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Best butcher for non-prime cuts of meat

At home, I like to grind my own meat, make sausages, stock, or braise tougher cuts. Often times, I'm getting my off-cuts from Loblaws because the butcher shops more often than not don't readily carry what I'm looking for.

I've decided that Cumbrae's is my go to pace for steak, but not much else. Case in point, over the holidays I wanted a bit of pork shoulder. They only had a smallish piece of st-camut pork, which cost $35, no thanks. And when I asked for some back fat (to make sausage), the best I could do was some trimmings from a berkshire pork shoulder, for which they kindly offered to knock off $1/lb How generous!!! I just called to see if they had any ham bones (I want to make split pea soup). Again, no dice.

I was happy when a place called Blackstone opened up on the Danforth near my home. Not so happy when I noticed its trendy decor, and prime-cut only selections (including a lot of pre-marinated stuff). And they looked at me like I was from another planet when I asked if they have sausage casing.

And forget about SLM, at least the South Market.

I understand the laws of supply and demand. Prime cuts are most in demand, so that's what the butchers readily supply. But to me, a real butcher shop should offer everything, even if it's frozen. You'd think this nose-to-tail movement would have caught on by now.

So CH'ers...where do you go for your non-prime cuts of meat? I expect Healthy Butcher will get a few mentions. I've never been. Do they gouge on the off-cuts?

For the record, my go-to place is Jerry's Supermarket, between Woodbine and Coxwell on Danforth. It's an older school italian place. Pretty good quality, the carcasses are hanging in the back. I know that if I'm after pork shoulder, chuck, oxtail, back fat, casings, etc. they'll have it. the problem is that it's a bit of a hike. But hey, I don't mind.

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  1. Well heres the first to suggest the Healthy Butcher, they're my go to butcher (Queen - original location). They do have a location over on Eglinton and Avenue (much bigger than the Queen location). If you give them a call before heading over to either location it'll save you a trip. They're pretty flexible if you order ahead of time and reasonable prices for organic meat. Keep in mind that all of their meat in the case are fresh from the farm and they only freeze if the particular product doesn't sell within 2 days.

    I couldn't say that they'll have all of the products you're looking for but worth a try to call them up and ask - they really knowlegable and friendly!

    1. how about Royal on the Danforth.

      1. You might want to try Grace Meats, at Grace and College, if that's closer for you. You'll definitely have to ask, but I've bought pork shoulder, chuck, and oxtail from them before at much more reasonable prices than what you're talking about.

        1. I usually hit one of the Charlie's Meats locations (found in some No Frills around the city). My local location is my staple for pork shoulders, loins, ground chicken and beef, chickens, wings, beef short ribs, beef back ribs, the occasional rib eye.... The Neilson Rd location has a selection of ox tail, tongue, cow foot, tripe as well as rabbit, lamb etc....

          1. In SLM, I like Upper Cut for this reason - they have whole sides of beef hanging in their big walk-in fridge, and don't mind wandering in there and hacking off what you want. It's staffed by butchers and they appreciate those with a knowledge of non-prime cuts. Last time I was there, the guy was cutting hangar steaks for me while lamenting that more people know about the cut, as it means sometimes there is none left for him to take home.

            I don't dig on swine so alas can't tell you how they are with pork.

            1. I suggest Globe Wholesale Meats, 65 Signet Drive. North York, ON M9L. For sure you will find what you want there with attentive service. It's "meat mall."

              I'm surprised that Globe has little or no play on this board. This is a huge processing operation open to the public: it scratches nearly every carnivore's itch.

              Being absent for 4 years, I can''t post an honest appraisal or description.

              Good luck, all, and happy New Year with affection.

              1. While I am sure T&T is on your list, I enjoy shopping at Soon Lee once a week for very fresh beef, pork and ducks. The meat cutting is Asian style, but they will try to accommodate my choice from a carcass. The fish counter is worth checking as it has a fast turnover. If the fish looks fresh, it probably is a good buy. Tanked fish are very sluggish compared to T&T.
                There are $1. bags of beef bones for stock with lots of meat and marrow, plus the usual Asian bags of chicken backs for stock.

                Soon Lee
                629 Markham Rd, Toronto, ON M1J, CA

                4 Replies
                1. re: jayt90

                  Sounds good...i might check them out for ducks.

                  As an aside, related some posts on the lobster/T&T special, I found out that they'll steam them for you.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    I find it hard to comprehend that in Greektown you're hard pressed to find one mom and pop neighbourhood butcher. Are they all destination designer butchers now? That would be depressing. As nice as the dd places are, you really have to know what you're doing to make succulent beauty out of the types of cuts you're looking for. I'd hate for that art to disappear.

                2. If you live near Blackstone, Jerry's can't be anymore of a hike than the trip to the Healthy Butcher. Even a drive to Royal Beef is less than 10 minutes. I'm not sure how it's
                  "a bit of a hike". Have you tried Louis meats on Pape? I sometimes buy beef marrow bones there which I use for this recipe: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/31/din...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: foodyDudey

                    Ah yes, Louis on Pape...I popped in a few months ago when I was nearby and it looked promising. Wasn't needing anything at the time, but I should give it a go.

                    Is Royal Beef good for off cuts?

                    When I say "bit of a hike", it's a subjective thing. I'd go to Jerry's every time, no problem. It's just I find the Danforth is so hectic for traffic on weekends. I'll check Louis, that could be the ticket.

                    1. re: grandgourmand

                      Louis' on Danforth near Arundel has good quality meat in stock, but there's no guarantee that someone who isn't (and who doesn't speak) Greek will be able to score any of the best stuff. I don't know what oddiments they stock these days. When I lived just up the street in the eighties, they would order you a whole animal. Around Greek Easter, they had lambs hanging in the window that freaked out "non ethnic" people.

                      I don't really know anything about the butcher on Pape.

                      Under original owner Paul, Royal Beef would order just about anything. I don't know whether current owner Gord still does that. I'd advise calling first. They were the first place in Toronto to feature tri tips and hanger steaks. Very little of their best stock is ever on display, and only Gord can really help you. On Saturday's, Carm's Deli (same store) has lovely warm ricotta and great fresh cannoli.

                  2. i love the healthy butcher, and the staff is very knowledgeable. if the person you ask doesn't know the answer, he or she will find someone who does. you always leave with an answer.

                    i don't look for the things you look for, but the healthy butcher DOES make their own sausages so they have access to casing for sure, so they might be a good place to go to for that. they also render their own lard, so i'm sure fat back or back fat or whatevs you're looking for can be found there.

                    i love them there. they're very friendly and they have excellent customer service. rarely have problems there, and when i do it's always fixed and i never leave angry or anything, which is much more than i can say for a lot of places i shop at. they are consistently good. i love them there.

                    i haven't been to their new, bigger location though i totally should next time i'm up at yonge and eglinton.