one, what do you love about yours? Supermarket meat-shoppers, are you willing to give one a try?
PS. Did you see this butcher’s response to a PETA billboard that went up right next to his shop? Love.
It’s cool that you point out that buying meat from a butcher gives you access to high-quality products. I want to add more protein to my diet, so I’m considering buying some meat from a butcher. I’m going to search for a reputable butcher that can sell me some meat.
This article has some extremely misleading “fluff” to it surrounding animal welfare.
First off, I have a hard time believing that someone who supposedly “loves animals as much as you–maybe more” would go into an industry that relies on killing animals in their infancy to become a sandwich.
That aside, the butcher has nothing to do with the slaughter of the animals…they are legally processed with the rest of the mass produced animals in a classic slaughterhouse…you know, they kind where they gas their animals to death or immerse them into scalding water? Humane slaughter as it stands now is complete bogus. And in an ideal world, what would that even look like? Remember, these are animals who are in peak health and are at a fraction of their natural lifespan.
Labels like “cage free”, “free range”, etc. are similarly misleading and come down to a marketing tactic over a seal of animal welfare. Much like “greenwashing”, these companies are able to make extra money off of phoney promises and half measure regulations.
Lastly, the claim that butchers use more of an animal than other forms of meat production is not true. Generally, most of a slaughtered animal ends up somewhere, whether that be sausages, gelatin, or dog food.
So, are butchers a better alternative to supermarket meat? It depends on what you’re after. If you value the experience of being on a first-name basis with a local shopkeeper, sure. If you are looking to pat yourself on the back for respecting the life of another, then you’ve been disillusioned by the industry. Remember: your companion animal is probably much stupider than the animal on your plate.
Well done for pointing out the obvious to the ignorant animal eaters on this page. There’s nothing left for me to add as you’ve said it all. The Hypocrisy of this article and most of the other comments is beyond belief. Butchers loving animals had to be the best one yet. Humane slaughter, I’d love to hear how that goes! Local! All buzz words to ease the conscious of the animal eaters, does nothing to help the defenceless animals that all suffer for human taste. These people all probably class themselves as animal lovers, petting their dog as they eat their pig sandwich!
Oh and I love that the article is horrified that they might accidentally be fed horse, as if any animal is different, it’s all just perception.
I’m thankful that you bring to light that butchers will more often than not buy from farms where the animals are treated as well as possible. My significant other and I are having a party this weekend, and we want to serve the highest quality food that we can afford. We’ll be sure to find a reliable butcher to get us the cuts that we desire.
I could add one more reason: this is one of the few places where you can buy meat without waste. I recently tried out low waste shopping. Tried bringing my own container to two different butchers. Almost had no waste: for some reason they have to put the meat first on a plastic sheet on the scale. I was surprised that one of them didn t think of taring the scale, with my container on it, the other one didn t know how to tare his scale. And then my containers were put in a plastic bag – seems to be a reflex behaviour, didn t see that coming. I have to explain better my purpose next time and insist that a sophisticated scale must have a tare on it.
I love going to the butcher instead of a store. He took the time to tell me how to make lamb for the first time. He also has told me what meats have more fats.
I really loved your point about keeping the dollar local to your area. This is so important to help the businesses in your community to thrive and keep in good financial condition. I should let my friend know this as she looks into a mobile butcher service.
I like how you mentioned that if you were to get your meat from a butcher they would be able to tell you where the meat comes from. This would be a great idea if you owned a locally sourced steakhouse because all of your meat would be coming from those butchers and from natural places. You could get all the care that you want for your meat which would be really great considering that quality should be a priority if you own a restaurant.
I appreciate the information on why you should buy your meat from a butcher. I agree that one of the best parts about getting your meat at butcher is that you will always know what you are getting when you go buy meat from them. I would imagine that butcher typically like to get the best quality stuff they can rather than just going cheap.
we have a local butcher. Will not buy my meat anywhere else. I might pay more, but I know I’m getting good meat. Martins Custom Butchering of Wakarusa, Indiana is the way to go.
I really want to find a local butcher here – I don’t have one. Then again, M and I have little to pretty much zero disposable income – so as much as the frozen box of chicken we buy every couple of months probably isn’t the best for us, its affordable.
May need to find a butcher though soon!
I’ve always wanted to find a butcher, but I can’t seem to find one close to me!
So the title of this post made me LOL…I kept imagining buying a butcher somewhere and storing him in my kitchen lol
On a serious note, I love this list. I used to go to a butcher sometimes back home but since I moved for school I haven’t even thought of it! I’ve got a new mission tho :D
I’ve been pleased with the meat we get at Whole Foods and choose to buy my meat from their pretty much exclusively because it is hormone-free, antibiotic-free, etc. However, there is a butcher shop a few miles from us and I’ve always kind of wanted to go in, but was worried about the quality of the meat. This post has convinced me to check it out – I’d much rather spend my dollar at a local shop!
You should go to tampa meat market.. They sell amazing meat and at a great price.. Ask for Carlos Jr. And he can get you the best prices and amazing deals
I’m new to ATE and am so glad I came across your blog, since I too am a health and wellness enthusiast and blogger in San Francisco.
Honestly, I have absolutely never even thought of going to a butcher. But your reasons have piqued my interest. Any recommendations for one in the Nob Hill ‘hood?
Thanks for the tips, and I plan to be back.
Bravo for loving animals AND eating meat. Funny, good butchers are hard to find but I completely agree with your reasons posted AND also the service of cutting meat for stir fry, deboning etc.
Great post! Definitely will give a butcher a try :) After watching a lot of Food Inc. type movies recently, i’m better understanding why it is important to know where my food comes from!
I have been to the butchers only a few times for lamb but never really thought of making it a regular thing..
I always think of a butcher and a baker and all of those things as not being available in U.S. culture! Maybe it’s because I was raised in a city where it certainly wasn’t! Still, I love the idea of shopping local and being more mindful about where my meat is coming from.
This is great information! Like you, I’ve always assumed butchers were much more than the grocery store. I would love to go to a butcher, just wish there was one in Barbados;) When we move back to the states though I’ll be searching for one for sure! Thanks for sharing!
I would love to try going to a butcher. I should look into finding one near me. I’ve had so many problems with the meat from the local grocery store in the past and it tends to go bad very quickly :(
Hi there thanks for the informaion