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The local butcher: a dying breed?

As the farm to table movement grows, the practice of using the entire animal for consumption is taking root among gastronauts and lessons in do-it-yourself butchery are cropping up around the country.

Although the once common neighborhood butcher is a now a near-extinct rarity with the postwar rise of supermarkets offering convenient prepackaged cuts of meat, Michael Dulock of Concord Prime and Fish in Concord is determined to keep the butchering tradition alive. "We're a dying breed," said Dulock, 37, who grew up in Everett.

He fondly remembers visiting the local meat market as a little boy, kicking sawdust on the floor as he waited for his mother to buy quarter ribs, neatly wrapped in white butcher paper. "I remember the smell, like flesh or beef, it was the distinctive scent of a butcher shop," he said.

Slaughterers, butchers, and meat cutters like Dulock are all expected to experience some growth in employment as the demand for meat, poultry, seafood, and other high-protein foods grows. Like many butchers, Dulock learned on-the-job, with the help of a hired former slaughterhouse worker who showed him, how to break down an animal through trial and error. Instead of just buying boxed beef, he said to get exactly what you want, you have to do it yourself.

"I can get quarter house and T-bones from one side of beef, or take the bone out and get strip steak and tenderloins," he said.

Q: Do you get calls from people wanting you to slice up a deer that they?ve caught?
A:
I always refuse, because the deer might be field dressed with no guts, but there?s still a hide on it, so ticks or diseases could contaminate my shop. The meat not wholesome enough; I don?t know how long they?ve had the animal, what condition it?s in, or how long it?s been stored.

Q: Where do you butcher your meat?
A:
After it arrives from the slaughterhouse, and I cut it up in the back of the shop. There?s a mount on the ceiling, and I hang the animal on the hook and cut the meat there, versus on a bench. When you cut the meat, there are certain places where the muscles separate along the seams. If you make a mistake, you ruin the cut of meat, such as cutting a top round in half.

Q: How long does it take to break apart an animal?
A:
For a small 30-40 pound lamb, it takes maybe a half an hour to get from the whole to process into resale cuts. For much larger, 600-700 beef, it can take the better part of a day, maybe six hours.

Q: What is your favorite type of meat to eat?
A:
My favorite cut is pork belly, which is what makes bacon, and bacon makes everything taste good. I like the texture; it?s fatty and rich. I also like oxtail off the beef, something a little bit off the ordinary.

Q: Any cleaver injuries?
A:
Not a cleaver but a fairly large butcher?s knife that nearly severed my thumb during Christmas rush, the first year we opened.

Q What will Thanksgiving bring for you?
A:
The start of the retail super bowl. We sell all natural feed, free-range turkeys and organic turkeys as well as access to heritage breeds. Those have smaller breasts and are gamier in flavor, closer to the wild turkey. I?ll order a couple hundred birds of different types and then hope to sell everything I order.

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