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Aug 22, 2011 01:26 AM

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 carnicerĂ­a 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.