In this age of label inadequacy, we all need an authority to turn to—enter the butcher. For guidance on better carnivorous consumption, we reached out to Bryan Mayer, director of butchery education at Fleishers Craft Butchery, a leader in the sustainable meat movement.
JBF: Are there underutilized cuts of meat that deserve a place in shoppers’ baskets?
Bryan Mayer: We believe it’s important to think about “eating around the animal.” In general, people should pay attention to the cuts that come from areas that you don’t normally think about, like cuts off the shoulder and round. The “underutilization” comes from our choices about what type of meat to eat.
JBF: What are the most sustainable animals to eat?
BM: If raised and hunted responsibly, all animals are “sustainable” to eat. Variety is key here. Expand your horizons. We’ve been offering culled dairy cow and goat across all our shops, which is something that you certainly won’t find in your supermarket or grocery store. The more we can have a dialogue with customers about alternatives to rib-eye steaks and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and get them excited about a variety of meats (and variety meats, a.k.a. offal), the more we can help our farmers grow the system that we know truly works and reduce the stresses created by our single-note diets.
JBF: What should a consumer look for when buying meat, both at the butcher shop and in the grocery store?
BM: The single most important thing any customer can do is to find a butcher. A real-life, standing-in-front-of-you person, someone who you can develop a relationship with. Sometimes I think folks spend more time asking questions about their new flat-screen television than they do about the food that’s going to fuel their bodies. That scares me. Question everything. Don’t be embarrassed, or feel that you’re being annoying. And, if you’re being made to feel that way, you need to find another butcher!