Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Welcome to The Butcher's Guild Bulletin

Introducing...the official blog of The Butcher’s Guild!

What is The Butcher’s Guild, you say? Read on for some background on the guild, its members and our objectives as well as what you can expect to find here, on The Butcher’s Guild Bulletin.

Founded by Tia Harrison of Avedano’s Holly Park Market in San Francisco, and Marissa Guggiana of Sonoma Direct and author of the popular who’s who catalog of butchers, Primal Cuts, The Butcher’s Guild seeks to lead the movement for accessible sustainable meat. These founders are pulling together a group of charter members that will knock your socks off! Finally, mavericks and rogues from all over the country will be on the same page. When Tia and Marissa approached me about writing this blog, I said “Yes!” without hesitation and immediately came up with the best job title I've ever had: Digital Meat & Media Head.

Taking the experience gained over the last two years of writing The Ethical Butcher blog, I am looking forward to representing the goals and views of this movement. No longer speaking for myself, but for a collective consciousness is a humbling honor. The connections that I have developed through collaborating on my signature farm-to-table dinners in spots like Brooklyn, NY, Portland, OR and Covington, KY give me an inside view of the movement and I excitedly anticipate highlighting more of the tireless faces behind this revolution. By supporting and uniting the butchers, farmers and chefs who have dedicated themselves to the work ahead, The Butcher’s Guild is taking a collective next step on the road to a sustainable food system.

We are not taking credit for creating a movement, we are honing the existing one.
For years, revolution has been bubbling under the surface. A handful of ranchers raising grass-fed beef when everyone laughed at them and they couldn’t so much as give away their meat. Butchers who chose to stay true to their roots as they stood up to the supermarkets that invaded their neighborhoods and lured their customers away with cheap styrofoam and plastic-wrapped meat from windowless backrooms. While industrial meat flooded the market and became the status quo, household holdouts who snubbed their noses at factory farm meats were willing to drive hours to find stories they could trust and farmers who were raising their animals humanely. Still, others decided to opt out of the equation completely, a vegetarian diet seemingly the only sustainable option for many years.

These islands of hope existed even as factory farms and globalized food sourcing raged on, however, the tide slowly began to change as the emphasis on methods grew. It is no longer good enough to say what foods you choose to eat. It is now much more important to investigate the how and where elements of our food’s journey to our plate. People have begun to search out pastured, local and heritage breed meats and venturing out of the beef/pork/chicken triad. They are keeping up on seafood sustainability and asking the right questions at restaurants before choosing what to order. Butchers and chefs are heading out to the ranch and farm to ensure they are sourcing as ethically and responsibly as possible, and farmers are opening their pastures and fields to a whole new generation that demands better food and better practices.

It has taken the hard work of many people to build this “alternative” food movement, but now it is time to take on the system itself. The only way to amend the missing and damaged links in the food chain is to take on the standards we’ve all be told to settle for. Environmental damage and unfair labor practices are the accepted trade for diseased meat from abused animals. This meat being considered normal, or “conventional” in stores from Anchorage to Tampa is a most appalling part of this problem. It is not conventional to house thousands of animals together knee-deep in their own waste, nor is it conventional to fill these animals with corn, soy and chemicals. No, what is traditional, what has worked for countless generations of people all over the world are the methods that work with the natural order of things. Natural diets, meaning animals that forage with only occasional supplementation by humans, not USDA-certified Organic grain-based feed. Access to the great outdoors, a social life and a quick and humane slaughter-each species living up to their full bovine, porcine, avian and rodent potential. The Butcher’s Guild wants to make this “alternative” market the new normal.

The Butcher’s Guild is an organization by butchers for butchers. The voice of this movement increases in volume as more people enter the sustainability conversation. We are finally nearing the roar that will begin to topple the unhealthy, unbalanced and untrustworthy food system we’ve all been fighting for years by drawing on the resources, skills and experience of members across the nation in an effort to effect actual and verifiable change. As the ranks of The Butcher’s Guild swell, member butchers, shops and restaurants will become the trusted sources for responsibly-raised meats from skilled people who take the oath more seriously than many people take their wedding vows. This is forever, because this is for us, for you and for the health of our nation’s food supply. Let’s dive into the tenets of The Butcher’s Guild oath to gain a deeper understanding for what the guild represents.

The Butcher’s Guild Oath-

A true butcher has a good:

Heart- Despite the media hype and flash-in-the-pan spin in many articles, the resurgence of the butchery trade is in full effect. This elegant, graceful craft requires skill, strength and years of dedicated learning. The guild, as trade guilds have through the ages, stands as a moral framework and fraternal organization in support of its members. We believe that every butcher should love this craft, its history and take that reverence to heart in protecting the trade from those who would co-opt it for personal and commercial gains. This love for the craft also ensures that each of us are constantly working to improve the image and prestige of our beloved art.

Source- Accountability and transparency are they keys to sustainable sourcing. The Butcher’s Guild requires that all members are completely forthcoming in their sourcing methods. With buzzwords popping up all the time, we want to give meaning to the terms we use when describing how we source for our shops, events and restaurants. Misleading marketing in this regard is one of the biggest threats to the progress of the sustainable food movement. All Butcher’s Guild members will stand up as trusted sources for healthy and humanely-raised/caught animals.

Hand- This trade takes a lifetime to master and each and every butcher should feel compelled to add to his/her skillset as often as possible. With varying methods from all over the world and the anatomy of scores of animal species to learn, there really is no shortage of learning opportunities for even the most seasoned butchers. The flipside of possessing those ever-increasing and improving skills is passing them on to others. Butchery has always been based on a master/apprentice relationship and that tradition continues today. The Butcher’s Guild will offer classes and apprenticeships to budding butchers through the development of a butchery training program complete with a high-production internship to get all those muscle memories fully integrated. The guild also encourages all member butchers to take on apprentices, teach community classes and search out other avenues of sharing their knowledge with others.

Voice- This last tenet is particular to our modern issues and modes of communication. There are many blogs, websites, books and other ways of finding and disseminating this valuable information. As butchers fighting for a cause, we of course want to be discussing the issues of the day with our friends, colleagues and most of all, customers. It does not suffice to simply source ethically, we must take the necessary step of explaining those ethical practices to our customers. This increases the likelihood that they will continue to search out the superior foods we all fight so hard for. Explaining the current problems also makes it easier for customers to understand prices that reflect paying the real cost of food and why some popular items may not be available in your store or on your menu. It is this community outreach element that is the newest addition to the role of the butcher today. I have been saying for years that butchers are going to save the world and there isn’t a hint of hyperbole there. As stewards of this trade and the conduit from farmer to consumer, using our voices to do that work is imperative.

Now that the oath has been examined a little more closely, let’s talk nitty gritty!
How does one gain membership to The Butcher’s Guild?

Well, The Butcher’s Guild officially launches later this month and membership will be by invitation only for a period of 6 months. As the charter members join the fold and continue to develop the form and function of The Butcher’s Guild, we will be ready to open a path to membership for prospective members. In the meantime, this blog and the guild’s website will serve as a window into the creation of what will hopefully be a very influential group of individuals.

This blog will also offer many other features!
*Links to farms, restaurants and markets selling sustainable meats and videos showing butchery techniques can be found in the right sidebars.
*Catch up on current news in meat, from the USDA’s latest grievous decision to conferences and events.
*Check out recipes every Friday as well as featured butchers, farmers, chefs and restaurants on Tuesdays.
*“Ask the Guild” will run on Wednesdays, send your meat/sustainability questions to: for the first “Ask the Guild” column next
Wednesday, February 9th!
*Fun photos of farms, events and something I personally can't wait to come to fruition: The Meat Tattoo Hall of Fame! Send your meaty tattoo photos to:!

Come back for more news on The Butcher’s Guild and a discussion of the guild’s first public appearance at next month’s NC Choices Conference.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. What a wonderful blog! I will definitely be following this group.

  3. Nice job. Long live the work and the Guild!
    Robert Young
    The Black Belt Butcher

  4. Ah, sweet meats, thee have a home. Congrats and what a great introduction.