butcher questions

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 10, 2013 at 4:13 PM

i live in portland oregon and i want to find a butcher that sells the best quality meats. i'm not sure what questions to ask regarding what could be added to the meat(example sugar, gluten). i'm new to paleo and quite clueless.. i also want to know that the animals are eating their natural diet. what questions do i need to ask??



on January 10, 2013
at 05:27 PM

Ask the butcher one question, "Where do you get your meat?" The farmer can answer everything else.

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4 Answers


on March 22, 2013
at 12:56 AM

I'd ask where the meat comes from and how it is raised. He should hopefully have some kind of knowledgeable answer. Most people who run stores are good at the art of bullshitting and have heard this question before so if the guy doesn't give you a straight answer, then be skeptical. Imagine what you would do if you ran a butcher shop and compare it against that.

For beef you can ask if the animals were raised on grain or grass, and that should lead to a fairly detailed explanation of how the animal is fed. It is very rare to find truly 100% grass fed beef because it's expensive and inconvenient, leads to meat that is generally tougher and gamier, and most people (besides us Paleo knuckleheads) won't pay more for meat that isn't buttery tender.

Even technically "grass fed" beef will be given grain occasionally (such as over the winter when grass simply isn't available unless they have a humongous farm), or they might say "access to grain" which means farmers will put grain out somewhere that the animal has access to but is neither encouraged or discouraged from eating. Another option is "grass fed and grain finished" which means the animal was given grass early in its life but fattened up on grain, which in my opinion defeats the purpose of grass-fed because most of the weight is gained on grain.

The most important thing from my perspective is that the animal is predominately grass-fed during the period that it is fattened up immediately before slaughter. A little bit of grain here and there is probably inevitable and allows the farmer to raise the animal fairly economically so maybe ok, but it's a slippery slope and it would be good to know where the butcher stands on this. Most butchers make decisions based primarily on economics (fair enough, it's a business after all) so may have little or no sensitivity to these issues, but this is why you have to ask.

For pigs, the keys for me are that the animals roam freely and eat a natural diet including bugs, vegetation, and things they root out of the ground. The flavor and consistency of meat from free-range vs. factory pigs is completely different. I have found several farms that happily give the pigs acres of room and use heritage breeds which include plenty of fat and they are really into it. I suspect that it is just as economical to raise pigs this way vs. factory farming but that is just a guess.

For chickens the distinctions are again narrow. Often "free range" chickens are not kept any better than factory chickens but are in an area where they technically have a little more space but in reality are just as confined. For this I would prefer to actually go see the chickens. Raising chickens doesn't take a lot of space and you should hopefully see a wide open space where the chickens get some feed from "chicken feed" but otherwise run around and eat bugs and forage like wild animals. Pastured chicken eggs have 5-7 TIMES as many nutrients as factory eggs, and if you see a factory vs. pastured egg side by side the difference will jump out at you. Now that the weather is warming up, finding pastured eggs is easier, and I strongly encourage you to go out and buy some expensive, pastured eggs and crack them open and see the difference.

Hope that helps!



on February 21, 2013
at 09:42 PM

Otto's Sausage Kitchen on Woodstock is fabulous. They're very knowledgeable, can get you just about anything, and so if you were to ask about the farmers they get their meats from, they'd know. There is another butcher or two in north/northeast Portland that I've heard about, but I haven't been to those, myself.

I started buying meat from a local farmer since I moved away from Portland, so I don't know any particular farmers that are local to Portland, but what I did in my current town is I found a meat CSA that I liked, and I got to know the farmer and how they raise and feed the animals. It works out being more convenient for me than going to a butcher, because there are no real butchers where I currently live.

If you want to learn a little more about species appropriate farming practices, Joel Salatin is an excellent resource.



on January 10, 2013
at 06:56 PM

Check out "Know Thy Food" http://knowthyfood.com/ It is a "Farm Direct and Bulk Food Buying Club" I've been a member for a few years now. Through them you have access to lots of different farmers who supply grass-fed and pastured meats of all kinds as well as tons of other healthy, local products from around the Portland area. Any time I've had a question for any of the food suppliers they have been super helpful and prompt in their responses. I've purchased most of my beef from "Pat n' Tam's Beef" through the Know Thy Food. They are wonderful to work with and they have a facebook page you can find if you search their name.

Hope that helps!


on January 10, 2013
at 05:16 PM

Eating the best quality meat is important. That said, buy what you can afford. Grass fed animals that are not finished with grains (in other words, they have been fed only on pasture grasses, no added feeds) are what you are looking for. Beef, lamb, pork, bison, wild (deer, moose, elk, etc). You can add organic or pasture chickens. I make beef broth from grass fed beef shanks (about three lbs of beef shank and four marrow bones to a soup pot, simmer with onion, celery, carrot for hours, it usually takes me about six hours to get a gelatinous broth). I shred the beef and save enough for two days and then freeze the rest of the broth and meat in glass jars for later in the week. That is an inexpensive cut of beef to make really nutritious broth with. I add shredded kale, veggies on hand, sweet potato (unless you aren't doing carbs), or drink the broth with the meat whenever you need a lift during the day. Fatty cuts of meat are your friends. Eat the fat on your steak. Make tallow and cook with it. That said, if you find you cannot afford grass fed meats, eat the best quality you can afford.

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