Meat and Greet: Specialty Butchers Take to the Streets

by Kevin Casey on August 16, 2012

Carnivores, rejoice! Local meat purveyors want your business, and they’re willing to come to your neighborhood to get it. An increasing number of artisans and entrepreneurs are mobilizing the traditional butcher shop — and hosting social gatherings called “meat-ups” — to drive sales of their products and awareness of the locavore movement.

A typical meat-up is part farmers market, part food truck, and part party where everyone revels in high-quality, locally sourced, sustainable meats. The event may take place outdoors, in a traditional restaurant, or even at venues like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Red Meat Market is among the businesses behind the meat-up trend. The company offers online ordering, but also travels from city to city organizing events that connect local businesses, farms, and consumers. “Our goal is to make meat buying social [by] planning events like farm dinners, ranch visits, butcher parties, and ‘meat ups’ (meat market + ‘meet up’),” the company says on its website. “During our events, you can ‘meat and greet’ other locavores who work and live for a better food system.” (Here’s a recap of the recent Red Meat Market kickoff in Milwaukee.)

Some sellers specialize in unusual cuts and offal, offering meats that can be harder to find at large grocery-store chains. For example, a recent “misfit dinner” at the Grand Café in San Francisco featured guinea hen heart, liver, and gizzards.

Places that have a thriving community of committed locavores offer entrepreneurs the best opportunity for meat-up success. Butcher’s Guild co-founder Marissa Guggiana tells Crain’s New York Business that cities like New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Ore., create “the ‘perfect storm’ needed for small businesses selling organic meat to thrive.”

Indeed, there’s plenty of green in red meat. The Organic Trade Association estimates (via Crain’s) the local organic meat market is worth $538 million a year.