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On Sunday I went to a party, El Dio de Les Puercos! at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in the Chelsea market, hosted by Jake Dickson. The room was packed with butchers from all over New York. Evan Brady (above, left), who gave me some of the best speck I’ve had, came from Wappinger Falls (he runs an online butcher’s supply store, Butcher’s Pantry). Jeremy Stanton, who runs The Meat Market in Great Barrington, sliced some fabulous Ossabaw prosciutto. I met a sprite of a girl named Flannery (after the writer) who is a cutter at The Meat Hook in Brooklyn. One of the founders of the Meat Hook (a store I love!), Brent Young, told me he was a grad student years ago studying education when, unhappy, he wrote me an email. I told him to get off his ass and do what he cares about doing; he said, because of that email, he did. So, I happily takes some responsibility for this great store in Brooklyn. And John Ratliff, founding butcher of Ends Meat in Brooklyn, gave me some of the best ‘nduja I’ve had. It was especially good rolled up in a slice of salami.

It reminded me of something good going on in America. The rise of the small butcher who knows the farmer who raises the animals he or she sells. (Jeremy’s Ossabaw was raised in Germantown, NY, for instance.) I love this.

Below, at the request of my assistant Emilia, I’m running a post from the new Muscolo Meat Academy in Chicago, which is looking for students. I like the idea, and they’re offering an inaugural scholarship. Butchering truly is a craft, and one worth learning if you love to work with food. Take it away Emilia.

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Giancarlo Sbarbaro and Jocelyn Guest are both breaking down various cuts of beef at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

By Emilia Juocys

The Muscolo Meat Academy is providing 15 students the opportunity to fill one of their inaugural spots. They are building a dynamic class of students to experience their unique hands-on curriculum. You can be one of the few who will receive our comprehensive Rail-to-Retail curriculum–and receive a $10,000 scholarship. Here are three benefits of having a well-trained butcher.

Long lost are the days where you walked down to the neighborhood butcher shop, called the butcher by name and asked about his family, and then picked up the Sunday roast. Wait … or are they? The demand for butchers is growing with more and more butcher shops popping up across the country.  Not to mention a new school in Chicago, Muscolo Meat Academy, launching to ensure the next generation of butchers steps behind the counter fully trained.

A good butcher has a passion for the trade, for the animals and for the cuts they present. If you don’t have a good butcher in your life, here are 3 reasons you’ll want to find one.

 

Variety

If you’re adventurous in the kitchen, then a great butcher is for you. They can help you discover new cuts of meat you’ve never even thought of trying like the copa, the spalla and the baseball steak – you’re already curious aren’t you? You can be a part of the nose to tail movement by straying from the grocery store’s most popular cuts and discovering what’s in the butcher shop’s meat case to enjoy.

 

Confidence

A well-trained butcher knows the art and science of meat. They know how taste and texture is a by-product of where the cut comes from. And how different cooking methods create different tastes and textures on top of that. They can share how to make a tougher cut tender or what cuts are best for the cooking method you prefer. So go ahead and ask. After all, if she just helped you discover a great new cut, you’re going to want to confidently prepare it.

 

Satisfaction

Discovering something new of quality is satisfying. You know the people who know the farmers. You’ve worked with your butcher with a passion for what he does and you’ve help the local economy. Now that makes for a satisfying steak dinner.

Inspired to become one of these butchers? Muscolo Meat Academy is now accepting students for their 2016 inaugural class.

 

If you liked this post on Muscolo Meat Academy check out these other posts:

 

© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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8 Wonderful responses to “Your Local Butcher”

  • Maria

    Great article. Do you have any tips for finding a butcher in a non-NY, non-Chicago city where you don’t have specific recommendations listed?

    • Emilia

      Where are you located? In some areas it may take some digging to find or even connecting with a local family farmer.

    • Harry

      It took me several years to find a local purveyor of humanely raised meat and a butcher to go with, but I did get it done. I started with http://www.localharvest.org then did a lot of legwork (it seems that local farmers aren’t great about keeping their web presence updated, or answering emails).

      Another possibility is to ask the local meat seller, if there are local sellers in your area as places such as farmers markets.

  • Ning Wei Wang

    I love the meat!!! It is amazing!!! To be honest, I never taste meat like this. I am Ning Wei Wang, an international student from China. I love food writing,too. I love chinese food!!! I love chinese traditional culture!!! I love food writing!!! I am a Beijinger. My grandfather was a famous cook in the Beijing Restaruant. This is my food blog:www.ningweiwangfood.simplesite.com
    Can you add a link in your “links”? I want to let more people read my articles. Please,please,please

  • Sam Adams

    Glad you have 4 wonderful comments so far. Here’s one that’s not so wonderful. Dickson’s in Chelsea Market. The event you went to might have been great, but I went there once, at the recommendation of a neighbor. They’re not a real butcher. Everything is pre-cut, and you take what’s on the shelf or nothing. If you have a special order (the kind of thing you’d naturally ask your local butcher for, and he’d prepare it for you on the spot), not only won’t they have it; they won’t prepare it for you overnight — or at all. And I found the quality of the meat sub-standard. It’s not a neighborhood butcher; in fact, it’s scarcely a butcher. It’s an overpriced supermarket meat counter. On NY’s West side, try Citarella, or Fairway, or Esposito (if you don’t insist on super-prime). The meat at Whole Foods is also better, though I personally don’t like the place.

  • hng23

    If you live in Toronto (Canada), I highly recommend Brown Bros butcher in St. Lawrence Market. They’ve been around for over 100 yrs; their prices are way below supermarkets, their meats are superb (they will cut to order) & the butchers really know their stuff.

  • former butcher

    I don’t live in a metropolitan area, so my exposure to “artisinal butchers” is virtually nil. There have been a few short-lived “old fashioned” butcher shops that have sprung up here and there; and I will grant that most of them have had good intentions. What I saw repeatedly was people who claimed to have re-invented the wheel, and the subsequent resentment when the rest of the world failed to take notice. Rows of freezer cases sprang up to hold what didn’t sell in the fresh meat case. And “freezer specials” became the drawing card. And their last gasp.
    On the supermarket side of the coin, the situation was no better. After seeing so many pounds of horribly butchered meat in self serve cases, after holding such examples under the noses of supposedly professional meat managers and saying “I would have been fired for committing a crime like this to good meat!”, and being met with a shrug of the shoulders, I thought I might just buy cheap cuts and either grind or braise the meat. Or travel the extra distance to places like Costco or BJ’s and buy sub-primals and cut it myself (an option I choose frequently).
    The boutique butcher shops that can charge country club prices for their heritage breed pork, and beef from cows that never heard a harshly worded phrase, will thrive in certain locations; but the rest of us will continue our grim hunts down the aisles of our nearest supermarkets, mortified by an unfolding series of horrors.
    Sorry to bring such a pessimistic view to what was assuredly meant to be an up-beat posting; but I felt compelled to give another version of the story. I certainly hope the picture painted in Michael’s account becomes more prevalent in the marketplace.

  • Matt

    What’s the job market look like for trained butchers? $27k for 9 mos. tuition is pretty steep if there’s not much to do with the certification at the other end.
    Also, I’d love to run a butcher shop/charcuterie here in Michigan that sells meat from our great local farms, but aren’t the USDA regulatory hurdles prohibitive for the little guys?

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