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Mar 18, 2008 05:14 PM

The Healthy Butcher?

Your thoughts and personal experiences with this new wave of meat distribution?

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  1. I totally agree with the philosophy. Knowing the local farmer, having them kill the animal, taking control of the aging and cutting, helping people learn how to cook and eat the whole animal; all this makes a lot of sense. They've also been able to generate amazing publicity and are always 'in the news'.

    A downside for me are the retail locations. Queen W., and the new store at Eglinton at Avenue Rd, are both areas without easy car parking for those that don't live in the neighbourhood and I don't want to spend an hour or two on the TTC in the summer carrying fresh meat.

    Their prices are also very high. For quite a few years I've been buying whole animals direct from Ontario farmers so I'm very aware of the farm gate cost. When I dropped into the Queen St location recently there were far more employees than customers. The employees did not engage the customers with any timely enthusiasm. Most seemed to spend their time making tiny cosmetic adjustments to the food displays. Employees are a business's most costly resource and I just didn't get the feeling that they were being used effectively, particularly since their salaries were built into the cost of the meat that was being sold.

    I'd like to see more butchers take personal control of the aging and cutting of locally sourced grass-fed and organic meat. Maybe they could give The Healthy Butcher some competition and encourage a better price point for the retail consumer.

    2 Replies
    1. re: torontovore

      Bought some very yummy steaks there last summer, although my jaw did drop when I came to the check out counter.

      Check out Rowe Farms, their soon opening a retail location in Leslieville. I agree with their standards and have enjoyed their steaks, sausages and free run chicken on many occasion from the St. Lawrence Farmer's market stand that is there every Saturday.

      Maybe one of those is closer to your hood?

      1. re: torontovore

        Cumbrae's on Church Street south of Wellesley is near a couple green P parking lots. They're at least as involved in sourcing locally grown meat as HB (although, I'm not too sure about the finer points of the 'organic' designation of either). Goodness knows the rootsnuffling, meadow frolicing animal pictures on their site look darn healthy.

      2. I've had nothing but excellent product and service from the healthy butcher. Last summer I visited one of their farmers since my uncle lives a few doors down in Beeton. Not only was this farm one of the most picturesqe pastures I have ever seen, but when I asked him about healthy butcher, he wouldn't stop talking about how they are the only business he's ever come across that pays him a fair price for his grassfed beef and pasture-raised berkshires. That's all I needed to know to believe in what their doing and support them - it's a few extra dollars well spent.

        1. I go to White House on Bloor, east of Royal York.
          Plenty of parking.
          They have a booth at the St. Lawrence Makret also.

          1. I agree with the other healthy butcher groupies above... HB rocks! For such a small shop started only a few years ago, they've single-handedly changed the food scene in Toronto. JK and a few others have always pushed organic. And places like Cumbrae's are phenomenal as well... But HB has pushed not just organic, but "whole-animal" eating, which is no easy task and the only way our local farmers will survive. Even the top new chefs in the city have working at the HB in common, like Scot Woods & Mark Cutrara.

            With regards to having a lot of staff on hand I do have this to say... I manage a shop at Eaton centre, and the unfortunate thing about hiring is that a store always has to have enough staff for the "rushes" of people - it's impossible to snap a finger and instantly have more staff on hand only when needed. Sometimes if you greet someone to soon and ask them if they need help, you risk being pushy. It's always a fine balance.

            As far as I know, and I've asked around, butcher shops like White House buy and sell boxed meat... there's really no comparison between the average butcher shop and places like Healthy Butcher or Cumbraes who are doing something different that matters to the future of the meat industry.

            1. Also had a great experience at HB. My only complaint was the somewhat aggressive (or misleading upselling -- note that I've only be one time, so it could have been a one-off).