The Return of the Local Butcher

Articles
October 15, 2009

It is obvious that neither slaughterhouses, nor meat processors, nor the Federal government are moving quickly enough to make E.coli from ground beef the really rare risk it ought to be.

It is obvious that neither slaughterhouses, nor meat processors, nor the Federal government are moving quickly enough to makeE.coli from ground beef the really rare risk it ought to be. Until new safety measures are taken and processes changed, cattle will continue to be killed at the rate of 400 per hour per facility. Fallen cows will slide into piles of dung, and carcasses may not even be washed before they’re processed. 

Meanwhile, contamination from ground beef (which can include all sorts of exposed trimmings and scraps) occurs: 16 outbreaks in the past three years including a recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states this past summer, the New York Timesreported.

For some consumers, irradiated beef is an acceptable protective measure. For most, however, a more viable and pleasant option would be the return of the service butcher. At SupermarketGuru.com, we believe this resurgence will occur primarily in supermarkets rather than independents, as retailers respond to consumer demand for local meat experts who can better guarantee their family’s safety from E.coli and other contamination. 

People who want burgers, for example, would be able to select a sirloin steak (which, unlike ground beef, has no exposure to fecal matter in the supply chain) and have it ground up on the spot. Some chains, like Wegmans, Fairway and Whole Foods, already have appealing service butchers. 

In order to have this differentiating department, other operators would have to redeploy their skilled staff, possibly hire and train more, and reformat their meat departments to offer convenient service. Because this could be costly, it may not be for everyone. Yet the food stores that offer this will ring up memories in their older customers, who used to buy meat this way with their moms and dads, and will garner appreciation from other customers who are willing to pay more and be more proactive to guard their family’s health.