Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Welcome welcome! This is the first HogBlog post from Featherblade English Craft Butchery. I plan on sharing my occasional thoughts and ideas, particularly about food and the like, plus any recipes and tips I can muster that might assist you on your journey through the culinary kingdom. As always, I welcome discussion and, in most cases, (constructive) criticism so if you have something to say about a post or recipe suggestion, I encourage you to comment or contact me directly.
So, what's it all about? Well if you've read the About page you'll know the basic story. Man learns butchery, Man enjoys butchery, Man meets wife, Couple gets Pug, Family moves to the States. Pug becomes head of Family. Man must work to feed Pug.
We were very fortunate to have some options for our future together and one of them was starting out here in the States. Then arose the question of what to do here. I enjoyed my work in London so I thought I’d try that, which meant opening a new butcher shop from scratch. This would encompass everything I've learned from my experiences in London, and hopefully bring something new to the re-emerging craft butchery scene here. We were excited because the US offers great opportunities for businesses and for people who have something they’re willing to work hard for. The American Dream, so to speak.
Being a butcher though is a curious vocation. The financial returns, generally speaking aren't astonishing. The hours are long, the work is tough and the physical demands take their toll on the body. If you take this and throw in the stress of running a small business on top one might understand why there aren't that many small independent butcher shops out there. So why bother?
Like some wise dude once said, ’if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Without getting too philosophical that sounds about right doesn’t it? You have to care about and enjoy what you do. With regards to butchery, when observing I'd given up my law career to continue my butchery life at Hook & Cleaver, a Meat Maestro that I very much respect and said to me, 'yes... this job gets into your blood doesn't it? Hard to walk away from that.' Now, a few years later, I couldn't agree more. It is hard to walk away from this intriguing industry.
It’s not all roses though. The meat industry often comes under fire for poor practices, and rightly so too. There have been countless scandals, examples of cruelty and profiteering on shameful behavior over the years. Take “Horsegate” for example, the 2013 horse meat scandal in the UK and Europe where it transpired that foods labeled as containing beef actually contained horse, yes horse, and in some cases 100% horse. You couldn’t make it up. So how do you really know where the food you eat has been or is coming from?
These days I personally avoid eating meat unless I know where it came from or that it was ethically sourced. But that’s me, and I never judge or usually mention it whilst eating as nobody wants to hear me preaching at the dinner table. In my experience too, most bars, cafes and restaurants tend to opt for the cheapest variety of meat possible, meaning a menu containing meat from factory farmed or poorly treated animals. That said, I also feel that the number of establishments offering the opposite is on the rise, especially in London, and to a lesser extent here. This is possibly due to the rising trend of consumers demanding non-GM, organic, and/or no antibiotics in the food they eat. Again, this is based on my experience, I haven’t been everywhere and I’m not throwing out references for my generalizations.
I do, however, think it’s encouraging that people are talking more about the environment, our planet and how the choices that we make affect it. It’ll be slow moving for sure, but I’d say it’s likely that as sentiment shifts, markets and businesses will continue to shift towards those new sustainable food perspectives. It’s no doubt why we see more “ethical” businesses starting up, or established businesses leaning to more principled practices. There are more plant-based offerings too, more veggie options on our menus, and even a few more independent butchers advocating the traditional farming practices.
Vegetarianism is on the rise, but so too is meat consumption bizarrely, possibly due to the rising population or maybe due to those who already eat meat doubling down in defiance, I don’t know. What I do know is choice and discussion is good, and if one day in the future there’ll be less or no animal consumption then I’ll accept it willingly, and consider myself and Featherblade a steppingstone on the path towards that.
So, as they say in Vegas, I'm all in. And the team we bring together will be all in too. All in on food and animal ethics. All in on not compromising on principles, quality or moral standards for profit. All in on supreme customer service. And all in on embracing the beauty of the ancient art and craft of butchery, whilst also always respecting the gracious creatures that we farm for food.
There’s a lot more to say about farming practices, the effect of meat production on the environment, its effect on the animals and humans, so forgive me if I save those more loaded conversations for another time. I don’t want to bore you to tears on my first outing.
And now that my motivating call to arms is out of the way, I’ll finish by mentioning the practicalities of getting Featherblade started and what we’ll be doing. First, we source the farms. There isn’t much grass in the desert as you might expect so we’re looking to California, Colorado, and North Nevada too. I’ve already been pleased with the response from some of those nearest to us. And by near I mean less the distance between London and Inverness. The main challenge is not finding great farms in the States (we have an abundance), it’s getting the whole carcasses we need delivered to us in Vegas. But we’ll make it happen. We’ll then find premises, sort all the legal stuff out and away we go.
Then I want to do what we did in London, age beef and other meats to perfection, create amazing new pies, sausages, burgers and other products, experiment with different cuts and recipes and wrap it all up in an exceptional experience for the customer. I’m also looking to sell my favorite local and not-so-local craft beers too, which should make those early morning starts a touch more bearable. It’s always 5 o’ clock somewhere right?
That’s it. As things develop I’ll let you know, and so you know, I can’t wait.