Have a butcher’s…

When I was a child, my mom once asked me where I thought meat came from.

“Safeway.”

And that? Ain’t right.

But things change.

Sometimes a lot.

These days, butchers are practically rock stars. And I support this. I support people making an extra stop at their local butcher, and searching out stores with actual people behind a counter, not just a rack of stock to be unloaded into the refrigerator case. I like to think that an awareness has been built over the last couple years, leading more and more people to be dissatisfied with the sad little packages of meat on foam trays wrapped ever so tightly in plastic, and looking for ways to improve not only what’s on their plate (although, I’m OK with this being the sole motivation) but also by extension, improving our food production system by deciding on sustainably raised animals rather than mindlessly consuming animals that have been crammed with antibiotics (to fight the diseases we impose on them in feedlots), salt water (to increase the plumpness, and therefore scale weight of chickens), and fed with things they aren’t meant to eat (corn, soy, each other) because these crops are subsidized by the government and produced at a volume that supports our voracious need for more and more cheaply produced meat.

And with that incredible run-on sentence, I’ll step off the soapbox.

And? I admit it. I’ve sort of got a thing for butchers. I love that at our local meat counter, I see as many women as I do men behind the counter. All of them are unfailingly happy (at least at work), and I don’t mean in that “good customer service/they are paying me to smile” way. I mean that I see them with each other when they think nobody is looking, and to a person, they seem particularly satisfied with what they do. I think it’s because if you are going to spend your time cutting up animals with muscles that closely resemble the human body in some cases, that you pretty much have to love it.

So, in an effort to satisfy this fetish of mine, I decided that a birthday was a great reason to send the spousal unit to a whole lamb butchery course at 4505 Meats, taught by the absolutely delightful Ryan Farr.

He absolutely loved it. Loved seeing the whole carcass of a grass fed & finished lamb. Loved learning how to read the musculature. Loved understanding the power that butchers have over want and waste, and furthermore, how with our society’s overwhelmingly meat-centered diet (however right/wrong you think this is-personally, I strive for a lot less of a higher quality meat), how butchers literally define what is for dinner.

He got 3 hours of instruction, snacks, and 10 lbs. of gorgeous organic lamb to bring home. I, unfortunately, do not love lamb as much as he does, so the consumption of the cuts he brought home has been up to him and a select group of friends we’ve invited over for braised lamb belly (in stock made from the lamb bones), grilled lamb chops, homemade lamb sausage, etc. and so on.

But no worries. I’ll get my turn to get hands-on. I’m only waiting for the next class on whole pig butchery.

Want to learn more? Try Primal Cuts, The River Cottage Meat Book, The Whole Beast, or better yet, find your local butcher and ask him or her “What’s for dinner?”

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