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Sep 3, 2009 01:42 AM

Whole Foods butcher counter in Oakland, and why are they so confused?

I feel like I'm setting myself up on this one. I know Whole Foods can't possibly compete, in terms of expertise in specific topics, but what is the deal with the butcher counter?

Part of me expects some competence at a store where I have to specifically ask for what I want from a case, and then pay several hours wages for it.

I read in a magazine a few months ago about rendering fat to make lard - which I wanted for my pie crusts. So I went to the Whole Foods Oakland, which I live very close to and shop at regularly. The guy knew what I wanted - back fat, but refused to sell me any and told me that they throw it all in the garbage, and that was the policy. How Weird, I thought. I wanted to actually pay for it.

I wanted some oxtail last week, no go.

Finally, this evening, I asked if they could actually just special order me a pork belly. The guy seemed almost shocked by the question, and said they can't get "that stuff".

Can someone possibly a butcher for me to go to in Oakland? And really, what is the deal with Whole Foods.

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  1. Check with Ver Brugge, on College near Alcatraz.

    1. I'm a long way from Oakland, but out there in Cali-for-nye-eh surely they have Asian supermarkets. Take thee and get thee to a nice big Asian supermarket and you will find tons of what you are looking for, in many varieties, right there in the self-serve meat case. Cheap too. You might start rethinking your misguided devotion to whole paycheck.

      1. What are you looking for? If you're just looking for the cuts, then an Asian or Mexican market is your best bet. If you're looking for those cuts from a natural/sustainable producer, then you should check out Baron's Meats in Alameda. Verbrugge is good, but most of their stuff is conventionally raised.

        I'm not a fan of Whole Foods, but the attitude you describe is surprising. Surely the fact that pork belly has been increasingly trendy for several years now hasn't escaped them.

        1. I have a possible explanation for the lard thing. I once had a lot of trouble obtaining beef fat for rendering. Several butchers at Chinese markets, Andronico's and Mollie Stones refused to sell it to me. The guy at Andronico's explained it to me: apparently there is a regulation that says that they cannot sell meat products that have touched meat products of another species. Usually, when they trim meats all the fat goes into the same waste bucket, so in that bucket, there is pork fat, lamb fat, chicken fat, etc. Therefore, it is contaminated and can't be sold or given away. We solved the problem by talking one of the other butchers at Andronico's into hauling out a beef roast, trimming it, and giving me the suet.

          1. WF is not a butcher. It's a corporate grocery store with a meat department. If you want special orders you need to go to a real butcher.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PeterL

              I can not agree more. I once worked at a whole foods and I can tell you that there is no "real" Butchering going on. Coming from a restaurant background we did much more butchering than any corporate store does.