Meet Your Meat

Panel on the Art of the Butcher
The Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology (SAFE) and Meatpaper present a panel discussion highlighting the stark contrast between animals delivered from local slaughterhouses and plastic-wrapped grocery store steak. They will talk about the retail component of the local meat system and how this can change the relationships that chefs, home cooks, and diners have with their meat. “We want to show how animals can be part of a vibrant and diverse agricultural system and some part of our diet as responsible omnivores.” The discussion will be followed by a demonstration by Chef Ryan Farr on how a whole carcass is broken down into cuts of meat. 7:00pm, 105 North Gate Hall, UC Berkeley Campus.

meet-meat

I took the opportunity to attend The Art of the Butcher on a balmy Thursday evening. Geez Louise, I hadn’t been in a college lecture hall for a long time. North Gate Hall is the Journalism building at Berkeley, an excellent Arts and Crafts building with steps inside meandering up through the building, mirroring the topography outside.

the hall

the hall

I entered Room 105 at the top of a stepped hall with loose, “writing-arm” wooden chairs on the risers. I was there for the panel on good meat practices and to see a pig butchered.

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The panel, left to right:
Melanie Eisemann (Avedano’s),
David Budworth (Marina Meats, Avedano’s),
moderator Marissa Guggiana (Sonoma DirectMeatpaper)
Mark Pasternak (Devil’s Gulch Ranch),
Nate Appleman (A16, SPQR, Urbino),
Ryan Farr (Ivy Elegance)

Some notes from the panel discussion –

Butchers David, Nate and Ryan were chosen because they break down whole carcasses at their respective establishments, rather than buy meat by the box. A16 buys two pigs a week on Wednesday, Nate Appleman breaks them down in the restaurant, and they use every bit, including the skin. A16 is “based on Southern Italy, which is based on poverty.” While they serve all the familiar cuts, they also serve those you probably won’t find in your supermarket.

A question was asked about “wet aging,” a term some had seen on packaged meat. Wet aging = really old meat, and because it is aged wet, retains its weight – or gains weight = profitably.
Dry aging – the traditional and proper process for aging meat – causes a loss in weight.

Why are meat animals fed corn? Feeding meat animals corn is most cost effective. It’s driven by the petroleum industry which lobbies for corn subsidies as they provide the petroleum based pesticides and fertilizer to grow the corn and the oil to drive the machinery.

the pig and the butcher

the pig and the butcher

Time for the butchery. This is a side of a 218 pound pig raised at Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Marin County. Their web site says, “Our sows are Yorkshires crossed on either a Duroc or Berkshire boar. The sows are pastured along with their piglets until the piglets are weaned. The weaned piglets are then finished with milk, bread, and grains, in a free-range environment, producing what we believe to be a superior product.”

the headless pig

the headless pig

The head went first. I was surprised at what a clean and bloodless operation it was.

swinging shoulder

swinging shoulder

Ryan worked fast as cries of “do a play-by-play,” came from the audience, eager to know his every move. Here, he’s waving the front leg and shoulder. Looking on and kibitzing is David Budworth of Avedano’s.
“We cut all of our meat the old-fashioned way, with a handsaw, a meat cleaver, and a boning knife. All of our choice cuts come from responsibly raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free animals. Every week we procure and butcher a whole grass-fed lamb from Sonoma, a Manteca pig, and an entire grass-fed organic beef from Strawberry Hill cooperative in Oregon.”
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Ryan holds up the hind leg and ham.

ham I am

ham I am

That’s Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch in the big hat. He said that rabbit heads make the best dog food – of course he raises rabbits, as well as this pig.

Out with the spine

Out with the spine

Prime cuts – belly, ribs, tenderloin, ham.

Prime cuts – belly, ribs, tenderloin, ham.

The tenderloin is the most expensive (and popular), but lacks in flavor. Find a butcher and trust him to guide you to good inexpensive cuts… develop a rapport. They can point out the cheaper cuts that have the most flavor. These, you can slow cook or braise, rendering them juicy and tender, especially grass fed. For grilling, flap meat is inexpensive and can be treated like skirt steak.

5 thoughts on “Meet Your Meat

  1. Awesome! Did they only bring one half the pig, or did they also split up the second into different cuts (i.e. pork chops vs. loin roast). Did they talk about the innards? Did the talk about the leaf lard/kidney fat? What to do with trotters and how to prepare them? What to do with the head? The tail? The ears?

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  2. Eric the inquisitor — Here’s what I know:
    They brought only half of the pig… time was limited. He showed the “porterhouse” pork chops, then cut the loin out. He didn’t cut individual chops. They (the panel) talked about the innards and the skin and how they use them at A16. He showed us the leaf lard… that was one of the first things he cut out. They talked about the trotters and head and how they use them. This caused me to go out and buy the A16 cookbook.

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  3. Good call Brian.
    The Hungarian pigs were referenced in a Chronicle story called Loving Lard last fall. I got some leaf lard and rendered it — http://www.eatsforone.com/?p=1090 — and it was great… but it’s much easier to buy it already rendered in a tub. There are several sources at the Ferry Building. Elsewhere, it’s probably available at specialty meat stores.

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  4. Hahahaha. Yes kibitzing is a great description of what i was doing. Great blog. If you ever have any meat questions feel free to email me. dave@davethebutcher.com
    Cheers.

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