The renaissance of the local Butcher. Isn’t it obvious?

By Mark Wilhelms

With the renewed interest in a new but very old trade in the culinary world, we see a complete renaissance of butchery in america. The renaissance of the local Butcher is due to a perfect storm of “Big Meat” companies consistent delivery of feedlot packed, anitbiotic ridden , hormone induced livestock into the nations food system while the consumer demand for good quality local meats that are humanly raised, naturally pastured and support the environment with sustainable agricultural practices is increasing 20% per year.

Red Meat Market Butcher

The Butcher remains the critical link between Farm and Table.  Butchers are the custodian of our local meat system. They know how well the animal was raised and treated during slaughter as soon as they receive the carcass. He is the critical filter for letting good meat in the system before the chef, the grocer or the we consumers even see it.

The craft of butchery is held to a higher standard.  If a Chef makes a mistake, the dish is returned to the kitchen and they fix it. When a Butcher makes a mistake he can hurt himself or others, the quality of meat can spoil, he can make poor cutting decisions and animal’s life wasted and worse of all, people can get deathly sick if his shop standards are even slightly compromised.

We at Red Meat Market our brand embodies that very idea of a trusted source that connects great providers of quality meat with consumers who choose healthy, locally pastured products. We also feature our Red Meat Market Man, everyone’s local Butcher, who adds the heart and soul of an approachable fellow with a friendly smile. A man who is skilled at his craft, knowledgeable about his products and proudly responsible for its quality. 

“The butcher wore a big bloody apron and stood in his little butcher’s shop from six in the morning to six at night, cutting up big stiff sides of meat, cutting through bone with his knives and saws, and listening to the ladies encouraging him to cut an extra good side of meat specially for them. They liked to talk with him.  He was pretty sure some of them came in just to chat, and to pass gossip, like recent exploits of their children, the neighborhood problems, someones bad cold, or the best cut for Sunday grilling? What the Butcher really knew, was that the dialog over the counter made them feel more secure.  Secure in knowing that the smiling man behind the counter, with the big bloody apron would insure them the best quality meats they could possibly buy, with some hints and tips on how to prepare it and the unmistakable assurance that it was safe, good and healthy.”

This year, we’ve asked our Red Meat Market contributing writer, Jeannie Boutelle to write a series about local meat and feature, once a month, some of the great Chicago Butchers. We call them “Rock Star Butchers” as we believe that the new local hero in the culinary world and the localvore meat movement is, indeed, the Butcher. We call them “Rock Stars” because he must give a flawless performance of his abilities and skills with every single cut, every single order and each and every time of every day.

You can also learn more about Butchery from real Butchers!  We offer Red Market Butcher Classes monthly where you can listen, watch, participate and learn from a Master Butcher. You’ll take home meat you cut and have fun with others as you explore the fascinating world of Butchery. You will be learning from the best Butchery and Culinary talents Chicago has to offer.  So enjoy the new series and attend a class or two. You’ll be participating first-hand in the renaissance of the local Butcher.

Chinese proverb:

A good butcher goes through a knife in a year,
Because he cuts.

An average butcher goes through a knife in a month,
Because he hacks.

A Master Butcher uses his knife for a lifetime.
He has butchered thousands of oxen, but his blade is always clean and swift as if were newly sharpened.

Mark Wilhelms is the Founder of Red Meat Market. You can find Mark on and Twitter