Artisinal Butchering in NYC

Over the past fifty years, with the rise of the industrialized food system, nearly everything has been homogenized. Production has been centralized, scaled up, and the factory model has been applied to the production of meat.  Skills like small-scale cheesemaking, beer brewing, etc. have been marginalized at best and lost or forgotten at worst. However, as people and communities realize that we must reestablish local food systems in order to have a resilient future, we’re seeing these trends reversed.

In keeping with the theme of my last guest post by Scott Hoffman, I wanted to share this article from Good about a butcher in NYC who’s engaged in the revival of his artisinal craft.

He is a part of a movement of carnivores who eat meat but expect a higher level of consciousness about the process by which it arrives at our tables. For Jeffrey de Picciotto, there is a clear line between a living animal and the meat we eventually consume. He puts it this way: “By the time an animal gets to me in the shop I already view it not as an animal-recently-dead but as “meat.”” Picciotto admits that he thought a lot more about the gore inherent to his job at first but as he got used to butchering, it bothered him less and less. I have to wonder, as Picciotto himself seems to, about the implications for one’s mental health of killing or butchering day after day.

In order to decrease the strain and stress on people from these occupations we would have to decrease our meat consumption and decentralize our production, moving it back to farms.

What is clear to me is that the heightened consciousness with which someone like Picciotto approaches meat is way better than the relationship most American’s have with what we find in the grocery store wrapped in Styrofoam and saran wrap. I was struck the other day when I was given a ziplock bag containing some mutton recently slaughtered on a local farm. If I hadn’t been told by the farmer, I never would have been able to tell what species of animal the steak had come from. To me, it could just as easily been sheep as cow. It was a disconcerting realization.

People like Picciotto visit slaughter houses, they know and understand what is involved in the process of bringing meat to the table,  they respect the animals they’re working with and think about the fact that many animals exist solely for the purpose of human consumption. They advocate visiting slaughterhouses. After my first visit a couple of weeks ago, I can’t imagine a more important experience for a carnivore.

I’ll close with a question: What situation must the meat you eat come from in order for you to feel good about eating it?

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