Butchery – a traditional line of work
As consumers, the quest for healthy eating is more complicated than simply reading labels and avoiding processed foods. When you dig deeper, you’ll always find that the tastiest, most nutritious, most responsible foods are those with the richest stories.
“I sell meat from animals that have been fattened and slaughtered by entrepreneurs with the same passion for meat and animals as I have.”
Nowhere is this truer than with the meat industry. How the animals are raised, what they are fed, their environment, the way in which they are slaughtered, and the production process for achieving the finished cuts of meat that you buy and bring home to your table – everything is relevant.
When you get your meat from a master butcher, you’re able to nourish your body with an entirely different level of quality, taste, and nutrition – while at the same time, you’re encouraging ethically-sound, eco-conscious, sustainable food practices. And, you’re supporting the very people who are keeping these precious, old-fashioned, artisan ways alive.
While opting for organic, grass-fed beef at the grocery store or market is a fantastic first step, there’s more to the centuries-old art of butchery that you may want to be a part of the food you eat.
Learning from a Master Craft Butcher
If you’re like me, you’re entirely dependent on the people who produce your food. I don’t have my own garden or farm, so I like to take the time and care to know the passionate individuals who do produce my food. To me, it’s important to get to know them and their story.
Chris Dammers is one of these artisan food producers who has opened me up a little more to the reality of food.
Chris is a second-generation butcher. He learned from his father the art of butchery – how to slaughter animals with minimal suffering, fostering an appreciation for the animals, seeing them for the role they play in our own existence, and how they can be nourishing, enjoyed, and savored, rather than viewing them as a number.
He had been working with “the big butcher boys” since the age of 12, getting first-hand experience in both his father’s old-school slaughterhouse, while also working for both large and small companies during and after training for his butcher certifications.
What Chris has to say about the commercial slaughterhouses – he didn’t like them. “They only see the animal as kilos, no quality, no craft.” The big butcher warehouses are like these mega meat factories. There are a couple of dozen people or more working, each performing only one step at a time. This type of factory is an example of assembly line meat production, not craftsmanship.
What Chris prefers, is the old ways, where the butcher takes a hands-on approach during the entire process. Every cut is made with an expert hand. Years of knowledge are used to guide each step until the meat is ready to be hand-wrapped and handed over to the customer.
The old ways require a love of the work, a respect for the animal, and a deeper understanding of the craft – not something you learn in a book but the type of wisdom that is passed down from father to child, to grandchild and so on.
What Being an Organic Butcher Means
About ten years ago, Chris decided he wanted to commit to being an organic butcher and started working at the local organic farmer’s market. As an organic butcher, he doesn’t just source and prepare organic meat – he knows where the best meats come from, how the animals are treated, and the conditions in which they live.
Being an organic butcher includes everything from knowing the animals’ diet and quality of life to the nuances of a country of origin’s organic standards. For example, if an animal in The Netherlands is given an antibiotic because it is sick, it can’t be sold as organic for the next one to five years, or as long as the antibiotics are still within the system.
If he doesn’t know the details, he won’t buy the meat. Chris says he doesn’t buy meat from the countries where he can’t be sure if the animal was raised humanely. He gets about 80% of his meat from The Netherlands, with the rest coming from Belgium, Germany or Ireland.
There is also a lot about what you should look for in where your meat comes from that most consumers don’t realize. This often has to do with how food products are marketed. When we shop for food, we look for specific indicators that our food is healthy. For beef, we often want to see grass-fed and organic. But, when you speak to a master butcher, the story is more complex. For example, in The Netherlands during the cold winters, farmers feed animals grains because they have to.
Today, Chris runs his own company. He has 20 years of experience as a butcher and makes all of his meat products himself after diligently sourcing each animal. For Chris’s customers, like yours truly, we get to experience the best beef, lamb, fresh game and more, found anywhere in the world.
“I sell meat from animals that have been fattened and slaughtered by entrepreneurs with the same passion for meat and animals as I have. From beautifully drizzled Limousine grass-fed beef from Belgium to a nice tender and the lean French beef breed, the Blonde D’Aquitaine from The Netherlands, Texel lamb, Dutch country pig, Kemper chicken and a wide assortment of gluten-free meat products freshly cut from the knife. In wild season (October until the end of January) there is also fresh game and special poultry from The Netherlands, England, and France.”
This master of the knife knows precisely where to find the juiciest, the leanest, or the most flavor-rich. He knows what meat is best in what season. He knows the history of each breed and the practices of each region.
Why would you want to purchase the meat that’s served on your table from anyone else? (When Chris goes on his holiday for three weeks in August and closes his little shop, I stop eating meat until he returns!)
Bringing Artisan Food into Your Life
A master craft butcher – or any other artisan food producer – will invite you into their richly sophisticated, authentic, inspiring world. This weekend, why not visit your local farmer’s market? Head to your local butcher’s shop, artisan baker, the local seafood market if you have one. Talk to the Chris Dammers in your area and learn more about the story of your food and experience what it can really taste like.
Do you have a go-to artisan food producer that you can’t live without? Share in the comments below – these people deserve to be honored!