Is this thing on?

Here’s the fun thing about a blog – letting it go dormant is as easy as just disappearing into the night with no explanation needed, but suddenly bringing it back from the dead usually requires some sort of mea culpa type “where have I been” post.  I’d love to say that I spent the last two-ish years just converting the site to WordPress, and that would only be a little bit untrue.
Without getting into boring (thrilling) personal details let it just suffice to say that my wife and I moved to Vermont about 2 years, started the pastured-meat smallholding of our dreams, and I’ve got a job running food business incubation at a shared-use USDA inspected processing facility.  While my day to day life is much less hands-on retail butchery than it had been for the 5 years or so before moving up, I’m much more involved in the start to finish world of livestock agriculture, and high end USDA inspected value added processing.  My days are a lot less cutting pork chops for the case, and a lot more doing cost analysis for a charcuterie maker utilizing old world techniques and Vermont raised pork.

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Want Truly Sustainable Chicken? Eat a Hen

Chickens are one of those things that, from a farming perspective, you either hate or you barely tolerate to the best of your ability.  Sure, on their best day they can be fun to have around – chickens pecking around the farmyard is about as close to the pastoral ideal as you can get.  But on the day-to-day chickens that are allowed to be outside and walking around are a nuisance.  They NEVER stay where they’re supposed to be, and they constantly find new and horrible ways to kill themselves.  But despite the hassle of raising them free range there is still considerable demand for their meat and eggs, and raising chickens outside – the way they were meant to live – is an important part of agriculture in America.

One of the things that people don’t always realize is that there are in reality two distinct types of chickens in a multi-animal farm.  One type, the meat birds, are usually raised on pasture in chicken tractors (made famous by Joel Salatin) that allow the birds to be moved to fresh grass every day where they can peck around and gain muscle relatively quickly and in decently large numbers.  The other type are the layers, pampered hens usually raised either in movable coops or right in the farmyard itself.  These birds are looked after constantly, with their every need seen to. The reason is simple, eggs from free-range organically fed chickens are big money.  I used to sell pastured chicken eggs at a farmer’s market for $8/dozen and they would be the first thing we’d sell out of.  I’ve seen well-dressed Manhattanites fight over the last carton of eggs.

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Meat Cuts 101: Pork Sirloin

NAMP Number: 410A
Muscle Name(s):  Gluteus medius
Other Names: Chuleta, Extremo del sirloin, chump end
Cooking Style: Roast or Braise

The wind is howling outside, the sky is that lovely shade of “screw-you” grey, and rotting leaves are piling up on my doorstep.  People, it’s roast season.  In my mind there is nothing better than a big roast cooking away in the oven to compliment this gorgeous fall weather.  Throw in some heavily spiked mulled cider and you’ve got just about as perfect a day as it’s possible to get without copious illegal substances.  “But,” you’re asking yourself, “what roast, out of all the possible roasts, is the one I really want to be cooking this blustery October afternoon.”  The answer, to me at least, is simple: breeze right past the posh boneless loins, and dry aged beef joints, and go right for a big honking pork sirloin.

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Butcher’s Vacation Part II, or, “The Country”

The London leg of our trip was amazing; we spent 2 full days doing nothing but eating, drinking, and checking out butcher shops (sometimes all three at the same time).  But for me, the fun really started when we climbed into our massive diesel rental car/boat and headed out west.  Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

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UK Trip Report: The London Sessions

We’re back from our vacation and holy God was it awesome.  I’m not going to regale you with the play by play of our honeymoon (for that, look for my upcoming sextape: “Sausage innuendo the musical”).  I would, however, like to pass along some of the meat related knowledge I gleaned while in the land of meat pies and Sunday roasts.  I dragged my way too understanding wife to no fewer than a dozen butcher shops, from the big names to the local joints and saw some amazing stuff along the way.  Here’s some of the highlights of the first leg of the trip: London.

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The Continuing Insanity of “Meat Safety” Articles

I’m in crisis mode getting ready for my butcher shop reconnaissance trip/honeymoon – 3 days and counting, try not to miss me too much – it’s funny how something you plan all year for can suddenly sneak up on you.  Last weekend I was visiting my parents (happy birthday mom!) to drop off our dog that they’ll be watching while we’re gone (sorry mom!).  The great thing about my parents is that they still get Reader’s Digest.  The great thing about Reader’s Digest is that it apparently still espouses complete bullshit regarding food safety.

You don’t have to follow that link, and it’s probably better if you don’t give them the ad revenue (and really like half that website is ads).  Basically they rank different meats in terms of their relative “safety” from food borne illnesses.  Given that Reader’s Digest is essentially bathroom reading anyway I’m probably the only person who would actually take it seriously, but since I’m grumpy about most everything I feel the need to have a bit of a talk about it.  I can’t quite figure out what I disagree with more, their findings or their general premise.

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Going Dutch with Sauerbraten

About 8 months ago my wife and I moved from Brooklyn to Southeast Pennsylvania.  It’s been a hugely successful move for us; We’ve got more space, I work in a great new shop, and the bounty of Pennsylvania agriculture is open to us everywhere we go – you can’t throw a long john in this town without hitting a farmer’s market bursting with locally raised produce and meat.  But for all the easy aspects of this transition, the one thing about this area that still remains wonderfully perplexing to us is the local food culture; handed down generation to generation from the original settlers of this area, the food stylings and culture is collectively known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

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Meat Man’s Holiday

7 years ago I took a trip with a girl I was dating to England and Scotland. We fell in love with the pubs, great beer, and shockingly agreeable weather. At the time we were still in college, mostly drunk, and not nearly as interested in all the awesome butcher shops and meat markets as we should have been.  
Almost two years back said girl and myself got married; which has been completely awesome – she’s great, and supremely supporting for someone finding herself forced into the periphery of the butchery game.  We’ve both been saying for years that we have to get back there – given our shared love of River Cottage and English culture in general is a tragedy it’s taken us as long as it has. Why am I telling you this?  Well, work schedules have finally aligned and one month hence we’re off on a well-deserved honeymoon to the UK

My plan for this “definitely not work related” vacation is to “definitely not spend my time dragging my long suffering wife from butcher shop to butcher shop” in this mecca of old school meat shops. Now, Google Analytics tells me that my second largest readership contingent (so like, 12 of you) is from the UK and I’m guessing you intelligent, beautiful readers might have some inside knowledge about the butchery scene across the pond.  I’m on the lookout for any and all recommendations for butcher shops that I should “happen to wander across” when we’re there.  We’re flying into London and out of Edinburgh with the majority of our time spent in Dorset and Devon – time which will include dinner and a meat course at River Cottage!!! 

So if you know of a can’t miss butcher shop that we, well, can’t miss, shoot me a line at Bill@Themeatcase.com or leave a comment.  I’ll happily repay you in the form of delicious ale. In any event, expect lots of pictures come the beginning of September.  

Farm visits

My job really rocks.  If I haven’t made it abundantly clear by this point, let me just tell you that every single day I get up and get to go to work is like a gift from the God of Awesome Jobs.  Getting to break down high quality carcasses, meet awesome customers, be in movies – it’s all pretty much a dream come true.  But without a doubt, the best part of my job is getting to go on farm visits.

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For your viewing pleasure…

This movie comes out tomorrow and you should definitely go see it because it’s probably good.

How do I know it’s probably good?  Because I’m in it!

When Franck interviewed me it was at the tail end of his shooting and we spoke a little about the different places he had been but I had NO idea the kind of heavy hitters appearing in the film.  Someday I’ll be able to tell my kids about how I was in the same documentary as Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, and some hack by the name of DARIO EFFING CECCHINI.  They won’t care, but I’ll rest assured that I will tell this story often.

(If somehow my presence is not enough to convince you, here’s an actual review.)


Here’s the key bit:

And the Trailer:
Dario freaking Cecchini…