Toro! Toro! Maestro Carnicero

By Mark Wilhelms Contributing writer: Jeannie Boutelle

Toro! Toro! Toro! Feliz Cinco de Mayo! In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Red Meat Market will hold an unrivaled hands-on bull breakdown experience with Alberto Sanchez, artisan butcher, along with a cooking class by Ryan Hutmacher of Centered Chefs. With Cinco de Mayo, a day of celebration of Mexican culture and heritage around the corner and this bull break-down the day before, we thought, who better to profile as our next “Rockstar Butcher” than Maestro Carnicero (Master Butcher) Alberto, of Black Earth Meats in Wisconsin.

Our very own Carnivorista Jeannie Boutelle interviewed our Maestro Carnicero, Alberto Sanchez in anticipation of our Cinco de Mayo Bull Breakdown!

Alberto ButcherAlberto grew up in Michoacan, on the western side of Mexico, where he saw the cattle raised and then slaughtered and butchered by his grandfather to provide meat for the people of the town. They raised the animals and slaughtered them one at a time as needed for the townspeople. His uncle was a butcher, his father was a butcher and growing up, all Alberto wanted to be was a butcher. As a youth growing up, he had a view of the full cycle of meat production from field, to slaughter, to butchering, to cooking. Artisan butchering was a way of life, although, they weren’t called artisan, it was the natural way of doing things in his town in Mexico. His first memory of meat was as a 6 year old helping his father at his meat shop. He ate fresh meat, he saw how the animals were raised, he saw what they were fed and he watched and helped to slaughter them as needed for food, and he helped his father to then butcher the meat. He learned as a young boy to care about how the animals were raised and gained an appreciation through participating in the slaughtering process for meat. For Alberto as a child in Mexico, locally sourced animals were a way of life and the only way.

When Alberto’s family moved to Chicago, he eventually ended up working in a retail shop selling meat. Rather than seeing the live animal, slaughtering, then cutting, he worked with boxed beef.  Boxed beef was everywhere and the only option at that point to source meat at most grocery, and meat stores in Chicago. The meat would be at least a month old before he got his hands on it. Coming from generations of hands-on butchering, all Alberto really wanted to do was to get back to his roots in seeing the whole process like the way he grew up, field, slaughter, cutting, cooking. The way his grandfather had from A to Z in Mexico. Finally, after 13 years working in the retail shop with boxed beef, Alberto had an opportunity to join Black Earth Meats in Wisconsin.
Black Earth Meats, located in the town of the same name, is part of a movement to bring back small scale processing and locally sourced animals. Removed from the CAFO/feed lots, these animals are raised in the open air in small groups, usually free to run on pastures that provide most or all of their feed. This reduces the need for antibiotics, and their farmers pledge that they do not use antibiotics or hormones. Black Earth Meats is a USDA-inspected processing facility. They are certified Organic from the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and are Animal Welfare Approved for humane handling of all animals that pass through their gates. Black Earth Meats is a classic meat locker, with on-site slaughter offering custom processing for beef, pork, buffalo, elk, farmed deer, sheep and goats.  They pride themselves in processing meat in the best quality fashion, the same way they would like it cut for their own families.
Alberto moved up to Wisconsin and now Black Earth is a family affair for him, most of his relatives work for the company. “I want my children to learn and eat good food, grass fed beef, no junk food or boxed beef.” Alberto is the craftsman butcher for Black Earth and hand cuts the meat—by hand—to meet his customer’s specifications.
I had a chance to talk with Alberto.

JB:  What is your favorite cut?
Alberto: Short ribs

JB:  What are some cuts that consumers overlook and they shouldn’t.
Alberto: Customers always ask for rib-eye because that is the most common cut of meat but they should ask for skirt steak, hanger or tri-tips which are all good. The tri-tips are great in a smoker for 2 hours at 175 º they turn out really juicy and good.

JB:  If you had to choose one type of meat to eat on a desert island what would it be?
Alberto: Lamb, the texture and taste of lamb, the flavor.

JB:  What are you going to do to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
Alberto: I’ll have a party at my house with some traditional foods and my friends will all bring their favorite dishes.

JB:  I understand you like to cook, what is one of your favorite recipes?
Alberto: A simple one but good. Skirt steak on the grill with lemon, Mexican oregano, salt and pepper. Mexican oregano tastes differently than locally grown oregano.

JB:  What about grass fed beef?
Alberto: Grass fed tastes different on your mouth. It cooks up really well. You can just taste the difference. It may look the same but it cooks up and tastes totally different, really good!

JB:  Any advice to younger butchers?
Alberto: To stay away from boxed beef, to learn the slaughtering process. Learn how to break down meat.

JB:  What do you like to cook?
Alberto: Mole, BBQ and Blood Sausage

JB:  What are your hobbies?
Alberto: Hunter, Deer, turkey, pheasant, quails

JB:  If you were not a meat cutter, what would you be?
Alberto: A chef

JB:  What is your goal in life?
Alberto: I like to make people happy and enjoy life!

Welcome, Maestro Carnicero, Alberto Sanchez! Toro! Toro! Toro! Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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