The History of Butchering: The Modern Butcher

Concluding the history of meat eating and the importance of the butcher throughout human history we come to a unique and historic era… the modern age!  Is the modern butcher as important to society as in ages past?  Read on… the answer might surprise you!

Perfectly crafted sausages… not possible without a well-trained butcher!

Perfectly crafted sausages… not possible without a well-trained butcher!

Hello, and thank you for joining us again!

            We are thrilled to be able to write this final piece related to butchering.  We have had a great time with this series, both with diving into how eating meat made modern humanity a possibility, and with last week’s post regarding a brief history of butchering.

            Just to make a quick recap of these other articles:

Humanity: Born from Meat

            Basically, to put a quick spin on this, our ancestors started to run out of food swinging around in the treetops.  As a result, they came down from the treetops and began to forage for whatever they could, similar to what they were doing before in the trees.  However, with food still being scarce as the climate changed these ancient hominids ate whatever they could get their hands and teeth on.  In short, this meant that they began to eat meat.  Luckily, centuries of eating high-fat vegetation (nuts, coconuts, the ancestors of olives) had primed the biochemistry to be able to handle the higher-fat meat. 

            As time went on, the constant consumption of meat, and learning how to better capture and access meat, led to a larger brain, which would eventually lead to the birth of modern homo sapiens. 

            At its core, the moral of this story is that, without meat, we would not be here as we are.  Things like the ability for you to read this post (or for me to write it), television, internet, grand civilizations and wonders… it is all thanks to meat and meat consumption.

Butchering: The Importance to Societies

            The butcher, as we learned last week, was considered to be an important part of society in many different cultures, many of which data back tens of thousands of years.  This is not an isolated situation, either; there is evidence of butchering tools and the art of butchering through archaic writings and cave paintings in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and North America (and those are just the locations we found here in an hour of research). 

            The butcher was, in these times, as revered as any smith, as any doctor, and regarded as a highly training professional that was to be respected.  The reasoning behind this is pretty simple; regardless of wealth, regardless of status, and regardless of entertainment… if there is no food, then none of these fancy accouterments will matter.  If you don’t believe this, think about the price of food in Germany when its currency was nearly worthless and people would have to spend millions of marks on one loaf of bread.  When you think about that, or about the crises that occurred in Russia at one point, without food, nothing else matters.

            Moreover, without sufficient food (which only the butchers in eons past) could provide, very little else mattered.

            That being said, as humans, we must be thankful for the existence of the butchers!

Perfectly prepared grilled meat - cut and set by a butcher!

Perfectly prepared grilled meat - cut and set by a butcher!

The Modern Butcher

            People ask nowadays if the butcher still matters…

            Many times, modern butchers are insulted by this question.  That is reasonable, as anyone would be insulted if the importance of a job that they were trained to do, a job that they probably loved, was called into question.

            Hey, as a writer (as well as a meat lover) I can tell you that I would take exception if someone would question whether or not writing mattered in the modern age.  So, I totally get the outrage.

            But… and I am not saying that I agree… I understand why people might question the need for the butcher.  In the age of supermarkets and mass meat production, many people will never actually see a butcher do his (or her) thing, and this would make people think that butchering is not important.

            That it is not happening…

            Or, simply that it is a lost art, something best read about in history books and understood as a part of how humans came to be.

            Well… if you do any reading, any research, and any digging, you will find out that this is not true.

            Butchering is not only alive and well, but it is critical to the continued meat industry for those of us that absolutely love meat!

            Its not just me saying that, it is not just us here at Wayside Market that cut the meat…

            The Meat Industry is Complicated.  If you know anything about sourcing meat, preparing meat, getting the tools of the trade, understanding the new modern technology of the trade, and how to take meat and turn it into a presentable cut, you would be well aware that the meat industry is a challenging one.  While you might not see a butcher at your local supermarket, and you might not have a local butchery, the work that they do is still happening.  Whether or not you see the butcher is irrelevant; they are there, and they make the complicated business of meat simple for the rest of us.

            Most of what is in the supermarket is not butchering.  Look, I know that you have stood at the counter at some point in your life and watched as someone cut your deli meats, or trimmed a little bit off of a cut of steak for you… or maybe they packaged some pork chops or sausage.

            Well, this is meat cutting… this is not butchering.  These meat cutters are able to do what they do quickly and easily because of the work that is done beforehand by the true butcher.  Now, this is not always true… some supermarkets have butchers on hand and out in the open, but it is uncommon.  The butcher knows where to cut the meat to keep from mutilating it, and this will go a long way to ensuring that the meat you get is the meat that you want!

            The butchering industry is what drives ethics.  Seriously, if you look at all the horror stories that surround the meat industry, there is a lot of cruel treatment of animals.  However, more and more information that is out there show that most real butchers will only deal with farms that ethically source, treat, and raise their animals.  This is obviously important – everyone wants to know where their food is coming from, and everyone wants to be sure that they are not causing undue suffering.

            The remaining small butchers are the ones that are taking a stand against “big meat” and ensuring that ethical treatment is happening!  This presence is coupling with better consumer awareness to ensure that the mistreatment of animals is drastically reduced, and the hope is that this will continue until this poor treatment stops!

            Finally, butchers just KNOW.  The butcher that you will speak with will have a level of understanding that goes beyond what it is that a standard meat cutter can offer.  Do you want to know what cut of meat is best for a specific purpose?

            Well, ask the butcher!

            Do you want to know the different qualities of a different cut of meat or what is pairs well with?

            Again, ask your butcher!

            Do you want to get bones for broth, do you need blood for some reason (this is not unusual), do you want to the best tasting meat you can get?

            Ask your butcher, ask your butcher, and buy it from your butcher!

The Conclusion is…

            Alright, we are a meat seller and a butchery, so we obviously think that butchering is important.  That does go without saying, and to say otherwise would be a little bit ridiculous.

            But, regardless of what we think, it should be obvious that a better-quality meat, a better-quality service, and a better supply chain process comes from meeting with and speaking with a butcher. 

            The butcher is just as important now as in years past, and as you should see from reading through this, in some ways more important than ever.  Trust us, discount meat at the supermarket would not be there without a butcher.

            That being said, give your butcher the credit that he or she deserves, and be sure to thank them for what it is that they do.  They drive meat, and in their own way they protect our lives and livelihood.

            Without food, without meat, little else matters, after all.