Comstock's magazine 0818-August 2018 - Page 35

grocery store not unlike Taylor’s, which opened in 1961. “The first time I went in there, I was just amazed at all the meat, seeing all these animals hanging,” Johnson says. “I would raise all kinds of hell because I did not want to go back to the fruit shed, I wanted to stay in the butcher shop and watch.” Hooked at an early age, Johnson grad- uated from Oregon Meat Cutting school in 1982. He accepted a part-time job as a butcher at Taylor’s in 1983 and never left, becoming a part owner in 1987, and a full owner in 2007 along with his wife, Kathy Johnson. “There used to be places like this all across the United States, little corner gro- cery stores with a butcher in it,” he says. “It’s a dying breed, but it’s also a thriving breed, if that makes sense.” In other words, Johnson has been old- school for so long that he’s new-school again, as a new interest in local and sus- tainable food sources has pulled the spe- cialty butcher shop out of a decades-long decline. A 2008 UC Davis study helped define the trend, finding that “consumer demand for niche meats is often motivat- ed by the belief that natural and organic meats are fresher, have better nutritional value, taste and long-term health benefits than conventional meats, and that the animals are healthier and better treated than conventional livestock.” Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork logo shows a plant growing into the shape of a utensil, but the whole-animal butcher helps provide the protein side of the sus- tainable food equation. HOOF TO SNOUT Unlike Johnson, Eric Veldman Miller never harbored any childhood dreams of becoming a butcher. As a chef at restaurants such as Mulvaney’s B&L in Midtown Sacramento and an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Natomas, Miller was always searching for high-quality and locally sourced meats. A visit to a whole-animal butcher shop in Brooklyn provided the necessary inspiration, and in 2015 he opened V. Miller Meats, sourc- ing all of his meat from within 100 miles of the store. “All our beef and lamb are grass-fed [their entire lives], all our pork is raised outside, all my lamb comes from Dix- on, most of my pork comes from Chico,” Miller says. “It’s a very clean and trace- able source, a very safe way to eat.” Even the hot dogs at V. Miller Meats are locally sourced, since they are made from the unused beef trim. If you buy a steak and a hot dog at V. Miller, there’s a good chance they come from the same animal, or at least from the same ranch. Those high standards come with a cost, as the prices at V. Miller Meats are significantly higher than at a local butcher store like Roseville Meat Com- pany, which sells grain-fed beef raised on macro-farms in the Midwest. The meat departments at larger stores like Taylor’s and Corti Brothers also prac- tice whole-animal butchery and source much of their meat locally, but unlike the purists at V. Miller Meats, they also offer some pre-cut and boxed meats. Miller’s main concern moving for- ward is that there won’t be enough slaughterhouses to meet the increasing demand for organic meat, a discrepancy that could affect his bottom line. Howev- er, Miller takes comfort in his customer’s Danny Johnson, left, practices for the 2018 World Butchers’ Challenge, held in Belfast. The 2020 competition will take place in Sacramento. PHOTO: CARRIE RICHARDS PHOTOGRAPHY For more on the experience of the Taylor’s Market butchers in the 2018 World Butchers’ Challenge, visit www.comstocksmag.com. August 2018 | comstocksmag.com 35