Whole-Animal Delivery and Butchering at Craft (Gallery)

Check out a visceral, behind-the-scenes look at chef James Tracey's in-house butchering program.

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Each week, First We Feast photographer Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay) grabs her camera and hits the streets to explore a different aspect of the food world. Here, she shares her photos and stories.

When you dig into a pork chop or steak at dinner, it’s easy to forget that the meat came from an actual animal carcass. Even as butchering has experienced a renaissance and gutsy restaurants like the Cannibal serve dishes such as roasted pig’s head (ears and all), we’re still divorced from the reality of where our food comes from.

Restaurants across New York City have close relationships with farmers that not only bring vegetables to their doorsteps, but also whole animals that are taken in by the kitchen and broken down in-house by chefs who do their butchering. I was curious to see how this process happens, so this week, I coordinated with chef James Tracey at Craft to stop by for the delivery of several pigs and a goat.

I watched the Craft team unload and carry the pigs in, draping them over their shoulders in the middle of Flatiron and taking them down to the basement to be butchered and stored. I followed chef Tracey past the waitstaff eating a fried chicken staff meal, and we laid out one of the pigs for him to break down.

This was not my first time seeing the butchering process up-close, and while it’s not for the faint of heart, observing James work on the young pig was far from repulsive. It seemed effortless and clean as he made each well-calculated cut, finding the proper seams and not wasting any of the meat in the process.

I hope rather than making your squirm, these images show the care that goes into handling the animals used at NYC’s top restaurants. And even if it’s hard to look at, it sure beats pink slime!

Visit Craft! 43 E 19th St (212-780-0880, craftrestaurantsinc.com/craft-new-york)

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