Guys (or Gals) Who Know Their Meat

Hanging out with the meat managers and cutters at AJ's Fine Foods last week got us thinking about the qualities that make a first-class meat man (or gal). We've talked before about how feedlots killed the great American cowboy. But it occurs to us that Big Beef's cheap grain-fed meat has also driven expert butchers like the guys at AJ's to the point of extinction.

A true meat manager combines many different disciplines and areas of expertise. He (or she) knows how to break an animal down (butcher) and the best way to prepare different cuts (chef). She (or he) understands that meat come from animals and where those animals came from impacts the taste and tenderness of their meat. The best butchers know how the animals were raised, not just their diet but also the climate and other environmental factors (the terroir) that gives the meat its particular flavor.

A true meat manager is an indispensable link between the rancher who produces the food and the consumer who buys it. In the US, they've become as rare as real cowboys, replaced by plastic-wrapped cuts sitting in the cooler. Lucky for everyone that they're making a come-back at fine food markets like AJ's.

Who's your favorite meat guy (or gal)? Send your top pick to bill@estanciabeef.com and maybe we'll do a profile or an interview or something.