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Butchers in the Backroom

October 1, 2008

The New York Times today ran an article about a growing trend in city chefs to order whole sides of beef, even whole animals, and butcher them themselves in the back of their restaurants.

This do-it-yourself trend is not only bucking the large slaughterhouse domination of the meat market that began in mid-19th century Chicago, but also connecting chefs to farmers and bringing the consumer one less middleman closer to their meat.

Chefs are Taking on the Whole Cow

It’s a culinary adventure too – chefs report using parts of the animals that they never dreamed of having access too, like knuckles and head meat. Customers have been surprisingly receptive.

There is a complicated and powerful bureaucracy keeping us from getting at animal carcasses, and I grudgingly admit, helping to keep meat free of contamination. While some people have tried to set up boutique slaughterhouses to handle small-scale meat production, the red-tape has often proved totally untenable. It’s people who are just taking the bull by the horns (sorry) and doing it that are beginning to make a difference – not only chefs using whole animals, but also immigrant populations in places like Holyoke, MA who are raising goats, chickens and pigs, home slaughtering them and feeding them to their communities.

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