Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Next Artisan Butcher - New Reality Show?

Great article out of West Cork, Ireland, about traveling artisan butchers.

Why might this matter?

One of the first things I learned while becoming an official Beef Geek (aka The Steak Lady): You can do everything right on the farm but the moment that cattle walks onto a truck, a lot of things can go wrong.

First, no sharp corners, no slippery ramps, no cattle prods or yelling. Spooking cattle is not only ethically wrong, it = tough, dark, dry beef. No kidding, stress directly impacts taste and texture.

And bruises hurt and also ruin the beef - the bruise shows in the meat and has to be cut out.

Second, at the slaughterhouse itself, very special care must be taken. Cattle are herd animals, they're okay with their group but you cannot introduce them to another herd in the yard. A good slaughterhouse will be specifically designed to minimize stress and likely come with a stamp of approval from Temple Grandin.

Bottom line: one of the most important things that influences taste and texture is low-stress handling.

Now these totally cool traveling artisan butchers in Ireland offer a fabulous solution for minimizing stress. The slaughterhouse comes to the farm, no trucking needed. There are a few pioneering folks trying to do the same thing here in North America, but I think what's intriguing is that these folks are real butchers - they know how to age and cut beef, too.

How might we support these folks? I say we should create a new reality show, America's Next Artisan Butcher!


Ivanmcc said...

Hi Carrie
Ii like your post, the butchers I met all emphasised the importance of reducing stress in the cattle and how it can affect the eating experience. I think I might have been unclear though about how they are set up. Their abbatoirs are not mobile, instead they generally have land adjoining them on which the butchers keep the animals for anything from a number of days to a number of months before killing. Hope that clarifies it.

Carrie Oliver said...

Ivan, I'm so glad you visited and great article, congratulations! Thanks for the comment and for the correction. Glad to hear that the butchers were knowledgeable about the impact of stress on meat quality. It's a point that's been lost a bit (okay, a lot) over on this side of the pond.

Lorraine said...


Glad I (belatedly) stumbled on your blog.

New York State has a few mobile slaughter units--they come right to the farm, sparing the animals considerable trauma.

The Hayes family, of Sap Bush Hollow Farm--www.sapbush.com-- was instrumental in implementing these units. Now the Hayes family can go one better--their farm has been certified as a slaughter unit.

I buy all my meat from them--last fall I took a freezer up to their farm so I could carry a season's worth of meat back to my NYC-suburban home.

I think the only way you're guaranteed the animals have lived well--and die as humanely as possible--is to know the farmer from whom you buy your meat.

Carrie Oliver said...


Thank you for your visit and information on Sap Bush Hollow Farm!

I have to agree, knowing where your meat comes from is critical. It's even more powerful if you also know what it is (breed, diet, aging techniqu) and have some reasonable ability to tell if the raising/slaughtering process stress-free.

Mobile units seem like an excellent way to minimize carbon footprint and stress. If you by chance have contact information for Sap Bush Hollow or the abattoir folks, please do let me know, I'd love to hear more and support them.


Podchef said...

I have been to West Cork & that is one of the places that re-inspired me to do what I am doing. They have an amazing meat ethos. I prepared & cooked meat in Cork the likes of which are very rare here (no pun intended...) The Irish know what great beef & meats they have in Cork. Many small butcher shops keep their own herds, which you can view. The animals are vet inspected before & after slaughter. Despite the EU trying to close down such places I think they are again on the rise. It really is the best way to do meat.

Where I live now we have two mobile slaughter options. One is a USDA inspected mobile unit which comes to the farm. The meat can then be sold to restaurants, markets & customers by the cut. The other option is standard custom slaughter. The butcher comes to the farm but the meat must be pre-sold to customers by either the whole, half or quarters.