Storied butchers of the past—burly men with muscled forearms and crisp white aprons—were once beloved neighborhood lynchpins, as crucial to the community as corner barkeeps and high-school football coaches. But for the last decades, they appeared to be a dying breed, their handiwork replaced by pallid meats suffocating in plastic wrap and laid on bloodied styrofoam.
Then, in the past few years, something remarkable happened: The bone saws came back out, the hatchets were sharpened, and indie meat maestros began setting up shop all across the country. Those on the front lines are holding doggedly to an old-fashioned model of butchering while bringing some new-school swagger to the once venerable profession.
While the uniforms may have changed (skinny ties and cleaver tattoos weren’t part of the game back in the day), the goal remains the same: to break down the freshest, most naturally-raised animals available. The code is still one your grandparents will recognize, but the new generation is also inflecting shops and cuts with their own inspired signature styles, as well as a passionate commitment to ideals culled from the locavore movement.