How long have you been a butcher and where did you get your start? Have you been working with “sustainable” meats the whole time and if not, what precipitated your shift in practices?
I began running Sonoma Direct, a USDA-inspected wholesale meat processor, in 2005. I am not a butcher myself but know well the challenges and rewards of the meat industry through running a business, trying to make a profit and make a difference. When we opened, we were only butchering large quantities of imported meat and selling cuts to hotels in Vegas, by the truckload. My curiosity and conscience led us to a model of working only with local farms and customers.
What do you think about the current media hype and attention on butchery, butchers and meat in general?
Fascination is a good thing. It can only help to make a permanent shift in our eating habits. Butchery is hard work and requires a great deal of skill and intelligence to be profitable. Renewed appreciation for this work is appropriate and heartening.
What do you believe is the role of butchers in the movement for a sustainable food system and what do you see as the biggest impediment to a truly sustainable meat industry?
Our food system has centralized for reasons that are hard to combat- financially and logistically, it makes sense to centralize, if you are going to feed a large population cheaply. But, as anyone who studies systems understands, diversity is important- in business and in nature. We need alternative routes to nourishment and we need these local food systems to be viable for everyone on the food chain. Butchers are the key to getting meat from farms to tables. They hold the knowledge to turn animals into protein and to instruct us in how to prepare that meat. So many of us have lost the will or knowledge to cook and butchers are helping to restore that knowledge.
What does being a member of The Butcher’s Guild mean to you?
Starting The Butcher’s Guild is the dream of being able to support all the talented and committed butchers and meat pros. When I was writing Primal Cuts: Cooking With America’s Best Butchers, i learned so much about the struggles of others’. Even many of our most famous and inventive meat people are challenged to make money and stay afloat. I want this industry to be here in ten years! I hope The Butcher’s Guild will have a hand in distributing the collective wisdom and solutions so that we can all thrive.
Your absolute favorite cut and preparation method/recipe:
The best cut is the one I am eating! I like to spread the love around. But when it comes to cooking at home, I love shoulders- beef chuck, pork butt and lamb shoulder. I am a braiser and relish the cuts that can stand up to the long heat.
Thanks, Marissa! Can’t wait to get Tia’s intro up as well!
It’s finally time for another Friday Feast! I’ve got a good one for tomorrow that would fit right into Marissa’s favorite cuts category.