Featured in Flavor616, June 2013
The white-apron clad experts behind the meat counter, amid sausage casings and bone dusters, are a dying breed.
Tim Sobie owner and meat cutter of Sobie Meats in Walker, MI remarks, “Is there a resurgence of small little meat markets to get away from that big processed stuff? Absolutely. The art of cutting meat is certainly a dying trade.”
The meat counter has changed throughout the years. We’ve shifted from beef being shipped as “rail beef” a whole carcass, expertly broken down by butchers into different cuts, towards dependence on “boxed beef,” larger sections of a carcass, pre-packaged and shipped—we’re losing the art of cutting meat, and we’re losing options.
Sobie Meats is a trailblazer in preserving the art of butchering, sourcing local, farm-raised cattle, (sans the antibiotics and hormones) and skillfully, breaking down the whole animal into an array of flavorful cuts at their shop. Meat cutting will not be found behind the counters of big box supermarkets, which focus more on profit rather than quality and flavor. These operations source pre-packaged, already cut meat, remove it from the box and stack it in refrigerated bins.
The other difference in shopping at the local butcher shop—well,-it’s an experience. You see, the moment you walk into Sobie Meats you immediately smell and see what’s going on in there. There is sausage making, kapusta cooking, pulled pork simmering and meat cutters skillfully cutting. A sense of charm and warmness emanate from the employees as they welcome those walking through the door and if you have questions, Sobie’s meat cutters have answers.
Sure, you can head to the supermarket, be greeted at the door, take your number for the deli and select your stew beef or chicken thighs from the sea of Styrofoam wrapped containers. The chap behind the meat counter probably didn’t cut the meat himself, it’s lacking flavor and as far as where that meat came from, your guess could be as good as his.
To bring back the butcher—that person, like Tim Sobie, who not only skillfully breaks down an animal but can also suggest new things for you try, cuts meat to your needs and give you advice on how to cook it—we need to care about our meat.
We need to change the way we shop—we need to support options. We don’t need to settle for no-named, pre-packaged meat on a Styrofoam tray. Head to your local butcher and save yourself some money by requesting the amount of meat you need, cut the way you want. Ask for suggestions on cheaper cuts of meat not offered in mainstream markets. Bring in your recipe and ask questions. For those palettes craving something beyond steak just ask—beef cheek, rabbit, crown roasts of lamb, the butcher can provide.
That is the beauty behind the butcher. They have options, you can ask for what you need.
Go, seek out your local butcher and have a conversation, build a relationship, and know your meat.