Our friend Brandon, here on Vashon Island, is a butcher. He doesn’t work in a grocery story or a commercial butcher shop. He works out of a small shop —— a space that used to be a sun-room in a home —— to break down the carcasses of lambs, pigs, and cows. This is half a lamb, raised by a farmer on Vashon, slaughtered by Brandon, and now hanging in the back of his truck.
Brandon and his wife Lauren are working hard and doing good work, trying to bring back an old way of butchering and being with meat to a culture that is moving increasingly fast. We like them. We like the work they do.
We really think you should help back the Kickstarter they have running now. They’re trying to raise $100,000 to build a butcher shop and slaughter truck here on Vashon.
WARNING: If you don’t want to look at photographs of meat being butchered, do not look at the rest of this post.
When I was growing up, I never fully comprehended that the burgers and pork chops I ate came from animals. Sure, I read Charlotte’s Web and tried to not eat bacon for awhile after. But all our meat came shrink-wrapped in yellow styrofoam trays. It was pretty easy to ignore the origins of my meal that way.
Brandon is working hard to show people the origins of their meat. But he also wants to show them how meditative and moving it can be to butcher the pig, to pay homage to the animal, to honor the life that was given.
Brandon, his wife Lauren, and their partner Andrew have been making videos for Farmstead Meatsmith, beautiful videos showing people how to butcher their meat. One of the things they would like to do with the Kickstarter money, if they are successful, is make more videos. They want more people participating in this practice.
Watching Brandon cutting down this lamb carcass today, I was struck by this: I never fully understood why call this thick wooden island in the kitchen a butcher block. Now, I do. Look how scarred and weathered and real this is.
Danny and I loved watching Brandon butcher the lamb with his son watching.
“Dad, what part is that?” Wallace asked, curious and pragmatic at the same time.
“That’s the shoulder, buddy. Like your shoulder, right here,” Brandon said as he gestured to his shoulder, then bowed his head and went back to work.
For this little guy, there was no ickiness to what his his dad was doing. He was doing his work.
In fact, this drawing of a pig that hangs on the wall comes from the name Wallace gave four boars Brandon sold to a local farmer: Gary, Mary, Milly, and Dilly.
Brandon and Lauren’s three boys know where their meat comes from.
I was a vegetarian for more than 10 years. You could not have told me that some day I would be standing in the studio of a friend on Vashon, watching him slice up a lamb carcass and noticing how beautiful the meat looked in the light.
Danny and I both feel strongly that we want to know where our meat comes from. We want to eat meat — and feed it to our daughter — that comes from animals that have been raised well, treated well, and had a good death. We’re lucky to live in an area where this kind of meat is readily available.
Having Brandon’s butcher shop, if the Kickstarter is successful, would make it much easier for all of us on Vashon Island to buy such meat on a regular basis.
Brandon told me, as he broke down these loin chops, that he wants this campaign to be successful for everyone, not just those of us on Vashon. He wants to make more videos that everyone can watch. He wants to spread the word to other communities that they can make this happen too.
Lauren told us today that most of the backers they have seen for their campaign so far? Small farmers. These are people with not much money and back-breaking work. But these farmers want a return to local economies, butcher shops that work on barter and trade, and slaughter trucks that can come to the farm and give their animals a decent death. So they have been giving.
Maybe you would like to give too.
I live with a chef who loves to butcher meat. He finds it meditative. If you gave him a case of lamb racks, he’d have no problem butchering the entire case, truly concentrating and enjoying it all. I think meat tastes different when it has been given this kind of care. But before I met Danny, I didn’t even know how to break down a chicken. I bought chicken thighs and chicken breasts separately, shrink-wrapped on styrofoam trays.
I’ve been on a real journey with food these last eight years, after learning I can’t eat gluten. Lately, a big part of my experience has been trying to learn where every bit of food I eat comes from. Sometimes, once I know the stories, I stop eating that non-food food. But watching Brandon butcher a lamb today, I would be honored to cook and eat that lamb shoulder. That would make a pretty meaningful dinner for us here.
If you feel like it, here’s where you can support Brandon and Lauren’s Kickstarter. And please help spread the word.