If butchers can be rock stars, what does that make meatcutters?

8 07 2009

The food and dining section of the NYT is always a favorite of mine, not because I can go to NYC restaurants but because I usually appreciate the periodic food trends articles. Here is a rare example of one I don’t:

IF chefs were rock stars, they would be arena bands, playing hard and loud with thousands cheering.

Farmers, who gently coax food from the earth, are more like folk singers, less flashy and more introspective.

Now there is a new kind of star on the food scene: young butchers. With their swinging scabbards, muscled forearms and constant proximity to flesh, butchers have the raw, emotional appeal of an indie band. They turn death into life, in the form of a really good skirt steak.

And it doesn’t hurt that some people find them exceptionally hot.

Yes, I know I’m a vegetarian, but that’s not my problem here. My problem is the fact that this notion shows absolutely no appreciation for just how nasty this job can be. Seriously, did anybody find Jurgis Rudkus, hot? I remember digging up an old article where Walmart claimed that it switched to case-ready meat because people don’t like seeing people with blood all over them. maybe that Wal-Flack was actually telling the truth. The smocks on those guys look awfully clean.

At least there’s a little history in the article:

Butchery skills began to recede in the 1960s, when beef and pork, already cut and boxed, started arriving at supermarkets. Neighborhood butchers, who once handed a child a slice of bologna and saved the hanger steaks for special customers, began to evaporate. Modern butchers became more like slicers.

But the trend began to reverse with the rise of locally raised meat, and the popularity of so-called off-cuts. Some restaurants brought butchery into their kitchens, even though it’s a skill barely taught in culinary school.

It’s not as if butchery suddenly disappeared. It simply went from the storefront to the slaughterhouse where it could be more easily automated and the illegal immigrants who replaced the union members who used to work there could be abused by their employers without anyone noticing.

The point about local food is a good one, but other than that I wish the author here got more into how meat is produced. I’ve been kicking around covering that subject myself some day after the two books I have in the works are eventually done. In this case, however, I wouldn’t mind if someone beat me to it as that’s a book I’d really like to read.


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