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Humane, sustainable charcuterie?

Hey all. I'm a Camberville resident who's been making a commitment to being mostly-vegetarian (flexitarian) and to avoiding the factory farm system for the meat I do eat. I've found some great local, humane, and sustainable sources for fresh meat--pork chops, stew beef etc. But I have an incredible weakness for charcuterie--salami, ham, you name it. It's the ultimate special treat for me. For now, I pretty much stick to getting imported stuff, since a lot of other countries have much better managed agriculture than America and since I don't eat it that often, I can afford it when I do. But does anyone know of any artisan-y places that sell locally produced stuff using humanely and sustainably farmed meat? T-accessible, preferably.

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  1. That was going to be part of what Akimenko Meats offered. Unfortunately that project has stalled.

    You might want to check out Coppa, some of their Salumi may fit the bill. Coppa is directly accessible off bus routes which conenct to the T and there are several T stations with an under 10 minute walk.

    253 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

    11 Replies
    1. re: Gabatta

      Do you know what's going on with the Akimenko project? I was a Kickstarter donor, but haven't heard a thing about what its status is. It's very disappointing.

      1. re: Boston_Otter

        Yes, very disappointing. While I said stalled, the project could very well be dead. All I know is that the paper is off the windows at the intended location. I heard through a friend who was also a Kickstart donor that they are rumored to be looking for alternate space in the area. I'm not sure why this would be, but hopefully it is the case. A butcher along the lines of Akimenko's stated intention would be great for the area if it ever comes to be.

        1. re: Gabatta

          So what happens to the kickstart money if it falls through. Seems kinda sleazy if it's not returned as that could be used as a way to scam people - "Oh, I'm totally going to do this ... give me money!" ... "Oops, I can't get it to worked, sorry!"

          1. re: jgg13

            I can't speak intelligently on the mechanics of Kickstarter, and the potential for misappropriation of funds. However from what I have heard the people involved with Akimenko have been honest, upfront and are honestly working to make their vision a reality.

            1. re: Gabatta

              Sorry, I didn't mean to imply in any way that the akimenko folks were trying to pull a fast one - I don't believe that one bit.

              Even w/o maliciousness involved, I would be somewhat miffed if I donated money to a kickstarter (which I came very close to doing here, other expenses popped up unexpectedly) and it didn't actually start.

              1. re: jgg13

                I'm pretty sure that funds are deducted from a donor's bank/credit card once the Kickstart goal has been reached, not before. You are making a pledge rather than an actual donation at first.

                1. re: LeoLioness

                  You're right on that part, but as an example I'm pretty sure Akimenko hit their kickstart goal so all of that would have been paid already. In this case it seems likely that they hit unexpected expenses/snags. Hey, it happens.

                2. re: jgg13

                  Given that there's been zero communication from Akimenko since their Kickstarter goal was hit (just one email saying "Thanks!") and my emails haven't been returned, I'm none too thrilled. Even a quick note saying "Hey folks, stuff's delayed, here's why" would be fine. Complete silence? Unacceptable.

                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                    That's what I was getting at. At the end of the day, you're basically an investor. I'd be pretty irritated if my money just went into a black box.

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      Yeah, that's pretty crappy. I have only funded band projects with fairly small, specific goals so while I can understand that a larger project could lose steam even with the goal being met, it's pretty shameful to just go silent on the whole thing.

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        I'm fairly certain I saw him waiting tables at a somerville restaurant last night, so he's definitely not living the high life on his kickstarter money :)

        2. Please don't fret so much. Just eat the animals and enjoy them. They will be honored.

          29 Replies
          1. re: pemma

            Or just thinly slice carrots and cucumbers and pretend...

            But to be more helpful, you might call Savenor's and see what they have. They sell a lot of meat that fits your criteria, and also make their own cured meats. I do not know if they make their cured meats from the meat the fits your criteria, but am sure they can tell you. I like the butchers there, they are nice guys.

            1. re: hckybg

              I some how managed to not even know about this place. Just went to their website and it looks very promising! They don't look like they have salami etc. but they have a lot of bacon and sausage, which I like to use in small amounts to flavor dishes but have had a hard time finding good sources for. Plus, I can't believe their selection of game, which is one of my favorite things for when I make a truly meat-centric meal once in a while. Definitely checking this place out. Thanks!

              1. re: Lady_Tenar

                They have a lot of charcuterie--salami, prosciutto, other cured sausages and meats. I'd say at any given time they have 10-15 different options in that category alone. They are all to the right of the butcher counter. Maybe they don't list those on the website. We had a housemade lamb prosciutto there once that was excellent.

                1. re: hckybg

                  The issue of the sustainability of Savenor's and their sourcing is... a least complex, at worst troubling. On the one hand, they are very eager to create the appearance of sourcing from small, local and sustainable suppliers, and some of their stuff does seem to fall into that category. On the other hand, I believe that the vast majority of what they are selling falls more into a premium/conventional category. That is, for example, USDA Prime steaks that are conventionally (industrially/feedlot) raised. I remember looking up their pork supplier, who one of their employees touted as a local, sustainable, pasture based operation, and finding the website of what seems to be a fairly large "natural" (a marketing term with little real meaning) producer. I was also particularly turned off when I called to see if I could purchase a fairly large quantity of local, pastured-raised chicken wings from them for the superbowl, and the gentleman I spoke to joked that "it's the superbowl, you're not supposed to eat healthy." Right. Ahem.

                  In terms of local, sustainable meat, I would look to Sherman Market in Somerville and City Feed in JP. City Feed in particular has a range of options, whereas Sherman is a bit more stringent in their criteria. In either case real pastured meat isn't cheap (and is usually frozen). But in both places, you'll find folks that can speak clearly, honestly and passionately about the meat that they're carrying. Let me also be clear - I think that SOME of the products at Savenor's meet a similar criteria, but you may have to dig quite a bit to undercover the information you seek. Certainly, many of their products aren't pristine, in this regard.

                  Now, most of that has to do with fresh meat. In terms of charcuterie, you're dealing with another layer of complexity. Dry-cured preparations are often being sourced from other suppliers - Fra Mani in CA or Sallumeria Biellese in NYC, for instance - and you're likely going to have to research their sourcing practices yourself. They may be better than those of the store where you buy them, or worse. I really haven't dug too deep on those, myself. The last note I will offer is that Formaggio does some of the best in-house charcuterie in the area, turning out very nice pates, rillettes, bacon, and the like. Again, I haven't quizzed them too much on their sourcing, but my gut says that it may be better than many other options, and I also suspect that they will be happy to answer questions on the subject, given my past dealings with them.

                  Whew. OK, there's my long-winded, somewhat rambling treatise on the subject. Good luck in being responsible omnivore, it's a challenge I know well.

                  Sherman Market
                  22 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143

                  1. re: celeriac

                    Thanks--long-winded is good. These are complex issues and sometimes there's no other way to deal with them.

                    "Natural" seems like a pretty complicated term. Sometimes it's nothing more than marketing. But sometimes it's also used by very local, small operations that just haven't been certified organic (which, itself can be a pretty meaningless term). This is true of a number of farms where I get some of my animal products from. I guess the only way to find out which sense of the word your dealing with is to do the research yourself.

                    I will definitely check out Formaggio's which I've never been to--I'm a frequent Dave's Fresh Pasta customer and some of there stuff fits my criteria but not all. I'll check out Sherman and City Feed too. Where exactly in JP is City Feed? I've never been there either. Is it easily T-accessible? Price isn't really an issue here. Again, I don't actually eat that much meat so when I do eat it, I don't mind spending the money to get something good-quality and ethically produced.

                    Dave's Fresh Pasta
                    81 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144

                    1. re: celeriac

                      As far as the large quantities for future reference there are wholesale purveyors which will both have more informed staff than counter or phone help at Savenors and are willing to work with educated hobbyists. (And Blood Farm is another good retail source who is willing to answer questions if you don't bother them during the Saturday rush.) Also I have had decent luck with restaurants helping out on a couple of occasions, placing an order from a supplier who doesn't sell directly to consumers -- I do have industry contacts, but complete strangers have offered to help with a project when asking about their suppliers.

                      In the case of your wings though, asking for a specific part makes it a bit more difficult. (Mayflower can offer you CT, no hormone chicken wings in quantity, but I believe organic is primarily whole chickens.) There is a reason why nose-to-tail eating is in vogue: its possible to be very specific in what you want for a whole animal, but even for a restaurant its hard to source specific parts to the same specifications (see the whole Cragie burger thread). If you can buy something like Mayflower's organic chicken and break it down yourself that is taking it to the next level (save the breasts, do wings + drumstick + thigh for BBQ and I often take a cut from the backs to make an extra-spicy treat for guests who aren't afraid of bones). Also the accessibility of training in French traditions and the manageability of breaking down a pig vs. sides of beef, has steered restaurants toward pork. But I think some credit should be given to folks working with beef -- whether its serving local grass fed beef (Cragie, Russell House Tavern),Doyle & Bailey NEFF beef (Firebox in Bedford, I think) or offering different cuts from natural/sustainablel but not grass finished like Brandt Beef (Cambridge Packing, Grill 23, Bokx 109, Taqueria la Mexicana) -- I like that Brandt offers a lot of variety meats and they are innovating with different cuts. The decision to go to local and/or heritage pork is a lot simpler than with beef beyond grass fed burgers (or even grinding certain offal for fillings -- beef hearts have been common for southern sausages). So while I don't know many local restauraunts straying too far yet but I think you have to respect when a restaurant makes an effort to develop a dish around variety cuts from a purveyor with certain standards and changing the sourcing of the beef for protein based cuts or trying different cuts (top sirloin cap, braised cheeks, etc) is a big jump.

                      Eating sustainably means more than just demanding that of suppliers. You have to be able to work with what is available and more creatively than simply picking up a recipe and reproducing it. This is especially more difficult at the restaurant level, where you not only have to source certain quantities, but deal with customer expectation many of whom like to think they are more knowlegeable and open minded than they actually are. But if you expect restaurant chefs to risk their livelihood on it, then hold yourself to a different standard than ordering a large quantity of a specific cut (I am not the biggest fan of Savenor's, but to be honest they have some reason in laughing with your inquiry.).

                      Grill 23 & Bar
                      161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116

                      Russell House Tavern
                      14 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

                      1. re: itaunas

                        Lady_Tenar: I absolutely hear you on the "natural" point, 100%. Many, many of the products that I buy aren't necessarily organic, and may not have any other useful marketing terms that can be applied to them, from a legal standpoint. Few marketing terms--even organic--get at what I'm looking for anyway. City Feed has two locations, but for grocery shopping you're better off at the larger Centre St location. It's a 5 minute walk from the Green St T stop. That said, I would urge you to call before you go. They don't carry a lot of meat, and much of their supply is (understandably) erratic. Sherman has been a lot more consistent and knowledgeable on meats, in my experience, and they are also happy to special order things if you ask. One other place that you may want to check out, although it requires either a car or a commuter rail trip, is Codman Community Farm in Lincoln. Their self-serve store is open year round, selling frozen pork, beef, lamb and goat. The supply is very erratic (owing to the slaughtering schedule).

                        itaunas: I absolutely hear you on the whole animal issue. I understand that wanting to buy 8 pounds of pasture raised chicken wings on a moments notice is inherently opposed to principles of sustainability. Still, even the most idealistic eaters have their weaknesses, and buffalo wings are mine. Nonetheless I was able to get a large quantity of wings from Misty Knoll via Sherman, and although I have little personal knowledge I understand that they're a pretty reputable operation. Savenor's could certainly order them if they wanted.

                        1. re: celeriac

                          lol! Yes, Buffalo wings are a major downfall for me! I actually grew up in Buffalo and know all the good wing joints (and I've never had good wings outside of Buffalo unless they're homemade) so when I go to visit my folks who are still there, my commitments to sustainability tend to fly right out the window. Oh well, I guess nobody's perfect. :-P Thank God I live in a different state and can only visit a couple times a year for a short time.

                          1. re: celeriac

                            Sherman Market receives their meats on Thursday, and tweets what comes in, as it comes in. What has not been sold by Friday afternoon [I think] is then frozen.

                            It is all local and they will happily talk about where it came from. In fact, talk as much as you want. Very friendly people.


                            Sherman Market
                            22 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143

                        2. re: celeriac

                          We've moved philosophical discussions on humane meat to the Not About Food board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/767974

                          Please continue that aspect of the discussion there. Thanks for helping us keep this board focused on finding delicious chow in the Boston Area.

                      2. re: Lady_Tenar

                        The selection of game (especially the Beacon Hill location) is like nothing I've ever seen: snake, ostrich, rabbit, bison, lion, kangaroo, yak, boar... The wild boar bacon is pretty outstanding, and so is their house-made chicken liver pate.

                          1. re: Lady_Tenar

                            I always wondered that myself. It's definitely a little sketchy.

                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                              It's mountain lion. I do love a nice cougar now and then.

                              1. re: ac106

                                Those are still a threatened species and apex predator besides. I don't feel particularly comfortable with hunting them...

                                1. re: ac106

                                  Are you sure about that? It seems like there's a pretty big difference between "lion" and "mountain lion", and I've only ever seen them say "lion". IMO, if that's what they're doing, this is being *very* deceptive. It'd be like me telling someone that their pet was a 'wolf' when instead it was an irish wolfhound.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    I don't think it is mountain lion. In my conversation with the butcher about it, he definitely said it was lion. This discussion has come up several times; my understanding was that the animals were not hunted and killed but perhaps came from some sort of preserve. I didn't really understand the explanation and would suggest that the next person who goes in there just asks again.

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      I am sure only from seeing mountain lion at Savenors. I go pretty often and always check put the game however I am sure I'm wrong if others attest to seeing actual lion.

                                      1. re: ac106

                                        What I saw was labeled "Lion". The butcher nodded and said "Yep, it's lion!" when I pointed at it, surprised.

                                    2. re: ac106

                                      [Ugh, never mind, the reply-to function is breaking for me again and thus this reply is not funny as intended.]

                                      1. re: djd

                                        Let me guess, you are a cougar fan also? :)

                                        1. re: ac106

                                          Cougar is an acquired taste, piquant, but very flavorful.

                                  2. re: Lady_Tenar

                                    It's perfectly legal albeit FAR from delicious. I've had it and it tasted like poorly aged beef. Some people sure enjoy it though.


                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      I've had some of their weirder meats - quite fond of alligator. IIRC most/all of these critters are farmed, not wild; those lions come from a farm in the midwest, not the savanna.

                                2. re: pemma

                                  I'm not fretting. I thoroughly enjoy the animals that I eat. I just don't think that either they or the environment are particularly honored by industrial feedlots. If you don't have these concerns, I don't see why you're on this thread.

                                  1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                    There's Salumni out of Seattle - you could mail order things from them.. and the Smithfield ham's you can buy online are usually done by pretty small outfits..

                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                      Do you mean Smithfield-style hams, or Smithfield brand hams? Because the latter definitely don't fit the original poster's criteria. This isn't the place to get into it, but Smithfield is not a company that worries too much about its consequences.

                                3. My meat CSA, Chestnut Farms, treats its animals very humanely and sometime has (frozen) fresh sausage, bacon, and ham. They sell at a few farmers markets in warm weather months, including Arlington, which is easily reached via the T. I have also purchased similar items from Pete and Jen's in Concord. They have been on vacation this winter, but should be back in operation within a week or so.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                    Pete and Jen's? Is this the market near Chang An and does it have another name? Thx.

                                    Chang An Restaurant
                                    10 Concord Crossing, Concord, MA 07742

                                    1. re: three of us

                                      Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds. Their "mini-store" is near Verril Farm. http://peteandjensbackyardbirds.com/d...

                                      Backyard Birds
                                      159 Wheeler Rd, Concord, MA 01742

                                  2. It's not local, but I believe the meat used by Boccalone in the Bay Area is sustainably raised. They do mail order and the one time I tried their stuff (it was a fennel-orange salami), it was delicious.

                                    I also belong to the Chestnut Farms CSA and while they do offer sausage, bacon and sometimes ham, I suspect it's not the type of artisanal charcuterie you're seeking out. My best advice, actually, would be to use meat from a CSA or similar source and then learn to make your own charcuterie. That way you'll really know what you're getting -- and it could be fun.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: stomachofsteel

                                      I do do a CSA in the winter time when the farmer's markets aren't open. And the farm where I get my meat from does have bacon but, honestly, it's not the best bacon. Maybe I should change farms. I am interested in finding more artisanal charcuterie but I'd also love it if I could find a better source for good old humble bacon--I do like to use little bits as a base for soups and bean dishes etc.

                                      Do you know how to make your own charcuterie? Do you know if it's difficult or expensive? I don't mind a challenge but I don't have unlimited funds or unlimited space, to say the least.

                                      1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                        Here's a good place to start reading: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

                                        It's not too "hard," but it's helpful to have some sort of temperature and humidity control. And if you want smoked bacon, you obviously need a smoker of some sort.

                                        1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                          I've never tried it, but I've thought a lot about it, for all the reasons you've given. I'm lucky to be married to a former chef with a culinary degree and a love of all things cured, so perhaps it seems less daunting to me than it would be otherwise. I think "hard" depends on what you're making -- there are probably some things you could make fairly easily and some that you would likely never have the resources to tackle. That said, if I were to get serious about it, I'd probably start by checking out Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie. The Minuteman Library Network, which serves most of metro Boston (except Boston), has several copies.

                                          1. re: stomachofsteel

                                            I think the best approach is to start with simpler things - hot smoking fish, making bacon or pancetta, or just making your own sausage. Long term curing - like making braesola - requires some upfront investment in a temp/humidity controlled box to age and some risk - aging versus rotting aren't that far apart.

                                      2. This is a good question, as I love the Wine & Cheese Cask's sopressata but always wonder about the sourcing. It might be worth a direct email to Akimenko; also to the Happy Pig Salumi guy.

                                        1. I've been thinking a discussion with the folks at Formaggio would be in order. They know a LOT about salumi, and could steer you towards those which are sourced from more sustainable purveyors. I know they carry product from Salumi (Batalli's dad's place in Seattle) and they might be able to tell you if they are humanely raised. I can tell you they are very good, especially the finochionna, a fennel sausage with curry.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            I was too lazy to chime in, but Formaggio, of course!

                                            Humane cold cuts. "Before I slit their throats I give me wittle cowie wowie a kissie wissie."

                                            I'm a little less particular. If it tastes good, I'll eat it.

                                          2. A good number of places sell Niman Ranch charcuterie--Russo's has the salami & I want to say sopressata? Whole Food does, too, I think.

                                            1. Not local, but Fra'mani Salumi out of California does traditional, Italian style, salumi, sausages and hams that are made from pastured pork from several different consortiums of small family farms, including Nieman ranch...(You all do know that Nieman ranch is more than one ranch, right?)

                                              In Iowa, La Quercia does all kinds of traditional Italian and European style salumi from responsibly raised hogs from family farms....

                                              They're both available around Boston, even at some Whole Foods and Roche bros., maybe Savenor's or the other usual suspects, but different outlets may have different selections. I know the Dedham Whole Foods carries a lot of them. They're pretty amazing, (coming from a pescatarian)...

                                              1. Misty Brook farm in Hardwick has fantastic certified organic meat (pork, beef, chickens) and raises all their animals on pasture. They have bacon and kielbasa in the farm shop sometimes. Getting cured products from locally produced meat is definitely a missing link in the chain. From the producer's perspective, the slaughterhouses will do simple things, like breakfast sausage, but not much more. Also, Vermont Smoke & Cure produces some good cured products from locally(Vermont) raised meat. I'm under the impression that they have a pretty high standard in terms of humane treatment. They sell in several Boston-area markets.

                                                1. Hey all,

                                                  New to this board, but just a heads up...went looking for Sherman Market this afternoon, and it's definitely not where the map shows it to be. Rather than on North Union St in an industrial wasteland off I-93, it's in the much more friendly confines of Union Square.

                                                  Sherman Market
                                                  22 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: drrob

                                                    Wow. That map isn't even close! Sherman market is at 22 Union Square, which has nothing to do with North Union Street. Anyone know how we can fix this?

                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                      Problem 1: Fix the zip code--it should be 02143, not 02145.

                                                      Problem 2: Google doesn't really think 22 Union Sq exists. It only knows about 21 Union Sq. It doesn't really believe any other number exists...

                                                  2. Keep an eye on Pete Coleman at Vermont Salumi. Boys got game and is going to do some great things.