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January 30, 2013

Butchering trends bring fresh opportunities

Super Bowl Sunday surely is one of the meatiest eating days of the year. But it’s still somewhat surprising the lengths some people will go to push their game day feed over the top. Last year, for example, some enthusiastic carnivores went as far as to build football arena replicas out of deli meats, cheese and bread.

Constructing stadiums out of cold cuts may be a great conversation starter, but it’s not likely to win you many accolades from the foodies in your life. Luckily, some recent trends on the butchering side of things are offering whole new ways to up your meat game, so to speak.

Up until recently, shopping for meat at the grocer generally meant you were limited to just a few mainstream cuts, says meat guru Bruce Aidells, author of last year’s “The Great Meat Cookbook.” Part of the problem was the standardization of the meat industry. Butchering skills waned because so much was handled at the industrial level.

But as consumers demanded better, more unusual meats — including locally raised — chefs needed to improvise. Many had to learn butchering skills in order purchase and use the sorts of meats their customers were looking for, says Tia Harrison, chef and co-owner of Sociale, a Northern Italian-inspired restaurant in San Francisco.

And in order not to waste a single bit, those chefs also began to develop and rediscover recipes for lesser known cuts of meat, including how to produce charcuterie.

Pretty soon restaurants were having wildly popular snout-to-tail supper nights where dishes made from every bit of the animal are served. The burgeoning market for local meat ultimately led to the art of butchering becoming quite hip. And that has influenced the meats available even at mainstream grocers, with most offering grass-fed and organic meats, even some heritage breed meats.

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