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Butchers dont Butcher?

So I watch the food channel a lot and I alwasy hear from all the chefs and cooks to "just ask your buther to do ......" Or talk to your fishmonger. Well, I dont have a fishmonger, I dont even know where to find one but everyone has a butcher in a local market. But here is the thing, I cant so much as get them to grind up a chuck roast let alone trime a piece of meat. I get excuses like 'our machines broken or, we are not allowed to do that, or its all done before it gets here. Basicly, these guys will only wrap up the meat and thats it.

Is it just my crapy neighborood? We are talking Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons all giving similar excuses. Now before you say, try going to a real butcher shop, I tried that. I went to two different ones and the meat looks so green and scarry I ran back to the big markets. That's really a dying industry from appearances.

Anyone else experiencing lack of butchers who will do more then wrap and smile?

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  1. I live in small town Maine. I don't know about at the local grocery store, but we have a true butcher shop where I can get any kind of special order.

    1. No one cuts from the whole carcass anymore, but there are still plenty of experienced butchers out there that know what they're doing with the sub primals that are available now. You might even find one or two at a supermarket, but that would be the last place I'd try. On the other hand we have lots of top notch butcher shops to choose from here in NY, while my sister in San Diego would kill for just one. She goes to the Spanish shops to get her meats, that's as good as it gets.

      14 Replies
      1. re: coll

        Intresting, I am also in the West Coast near Los Angeles. I would kill for a good butcher shop, they did exist here when I was a kid, but it feels like the big super markes put most of them out of business. The mexican markets here do seem to have inexpensive meat prices and fewer packed stuff but then I have to deal with a sometimes thick language barrier including lables on the meat counter.

        1. re: kjonyou

          Well at least your produce kicks ass!

          1. re: coll

            "produce kicks ass!"

            Now that's true. I'd probably give up meat if I lived out there. Btw, coll, I hope you're doing ok and that your husband is better.

            Anyway, we do have a number of true butcher shops in NYC, plus some of our smaller supermarket chains will break down sub primals, remove the fat cap from a pork loin, bone out a leg of lamb, trim a tenderloin, break down a chicken, grind whatever for you; some of these things should really be stuff you do at home; large markets seemingly can't be bothered to do individual custom orders any more. So chalk it up to crappy neighborhoods or large chains, the dying art of the family butcher, and high meat prices driving consumers to purchase pre-cut packaged meats instead of special order. Sad.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Another southern Californian here (San Diego county) who can't find a real butcher. I've gotten either blank looks or outright refusals at the chain market meat counters when asking for something re-ground fine or deboning.

              1. re: pine time

                That sucks. Sounds like a Southern CA issue. I've always had access to a butcher/supermarket willing to do so in the Northeast. A few of our high end NY/CT/NJ markets, Stew Leonard's and Fairway, will custom cut whatever and my local big market breaks down beef tops and bottoms, pork sides, whole goat, however you want.

                ferret's thought about cozying up to the butcher is truly a good idea, especially if large chain markets are all you have available. I guess this might be a case for developing your butchering skills. You might even be able to turn it into a lucrative hobby. I once got two brand new snow tires for breaking down a goat (I didn't have to butcher the goat, that was a stipulation).

                1. re: pine time

                  I grew up in the Inland Empire and lived for five years in Santa Barbara. Butchers exist, but not at the major grocery store chains. Get thee to a good carnicería and you shouldn't have a problem. You may have to learn the name of the cut in Spanish, though.

                  1. re: caseyjo

                    Hey I grew up in Goleta where there was a small butcher shop around the corner from the big chains. But here in LA that seems to be a lost art.

                    Unfortunately, I don't speak any Spanish. So the Carniceria option is out. I tried once going to a more main stream store called Top Value which unofficially caters to a Hispanic crowd but basically all the help behind the meat counter understood was what I pointed to, not bilingual at all.

                    Some of the lables were in english but not clear, Like "Posole Meat" or Beef Fajita, not the cut name like flank or skirt. If I was a expert I could tell but I am not.

                    1. re: kjonyou

                      That's very odd, kjonyou. My high-school Spanish is over fifty years behind me, and it never really took, but I have no trouble buying stuff from the butchers in the Latino markets in and around Pasadena. If I were going to ask for something 'way out of the ordinary I might want to look it up on a meat chart and/or see if I could find the Spanish name. It's the Asian markets that can intimidate me! At least I can sort of read Spanish …

                      In the Los Angeles area there are plenty of good cutting butchers IF you can pay the freight. The Bristol Farms and Gelson's markets all have real butchers on the premises, and both Maraconda and Huntington Meats in the Farmer's Market are very good too. Just over the past few years several smaller shops have opened around town, though I don't have their names or addresses handy. My late FIL got all his meat from How's, on Huntington Drive in San Marino; there used to be one in Hollywood, too, but I heard it had closed.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        I live down in the south bay, so Pasadena or Hollywood is quite a trek for a piece of meat. We do have a Bristol Farms near by, but as I am sure you know they are really a high end specialty market. All of their meat is great, some even prime but their prices are almost double anywhere else. Not knocking them, get what you pay for, but my food budget can only go there for special occasions.

                2. re: bushwickgirl

                  Thanks, my husband is coming along slowly, and starting to eat a bit more, including some old favorites. Which is as important to me as anything else. Who woulda thought? He pigged out on the braised brisket sandwiches I made this weekend, so add that to the list!

                  It would be easy to be a year round vegetarian in southern California, I almost become one every summer out here. Especially now with the tomatoes of every size and color!

                  1. re: coll

                    I was a vegetarian here (southern CA) for 20 years. Easy at home, but still not a breeze in restaurants--better now than when I was veg, but still limited options on the menu.

            2. re: coll

              The butcher shop where I buy all my meat does cut from the carcasses which have been hung in a cool locker room. I can see the butchers working on the 21-28 day aged half carcasses. Visit Cowichan Valley Meat Market in Duncan BC. You can see dozens of half carcasses behind a huge glass window. I'm sure there must be other butcher shops like this one somewhere.

              1. re: coll

                >>> No one cuts from the whole carcass anymore, <<<

                Not true in my experience . . .

                When I lived in LA (admittedly a long time ago now,but since that is where the OP is located), I had a regular butcher I used to buy from, and they got the whole carcass. Now that I live in the SF Bay Area, there are *still* (today) butchers who cut from the whole carcass -- and some restaurants, too, for that matter. And I have no problem having butchers trim cuts, or cut something different for me at (at least) two of my local grocery stores/supermarkets.

                Obviously, this is a case where "YMMV" is the rule.

                1. re: zin1953

                  A good restaurant that serves steaks/beef (now-a-days) pretty well has to cut from from the carcass.... since getting aged beef from elsewhere is problematic these days (not aged long enough or too high in cost).

              2. You sometimes have to cozy up to your butcher. My wife has befriended two of the butchers at our local chain grocer (to the point of bringing them in some ribs we smoked after she talked them up). They are now very accommodating.

                1. Supermarket butchers rarely do anything these days, in my area.

                  The idea that everyone has access to a helpful butcher and fishmonger is a little absurd.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: tommy

                    The butchers/meat cutters @ the Paramus ShopRite will custom cut any item they have in inventory if you request it, items on sale or not. In the past, I have asked for, and received....

                    * 2-3 inch cut steaks...Rib Eyes and Porterhouse when on sale

                    * Full slabs or smaller sections of Pork Belly, including the ribs or without

                    * Boston Butts which they normally do not put in the case

                    * Whole Fresh Ham

                    * Suckling Pigs

                    * 3-4 inch thick Chuck Roasts

                    I've seen others request meats ground to order, Whole Tenderloins custom cut, although the silverskin was not removed...and Rib Roasts custom cut for size or desired end, sliced off the bones and retied.

                    The same two gentlemen always refuse gratuities, but i just place it inside the door of the meat cutting room and tell them to have their coffee break on me

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Sounds like a great place. Do they have prime and dry-aged beef?

                      1. re: tommy

                        Supermarket butchers rarely do anything these days, in my area.


                      2. re: fourunder

                        The butchers at my local ShopRite have also cut whole beef tenderloins and sliced rib roasts off the bone and retied them for me. I haven't asked them for anything else, though.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Re near Paramus Shoprite - You would be very close to the Swiss Pork Store in Fair Lawn, you get any cut you want. Also the best cold cuts, breads and a lot of other goodies.

                          1. re: RUK

                            I'm a Kocher's and Piast guy.....though I admit, I should visit the Swiss Pork Store

                      3. My local grocer (Harris Teeter in NC) has a combined meat and fish counter, and the men working behind the counter have always happily cut/ground/repackage things for me. Usually I'm only asking them to cut fish filets down to 4-6 ounce pieces, but they have also offered to repackage large packs of meat for freezing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mpjmph

                          Not all butchers in the chain supermarkets are equal. I have two Publix supermarkets in town with knowledgeable accomadating butchers. Splitting packages, crown roasts, special orders have never been a problem. But I had to search them out.

                          Try getting anything like that at Wally World.

                        2. Our local chain grocery store seems happy to break down any large packages for me. We bought assorted large cuts of pork in a huge family pack for $0.99/lb, the pack was about $24! They were happy to cut the large pieces into smaller portions for us and even freezer wrapped all the individual cuts for us! Saved us a good bit of money.

                          At Costco and Sam's Club though, they won't touch the meat after it has been wrapped.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rick

                            My costco does! These guys will do almost anything to assist. They are all butchers that were laid off from the standard supermarkets.

                          2. My experience from across the pond - in London the popularity of sustainable, higher-welfare raised meat and fish has been on the rise for several years. In my neighbourhood I have 2 professional butchers, where the staff know everything about meat and will cut and trim to order (as well as order anything in). I also have a large range of Turkish grocers with halal meat counters - they will also do their best to cut and trim meat to my requirements and can cut from the whole animal as well.
                            In the chain supermarkets that are within walking distance there is no butcher counter, just a selection of pre-wrapped meat, usually in portions too large (cooking for one with very limited freezer space) or too small (i.e. a pre-boned, half-leg of lamb when I want to do Sunday lunch for 8) and look quite sad.

                            However, when I'm willing to get on a bus with groceries, I can go to some larger supermarkets and have found the butchers to be very accomodating, finding me smaller pieces of steak, cutting to order etc. I have had an ongoing (mild!) flirtation with one of the butchers ever since I asked if I could buy some pork skin to make scratchings. I got it for free and I've never felt that the time was right to tell him that I don't eat them myself.

                            1. First and foremost, a conusmer should NOT assume that a person wearing a white coat working in a supermarket meat department is a butcher. In most cases they are not butchers. A butcher has full training and skills in portioning the animal.

                              Most of the white coated employees are simply meat cutters or packagers. A few may know how to grind meat, but many supermarkets get their meat in already ground from a central supply location and the employees merely package it in smaller amounts. Many of these white coated employees don't know the difference between cuts, and could not tell you what cut of meat was used for the ground beef, only the fat content.

                              In our area, the chain supermarkets occasionally have older (60+) white coated employees who were independent butchers in a past life and they are invaluable. But, I find that the independent supermarkets do have a butcher on staff who can accomadate my needs. There is no independent butcher shop in my town, but there are a dozen within a 30 minute drive.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bagelman01

                                Yes indeed. I tried to get some boneless chicken breasts with skin once, and realized that the only way to do that was to buy breast with bones and bone them. However, I was feeling lazy and decided to ask a man in a white coat to do for me. He was clueless how to do it, but was rescued by someone from the back room who did it in a flash.

                              2. They live in a fantasy world on the Food Channel- your produce probably isn't all perfectly round, either. I have a couple of places I can go and find real butchers, but the majority of the stuff you see in supermarkets etc. is butchered in factories far away.

                                1. This is my experience as well, at least here on the left coast -- there are no real butchers in Supermarkets.

                                  I generally grind my own beef -- I buy Chuck Roasts when they are on sale so I know exactly what's going into it. But recently they had them on sale at my local Safeway (the WA/NorCal version of Vons, which is SoCal -- same company) and it's kind of a PITA to grind at home, so I asked the pimply kid behind the counter if they could grind a few of them up for me, and if so, I had two key questions: Could they do a coarse Chili grind like I can do at home, and would I get all I paid for without leaving a bunch of the meat behind in the grinder? He looked stunned and said he'd have to check.

                                  After a few minutes he returns and says, no problem. So I hand over four beautiful four-pound boneless Chuck Roasts. A while later they come back. Fine grind like hamburger. He says the guy on the back says that's all they can do. I sigh and take them anyway. I pay and get them home and weigh them. All are short by a minimum of 10%.

                                  I take them back to the store and they refund me the difference. Never again.

                                  Now I rarely buy anything except whole subprimals in the cryo from Costco, which I break down myself and freeze if necessary. Better quality, fresher, much cheaper.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: acgold7

                                    that old school North Beach place (Stockton and Vallejo-ish?) is gone isn't it?

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Little City Market? Still there. There are a number of full-service, dedicated butcher shops, both old and new, in San Francisco and the East Bay.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        still there? glad to hear it!. I always imagined it was the basis for the butcher shop in "So I Married an Ax Murderer"

                                  2. No, none of the places you are talking about have anything close to a butcher. The package cut up meat at best. Butchering is skilled work and all of the inferior grocery chains don't want to pay skilled labor.

                                    A butcher has either whole animals or quarters, cuts them meat into retail cuts, grinds its own meat, etc. and can do anything.

                                    In Los Angeles, I have four or five good butcher shops (including two who handle whole carcasses( and several of the supermarkets have skilled butchers as well. Several of them carry better quality conventional meat (choice and prime, some dry aged), one wholesale shop takes public orders with a day in advance, and two seek pastured animals with higher standards of welfare. Two of the higher end chains routinely feature dry-aged prime and organic meats.

                                    1. I'm sure in San Antonio there are some mexican butchers around, and out by me, there's Penshorn's in Marion and Granzine's in New Braunfels, and they cut and grind their own.I haven't bought any meat from them, but i heard they cut whole carcasses.H>E.B. and H.E.B.Central Market have meat counters,and I assume will cut up meat and filet fish for you.Since there's just myself, I just buy the packaged meats. By the way for some of you that mentioned having problems getting the supermarket guys to cut stuff up,etc. well my grandfather used to call them bandsaw butchers according to my late father.Grandpa was a butcher in Milwaukee.He could not only kill and gut the cow,pig,etc. but cut it up too.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: HollyDolly

                                        I live in Western Mass and we have a great butcher shop called North Elm Butcher Block and they still to this day will give u what u want when ordering. If you are not sure what cut of meat you want you just tell them what you plan on doing with it ie. Grilling,pan frying, marinating,roasting you get the idea, anyways they will give you there recommendations and butcher it for you

                                        1. re: HollyDolly

                                          I just realized (duh!), if you live close to where the meat is grown, they don't have to portion it up before it gets to the butcher. The big meat packers are only around because the cost of shipping to the coasts just goes up and up, plus not so much call for headcheese, intestines, bones, hooves etc as there used to be, so wasted money to send it all. Now all that good stuff goes to the dog food factory, people seem to be more willing to pay top dollar for their pets than themselves. Glad I can remember the whole carcass hanging right there when you walked in, seems like ancient history now.

                                        2. "That's really a dying industry from appearances."

                                          Let's face it. It is not a dying industry, but a booming one. More Americans eat meat than 30 years ago. Someone got to have butchered the animals. However, you are correct that the "butchers" from supermarkets are not the butchers in the strict sense. Most supermarket butchers received cut meat. They don't really butch a whole animal. In other words, other real butchers butchered the meat for your supermarket guys. I find that ethnic supermarket do more in general. In other words, your average meat department from Albertson do less than your average meat department from Asian supermarkets.

                                          "Anyone else experiencing lack of butchers who will do more then wrap and smile?"

                                          Well, real butchers probably are not very good with wrap and smile. :) The meat department guys in supermarket are really presenter. They are trained to trim, clean, package the meat in a very presentable fashion.

                                          What did you try to ask the meat department do for you?

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Uh, I ask them to do a coarse grind or chili grind...this was fallowed by a blank expression and an excuse that the machine was broken. When I inquired if it would be fixed the next day, they said it could be months.

                                            On another ocasion, I handed them a chuck roast on sale I wanted to use for some good burgers. They pointed me to the ground beef in the meat section. I then tried to explain ground beef is anything trimmed of the cow and what I wanted was a specific cut so I would know where it came from. They again just tried to stear me to the ground beef and said ground beef is over there. ARRRRG!

                                            1. re: kjonyou

                                              "I ask them to do a coarse grind or chili grind"

                                              I am slightly surprised, but not too surprised. I am surprised because what you asked for is not technically difficult. Yet, I find that many supermarkets no longer offer simple requests like what you described. It is possible that they simple don't find it profitable to do so. The cleaning and washing and everything.

                                              I remember when I was young. My mom would point to a specific meat piece for the butchers to grind and every other customers did the same. In fact, you had to ask for ground meat, as there wasn't pre-ground meat. The situation was almost the opposite. If I remember correctly, they would often discard a little bit of the beginning product. Say, the previous person asked for ground pork and you asked for ground beef. There would have been ground pork inside the machine, so the very beginning of your ground beef is really a mixture, and it will be discarded upon request.

                                              I think there is pros and cons of the two models. In the older model, you could really customize many requests, like specific meat cut and coarse vs fine grinding. In today's model, it is more efficient with prepacked ground meat, and you really get more pure ground meat. It is my understanding that they would ground a bunch of beef and then clean the machine, then ground a bunch of pork and then clean the machine, then ground a bunch of chicken...etc. In other words, when you buy ground beef in today supermarkets, there wouldn't be any chicken or pork, whereas the customized grinding will almost always have traces of the previous grind, as they aren't going to clean the grinder between every single customers. Now some places might have separate meat grinder for different meat, but that was rare in my memory.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                I dont see the PRO in that at all except for hygine. Really the only PRO isfor the market to have a production line of food to make more money with less effort. For the consumer who want to even pay extra the option is taken off the table. And I dont even have the option of buying Ground Chuck, its all labled ground beef. Or maybe ground sirloin if I want to pay 4 times the price.

                                                1. re: kjonyou

                                                  Yeah, I think at this stage, it is probably easier to buy a meat grinder on your own.

                                                  "I dont see the PRO in that at all except for hygine"

                                                  Well, hygine is very important. Also, many people simply do not want other meats to mix with their meats, and you know it takes efforts to clean the meat grinder, so they cannot clean it after every consumers.

                                          2. OP: I'm guessing by the markets you cite you're in LA and a friend was wondering recently "why is xxx SO hard to find?" you would think in a city the size of LA it would be stupid easy.

                                            1. I have pretty good luck at the local markets. I can get fish or squid scaled and gutted, pork cut into the size of slice or cube I want, or ground to the fat level I want, and chickens cut up or deboned as I need them. And I can choose my chicken if I want to wait while it's killed and gutted. The grocery stores are pretty much all foam packaged, no request, though, and that's the only place I can get beef or lamb.

                                              1. In the Pasadena area, we have How's, Howie's, and Bristol Farms; in the 3rd and Fairfax Farmer's Market there's Marconda and Huntington. All of these places have real butchers. While I don't know about the meat-cutting skills of the guys at Whole Foods, they are willing to do anything they know how to do, and are willing to arrange special orders. I bought two big (about 9") pieces of pork shank a few weeks ago and the guy asked if I wanted them cut like osso bucco; as it turned out I didn't, but I was impressed that he asked.

                                                About 40 years ago, living in Palo Alto, I saw a recipe for veal cordon bleu that said to "tell your butcher" to pound the veal cutlets flat. I went to the fanciest meat shop in town, and while the guy did do it he was clearly furious about it. Though the dish was lovely it was a long time before I "asked my butcher" ANYTHING beyond "May I have those two on the left, please?"

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  But 40 years ago (were you a student in PA?) you might not have been clever enough to give the guy a little "consideration" for his trouble. Had you done so, you probably would have been amazed in the future how willing he would have been to do those things for you. Amazing what a long way that sort of thing goes.

                                                  1. re: johnb

                                                    No, I was just a working stiff, a Silicon Valley drawing board slave … but when this guy heard what I wanted him to do (he was Italian, and notoriously short-tempered as I learned) he grabbed the cutlets off the scale, slammed them down on the work table, and took the flat side of his cleaver to it as though that were me under there. Then he wrapped them and threw the package at me, snarling. Tip? Ummm, no. I'd just spent all my money anyway.

                                                2. I've had two opposite experiences recently with butchers...
                                                  I was making some beef jerky and while I usually do my own slicing, this time I asked the "butcher" behind the counter if he'd slice it for me. He rolled his eyes and sighed even before I could get out "you can partially freeze it and I can come back if you'd like" (for easier slicing). Instead I just told him I'd take it and do it myself. God forbid I ask a butcher to actually cut meat. I wanted to roll those eyes right out of his head...
                                                  I made my 1st trip to a local shop here in Phx (The Meat Shop, S of downtown Phx - highly recommend it!) and asked "How thick are the pork loin chops?"
                                                  His response?
                                                  "How thick would you like them?"

                                                  Then the owner came out and I chatted with him a bit - I have family in the meat biz in the midwest, so I always like to "talk meat"

                                                  "Where do you source your pork?
                                                  "From my farm, all the pork I sell, I raise"



                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ArizonaDave

                                                    I think that most of thoses men and women behind the counter are not butchers, there low paid workers in white coats. On of the stores I go to has a women there that hardly speaks any english. When a younger kid came out to help I told him she didnt seem to undersand what I was asking for. His response was....."I have the same problem."

                                                    When I talked to the manager of the store her response was "Oh, she is only hired there to help people behind the counter during the off hours. come back tomorrow" So basicly what they said is we hired someone so incompetent with no skills that even our own staff cant communicate with but that's ok because she will work for minimum wage.

                                                    Thank's VONS!

                                                  2. You are shopping in the wrong places for your meat, namely, the supermarket, for a variety of reasons. You're not only not going to find a real butcher there, but you're eating meat you likely wouldn't want to if you knew what it was treated and/or injected with. Ammonia, etc.

                                                    To find a shop that has butchers, you need to be buying real meat products. try the eatwild.com site to find good sources for your meat, and they will lead you to the stores where their products are available, or to discussions as to where to find a butcher.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      Thanks for the suggestion of eatwild - very helpful resource!

                                                    2. For those who want their meat ground freshly, a meat grinder might be the answer. Select the cutter head or plate that matches your desired grind and have at it. You regulate what goes into the end product and the cleanliness as well. If you don't want to go the Armstrong route youcan get a grinder attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer. Or you can use a food processor.

                                                      Doesn't solve the problem of scarcity of real butchers but mitagates it somewhat.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Akitist

                                                        I would have to say I haven't had much luck with grinding meat in a food processor. I have a good-sized Kitchenaid, so I don't view that as the issue. The problem seems to be that tough sinews and so on just get caught in the blade and go around, and never get cut up into small pieces. So when you eat the resulting ground meat you end up with teeth full of this stuff. Has anyone else experienced this problem?

                                                        1. re: johnb

                                                          Yes. My Cuisinart is great for chopping cooked meat but not so good for grinding the raw. The KitchenAid Mixer Food Grinder attachment does a great job, though.

                                                          1. re: johnb

                                                            Depending on the cut and trimming, sinew won't be an issue.

                                                        2. After the last strike, I noticed that all of the major chains by me switched from butchers to someone in a white coat that is NOT a butcher, because they don't want to pay a decent salary.
                                                          That being said, it you have a Gelson's or Bristol Farms by you, the are very accomodating and have real butchers that will grind, remove silver skin, etc.
                                                          It may be a little more money, but I'd rather have a simple pasta with veg supper than a USDA Select steak that tastes like an old flip-flop.

                                                          1. The people who work in the meat department at Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, etc are not butchers. They are meat department employees who receive the meat from a warehouse and repackage it, just like the employees who work in the bakery don't mix and knead their own bread dough -- they receive premade dough from the corporate warehouse and bake it.

                                                            If you tell us what city you're in, maybe someone can recommend a butcher shop. I have a butcher I've been using for several years in my area and he's great. I pay more than I would in a supermarket, but the meat and service are much better.

                                                            1. I generally shop for meat at a local supermarket and a natural foods market. Both have butchers who will assist me in whatever special requests. I live outside of San Diego.

                                                              1. Seems like the grocery store butchers are there to prepare the things that the store sells and not much more. Alot of them are actually behind the scenes and not terribly approachable nor able to fill specific orders.
                                                                I think you have to go to an actual butcher shop, where the butcher is actually invested in his business (vice being an employee) and has the ability to prepare meats to order.
                                                                I would really never go to a supermarket and expect specialty cuts of meat. But I do go to our local butcher shop for specific items. Its worth it, for sure.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                  That looks like where its going or has gone. Big chains butcher their meat off site at some central location. The guys behind the meat counter are only there to slice and wrap. The only exception is a high end market like Bristol Farms or Whole Foods.

                                                                  I would love to go to a local butcher but it looks like most of them have vanished like the VCR and independent stereo stores from the 70s. Of the two I did find, there was almost nothing in the case, meat look green like they were waiting for a TV Makeover series to rescue their business.

                                                                2. I used to be a manager at Stop and Shop in SE Connecticut. There was a difference, not only in title, but in responsibilities from butchers to the guys who just put the meat out. Before I even worked there, my family would go to the window and request certain cuts. They were trimmed, ground, trussed, and "new fangled" (ha!!) cuts. Since getting to know the men (and I'm not being sexist, but 9/10 were men) they will cut, butcher, and process any meat you ask. FWIW, the ground meat that looks like a tray wrapped in saran wrap is ground in store, as opposed to those that LOOK prepackaged.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: kubasd

                                                                    Doesn't it also have something to do with their union? I thought the guys that put the meat out are not allowed to cut.

                                                                    1. re: kubasd

                                                                      I'm in Boston and it might be a S&S thing. Iw orked for a summer in college at the meat dept at a S&S. There were butchers, and then there was the "help." All of the cryo-pack stuff comes out of a box. The plastic-wrapped stuff, and most steaks, were cut by the butcher or meat cutters in house.

                                                                      1. re: eastbroadway

                                                                        Groceries don't sell sub-primals, that's how most meat comes now. Still has to be cut down for the average consumer.

                                                                    2. I went to Jimbo's, my local organic/health grocery store today. I bought half a pound of grass fed ground beef and needed a half pound of ground pork; they didn't have any. "No problem," said the butcher, "if you can give me a couple minutes." I protested that I didn't want to make him have to clean the grinder after my small amount of pork. "No problem," he said. So I ended up ordering 2 of the half pounds and also realized their organic whole chickens were on sale for less than $2 a pound. Very nice day with a very nice butcher.....and he smiled too!

                                                                      1. For a long time it was like that in Richmond at least in my part. A few small butchers but nothing much. then Fresh Market moved in with a more service meat counter (they have no pre packaged fresh meat case at all in fact) and whole foods both which I have gotten to do real work. Most of the other supermarkets have no real butchers in the store, somenot even in this state.

                                                                        However there is a great butcher who has steadily added products including carving primals, etc, who has been open in my county for a few years now. Going to Nadolski's is a pleasure, a throw back to a bygone era, ot so it seems.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                          weird, service developing better? unheard of. but a good thing to hear. I like this story arc.

                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            It is great, he even has someone who does free knife sharpening in his store every few months. Got our steel in ship shape. If I ask for the membrane removed from a rack of ribs, it is done. He will even ask , when you order a whole pork shoulder, if you want the leg portion attached.
                                                                            And now in the past year or so, most of his meat is local (within 100 miles or so), though that was not the case when he first opened. He started small, then added more tools (like saws, etc), makes his own bacon and sausage. One of my favorite places to visit!

                                                                        2. Chicago here, various supermarkets, have NEVER had a butcher refuse to grind, slice, or otherwise customize my meat purchase.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                                            There's a grocery chain here who will sharpen your knives in the butcher dept while you shop. Wish there was one closer to me. Now that's service!

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              Wow, sharpen your KNIVES? I have never even dreamed of such service. And I cant even get them to grind some beef :(

                                                                              1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                Raley's (Nob Hill) advertises that they sharpen knives (which I don't want them to do), but I was just at one needing some ground pork, but they don't do that. Beef, yes — pork, no. Not enough space (or budget) for the separate grinder it requires. They had packaged ground pork, but only in one size well over a pound, besides not knowing what is in it. This just doesn't cut it, so to speak. I don't need full butcher services, but this is pretty basic and I used to be able to get it at PW.

                                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                                  Nob Hill SF? You guys are sooooo lucky that people in your city appreciate nice things. People in LA just seem to want cheap and fast as possible. I can barely find a good authentic pizza here, you have like a dozen great places. We have La Brea Bakery, not even close to Tartine. You have a little Italy, our disappeared half a century ago. Sigh.

                                                                                  1. re: kjonyou

                                                                                    "Nob Hill" is the name of some of the Raley's grocery stores. The one I go to is in Alameda.

                                                                          2. Our supermarket butchers will cut, trim, do whatever you want them to do. There is also a big window into the cutting area.
                                                                            When we were first married and living in rural Wyoming, they would have the picture of the kid with their animal at the fair, hang the ribbons, above those cuts of meat.

                                                                            1. Luckily there are a few places in C-bus. But they are either Hispanic, Asian, or just plain packed. We have this Italian grocer on the Northeast side, slightly questionable neighborhood. Go in on a Tuesday at 2PM, there is still a line. And they have like 5 individuals working the counter!

                                                                              We also have 1 fishmonger that I know of, but he's clear on the far west side of town.

                                                                              25 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                The seeds for the demise of the real butcher were planted when IBP developed cryovaced boxed beef where all the real butchering is now done at central facilities. With it we lost the dry aging that took place with hanging beef & custom cutting.

                                                                                We have been losing the small butcher shops for 2 reasons. ( #1) While most can still bring in hanging beef, most family's do not cook the same variety of home cooked meals anymore and it can be hard to sell some of the less popular cuts that come from a side of beef. ( #2 ) Like big hardware store chains, supermarkets and club store chains bid on beef in such huge numbers that independents simply can not compete with their prices. In addition, many supermarkets will have regular sales where they sell popular cuts of beef near cost just to get people into the store buy other items. Many times these sale prices are less than an independent butcher pays for their beef.

                                                                                Oh, a third reason is that butchering a whole side of beef is HARD WORK, something the newer generations are not overly found of.

                                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                                  I was lucky to work with the previous owner of a small meat packing plant in Manhattan, and he regaled me with wild stories of the old days. Maybe due to the nature of the work, but they had some sense of humor! And command of all curses known to man! Same thing, he told me they used to bring the beef in "on the hoof" and blamed IBP for making meat so easy and cheap. He was our meat buyer (foodservice business) so he became a big IBP customer; if you can't beat 'em, what cha gonna do?

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    I know of only one purveyor left in Philadelphia who deals in hanging beef. He has a niche market that supports bringing in hanging meat and dry aging the premium cuts. If his market was not so specialized, US Foods or Sysco could & would easily crush him.

                                                                                    I have wet aged and dry aged whole boneless primal cuts in my downstairs frig that I hand selected from stacks of cryovaced primals and they are delicious but still not as good at the stuff I get from him thats hung on a hook dry aging on the bone.

                                                                                    Several times a year he gets top prime (abundant marbling) from none other than New York City (Largest destination for "TOP" prime beef in North America). The marbling is the closest thing to pictures of real Japanese Kobe beef I have ever seen. It came boxed and then my guy cuts open the cryovacs and hangs it on the bone. Best steak I have ever eaten. The last time I got it I saw the pallet it came on. Shipping "destination" was JAPAN but the Tsunami and its after effects kept it state side.

                                                                                  2. re: Tom34

                                                                                    Tom: Excellent observations. In fact, one can purchase NAMP's "The Meat Buyer's Guide" and actually have the IBP/Tyson order codes for each cut of meat.

                                                                                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                      NAMP is actually government codes that IBP/Tyson/National have to use. And you can get a book for free if you're in the business. Maybe I should put mine on eBay!

                                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                                        And the disclaimer on the first page of NAMP's Guide is telling: "This book is merely a guide for identification of meat cuts. Individual packer specifications may vary ..." If anyone is a meat geek or wants to learn more about meat cuts, this book is most useful. www.namp.com

                                                                                        1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                          I'll have to review it. I only know my meat buyer would not let me order special cuts without the number... and pretty sure they were nationally specified, rather than by company.

                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                            After a quick review, I remembered that the numbers are based on a national group of meat processors, not actually the government per se, but they are pretty specific when it comes to ordering any piece. Since there are so few meat processors anymore, it was a significant classification. Maybe if you don't belong to the group then you can be a rebel, but I just remember it as a beef ordering "bible" that most don't stray outside of. I know I had to use it all the time or "no meat for you!"

                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                              coll: What is interesting is that the Guide itself interprets several different governmental regulations on meat, including the USDA's Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications.

                                                                                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                I'm starting to think what I've been told has been somewhat simpilified. Luckily I'm out of the business, but thanks for the info!

                                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                                  No problem. By the way, what did you do?

                                                                                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                    I sold all kinds of food, subprimal meat included. Did it for 20 years, it was a dream come true .Not everyone gets to do what they really want, or so I hear.

                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                      coll: That's great and very true.

                                                                                                  2. re: coll

                                                                                                    Coll, your lucky your in NY city because thats where some of the best beef in the world is ends up. The best of the best always follows the $$$$$

                                                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                      I hear that, and must be so spoiled that I take it for granted. Even the good/cheap places are something to look forward to. Just happened to be born here, lucky I guess!!

                                                                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                        Well it is not just that, but also since the costs of bringing food into NYC is higher than most other places, it makes sense to send in the higher end stuff, because the relative % difference in prices for quality is lower due to the high overhead.

                                                                                                        1. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                          I'm not sure I follow. The cost of bringing food into NYC is higher than most places? Even if that's the case, the only reason NYC may have access to high quality ingredients is because there are enough diners who want higher quality ingredients. Not sure if it's due to some relative difference in food costs vs overhead.

                                                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                                                            In addition to everything else, one of the things that most wouldn't know about is all the double parking tickets purveyors have to pay for making deliveries in Manhattan. There is not much choice if you want to stop the truck and get the merchandise inside. I worked for a food distributor and they had to pay thousands of dollars a week in fines, just part of the cost of doing business. Our boss discouraged us from picking up accounts there, unless they were really worth it. And then, they could not have rock bottom prices. Same goes for anywhere a ferry was involved, not worth a $75 fee to deliver a $200 order, plus a driver going into overtime (yes a union driver!).

                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                              I don't think we're talking about charging rock bottom prices. We're talking about getting in top quality products. I've read nothing that suggests that there's more profit margin in USDA Prime beef over Choice, for example. The suggestion was that NYC gets top grade stuff because transportation is so expensive. It makes no sense to me. NYC gets top grade stuff because chefs and diners demand it first and foremost, rather than due to some calculus related to logistics and expenses of the supply chain.

                                                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                I would tend to agree on the demand side of the formula: Above average incomes, business lunches / dinners which are often written off & its a destination spot for wealthy non-residents.

                                                                                                                Profit margin prime v choice: If we apply the same supply / demand theory, there sure is a whole lot more top choice produced than prime. I just inquired a week ago about a whole top prime shortloin (Porterhouse) and my butcher friend said the wholesale price in NY City has been through the roof because the Japanese are being extremely aggressive purchasing top prime. Based on that I suspect that "at times" there may be more profit in prime. Whether that profit is spread out evenly from the rancher up the chain to the wholesaler is yet another question. I suspect the person shaking hands with the Japanese purchasing agent is the biggest winner.

                                                                                                                1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                  As you can see above, I was replying to "the cost of bringing food into NYC (being) higher than most places" which you seem to doubt. As far as quality and acess to high end ingredients, I have no argument there. When it comes to quality, price becomes less of an overall issue, and therefore more rewarding in the long run. NYC has possibly the best market for top end product, as does the Hamptons when they all migrate out there in the summer. But two different issues being discussed, even though sort of intertwined, quality and cost. Back up to PenskeFan's comment, just before you jumped in.

                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                    Thank you for jumping in. Perhaps Penske can explain his theory.

                                                                                                                    Thanks again.

                                                                                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                      Not my theory. Relative price behavior is really just basic microeconomics.

                                                                                                              2. re: tommy

                                                                                                                And, or course, NYC has a shit ton of horrible food in addition to the good stuff. In fact the bad stuff far outweighs the good stuff.

                                                                                                              3. re: PenskeFan

                                                                                                                Even IF . . . the costs of delivering meats, wholesale, into New York City are higher than they are into, say, Boston or San Francisco . . . even accounting for things like "parking tickets," or bridge tolls, or things "falling off the truck," the cost is spread equally and markups are typically based on a percentage basis.

                                                                                                                In other words, it makes the cheap stuff expensive, and the expensive stuff MORE expensive . . .

                                                                                          2. Since you are probably in SoCal, based upon the names of your grocers, try Stater Brothers. They will grind free of charge. I have had them do this for me recently-- very happily.

                                                                                            1. Here in Broward Cnty, Florida Delaware Chicken and Penn Dutch Market will cut to order-
                                                                                              meat, chicken, turkey, fish.