How can I begin a listing of butcher shops and restaurants selling sustainably-raised meats and not include Brooklyn? Our borough is home to one of the biggest food scenes in the country. Chefs are pioneering the farm-to-table idea in a city not quite synonymous with farms. It is not uncommon to find Brooklyn chefs smoking and curing their own meats, butchering whole or half animals in their kitchens, or sourcing all of their animal products from farms upstate. It is truly an exciting time.
For the home kitchen, there are two Brooklyn butcher shops leading the return to the days of the neighborhood butcher. These are the places where your meat will never be plastic-wrapped on styrofoam. Where you can have a conversation with a knowledgeable person who not only cut down your dinner, but can help you figure out how to cook it 5 different ways. These shops are pretty small operations as far as the meat industry goes, so they are able to work directly with small farms and have much more control over where their product comes from.
We all know the guy behind the counter at Whole Foods has no say in where the buyer sources. Many very small farms cannot produce on a level that the big chains require, which is better for the restaurants and shops that are willing to pay a premium for high-quality meats produced locally. This is the system we must return to. Supporting large chains, whether they sell organic, all-natural meats or not, supports large-scale industrial farming. By definition, large-scale animal farming is not sustainable. The carbon footprint that results from raising and transporting animals in this manner is huge, and trucking in "organic" feed doesn't change that.
By supporting smaller stores who specialize in local and sustainably-raised meats, you are supporting the farmers in YOUR area that are working to provide a safe alternative to industrial meat. Some of these farms cannot afford USDA Organic certification, some free-range and pastured animals cannot be certified because their feed is not regulated, i.e. pastured chickens getting nice and plump on bugs and worms. So, while it is imperative to look for all-natural, no hormones and no antibiotics when buying meats, the label "organic" is really not as much of an indicator of quality as Tyson's would like you to believe.
Man, I can really get going on that topic...
This list is by no means exhaustive, as I will be adding new ones periodically.
The Greene Grape Provisions 753 Fulton St
Sister store to The Greene Grape wine stores, this small, high-end store features a coffee bar and small grocery section. The back of the store is where the action is. There's a great cheese counter that features many American farmstead cheeses, run by Jada Brotman and Glenn Hills. These enthusiastic, young cheesemongers even make their own fresh mozzarella by hand! The prepared foods section is headed up by Mark Bittman's blog writer and sandwich genius, Daniel Meyer. His menu often also includes delicious soups made from scratch, often including meat and fish from the first Brooklyn butcher and fishmonger to carry local, sustainable meats and fish.
Run by Bryan Mayer and myself, the meat counter features free-range domestic lamb and goat, free-range chicken, the only Certified Humane veal available on the market, grass-fed all-natural USDA Prime beef, and Berkshire pork. Fresh ground beef, pork, veal and lamb are offered daily, as well as house-made sausages. Every thing is cut down right in front of you and special orders are encouraged!
After some staff changes, Bryan and I are now able to run the fish counter with an eye toward offering only the most ocean-friendly selection of seafood. You won't find any Atlantic groundfish like Cod or Sole here, no swordfish, no shark. We've even cut out nearly all imported fish, focusing only on North American fish. In the case of shellfish, only East coast clams, mussels and oysters are carried, though you can still special order anything you'd like.
I'll be leaving the shop and heading out to Portland in June. If you are ever in the neighborhood, stop by, Bryan will take care of you.
Marlow & Daughters 95 Broadway
Given the amount of press Tom Mylan's empire of meat is getting, I don't think there is much I can say that hasn't been said. Opening in December 2008, Marlow & Daughters is but a gem in this crown of carnivorous meccas. Just like Bonita, Diner and Marlow & Sons, whole animals are the mainstay of Marlow & Daughters offerings. Using whole animals means lots of extra fat, trimmings and organs that are used in a myriad of ways. You can buy everything from trotters to tongue, and that's as sustainable as you can get. Marlow & Daughters gets all their pork from Flying Pigs Farm in upstate NY.
Flying Pigs Farm Union Square Greenmarket
Flying Pigs Farm is a farm in upstate NY that raises heritage breed Tamworth, Gloucestershire Old Spot and Large Black pigs. One driver delivers to many fine restaurants throughout NYC and Westchester. Every Friday at the Greenmarket you can buy your own Tamworth pork belly, bacon, or ham hocks!
Long called the "bacon-pig", I have been coveting a Tamworth belly myself for my home-cured bacon.
(This will be my one and only listing on Manhattan. I make the exception because the farm itself is not in Manhattan.)