Mystery Meat

How Organic Is Seattle's New "Organic" Butcher?

Comments

1
Hilarious, fabulous story. Veblen's cackling in his grave.
2
Juicy exposé!
3
Good article.

I don't think anything can be certified as "natural", can it? It's not a USDA certification like "organic", anyway.

As as for this: "Von Schneidau says that the names of the farms aren't important to his clients" he may be right. Because without that information I will not be one of his clients.
4
This makes me very sad. Shame on Butcher Bill if this is all true.
5
Skip all this crap and go to Rainshadow Meats on Capitol Hill instead! Everything says where it came from, and Russ the butcher is great!!
6
Terrific article and an uncomfortable reminder of how much we rely on marketing to tell us what we're getting.
7
Great article! Thanks for doing it, so I won't get sucked into their shenanigans.
8
I'll stick with Bob the Butcher in Columbia City.
9
Excellent! Allowing the truth or lack therof to reveal itself in a thoroughly entertaining and insightful way. Would love to hear what the FDA has to say about good ol' Bill and his "organic, I mean natutal, I mean it's none of your business where it comes from" meat.
10
I was really excited to hear about this place, but the whole point of seeking out "farm to table" shops is so that we can actually KNOW where the food came from. Seems like they're giving priority to raking in the dough over truth and transparency, which is a really huge shame.

@5, I've never heard of Rainshadow meats, I will definitely seek that out, cheers!

In the meantime, I will continue buying from the farmers directly at our wonderful local farmers' markets!
11
I host blind tastings of meat, including beef, from different artisan and near artisan ranches & butcher teams. Trust me, virtually everyone can tell the differences in flavor & texture (more formally I call the key attributes Texture, Personality, and Impression). Heck, I've had a nine year old and his 6 year old sister nearly come to fisticuffs over which farm's ground beef made the better burger.

@CleverScreenName This is a terrible URL link but it should link you to the USDA definition of "naturally raised" beef.

ttp://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&navID=NaturallyRaisedMarketingClaimStandards&rightNav1=NaturallyRaisedMarketingClaimStandards&topNav=&leftNav=GradingCertificationandVerfication&page=NaturallyRaisedMarketingClaims
12
@5 and 10: Here's some more info on brand-new Rain Shadow Meats and (the awesomely named) butcher Russ Flint.
13
I hope it all works out for Bill because the ribeyes I bought on Saturday were possibly the best I've ever had.
14
I can taste the difference between hamburgers from two different grass fed farms (both sold at the local farmers market) without question and likely so could anyone else. With all the different stories going on I won't be shopping there. If you can't tell me what farm it's from I might as well shop anywhere. Supply chain is what I expect from any smaller vendor (and larger ones for that matter!)
15
This is honestly disturbing. It doesn't take more than one food establishment mis-representing their goods as 'organic' or 'local' to ruin it for all the other true organic restaurants & bakeries in Seattle. As an organic bakery owner (we use organic & local ingredients and do not claim to be 100% organic) I am very honest and upfront about our supplier chain. This is one of the qualities of believing in local/organic/sustainable food systems - supply chain honesty and visibility to your consumers.
16
@13: It sounds like it's up to Bill to work it out. I'm all about delicious food, but dishonesty leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
17
Hi there,

I posted a comment on Yelp a while ago saying that I didn't believe the claims Bill the Butcher was making. You can view my yelp review on the Bill the Butcher - Madison Valley yelp profile. Today Bill himself replied and this is what he wrote me:

__________________________________

Cindy,

You are correct that we do not share specific ranches and farms currently. We are still developing our food chain and it simply is not prudent to release the names of specific farms at this time. In the near future we will have featured cards on the farmers and their farms and total transparency.

We are encouraging farms and co-ops up and down the Sound to produce to our specifications, and our neighborhood butcher shops are providing a selling venue for them beyond the farmer's market. This is creating a new supply chain, which requires patience and care and one we have been working on diligently since before last September when we opened. We are heavily involved in and a sponsor of the Focus on Farming convention and have been engaged with co-operatives in Northern and Southern Washington. We have agreements with ranchers and providers from Lopez Island to Anacortes to Spanaway to Carnation and Marysville to name just a few. Good things take time and we are making sure we do not jeopardize quality for quickness; there is enough of that in the U.S. food industry already.

We do supplement some product from nearby states like Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana when need be and we will continue to do so until our local supply chain can meet the needs of our customers. These out of state farms still produce to our standards and are currently necessary to meet our current demand needs.

Our meats are certified USDA Organic or raised to our beyond organic standards. No hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics, no Genetically Modified food inputs. We believe in rotational pastured grazing and sustainable farming practices and want to ensure our success does not come at the expense of our farms so we are working with them to develop accurate and scalable forecasts to ensure we do not stress the farm or the farmer.

We have nothing to hide at Bill the Butcher but we simply aren't in a position yet to give away the farm.

I hope this makes sense and please feel free to email or call me with any other concerns or issues. *information removed for privacy reason*
___________________________________________

It seems Bill is still in denial or flat out lying.

I think I'm going to check out that new Rainshadow meats everyone is mentioning.
18
Full Circle Farm is now offering local natural meats along with their produce deliveries. Pasture raised beef and pork from regional growers, and they can tell you exactly where each cut came from. It is fantastic, delicious stuff!
19
Me, I'm an A&J meats person, but then I don't really care about knowing which farm a chunk of steak came from. I'm not sure I understand all of this farm to table hype. I grew up on a farm and I can tell you that the quality of the product varies so much on a farm (depending on the field, the levels of irrigation it received, the day it was planted, the day it was harvested) that knowing which farm it came from is kind of useless.

I'm pretty sure all of the people wasting money on these overpriced 'local' source food haven't stepped onto an actual farm, well, ever. You can wax philosophical about the benefits of grass-fed or grain fed or free-range or, my favorite, scavenger chickens, but it's a bunch of food-snob hype. I'm pretty sure that if I take a pen raised steer and tell you it was allowed to wander and graze on grass, you'll choke down the beef and the 20% markup and smile and brag to your friends about how you are eating locally sourced.

Until I see your butt on a tractor or working in a field, your opinion on the quality of a farm, the benefits of proximity of agriculture or the difference that the farming/livestock technique makes is about as worthless as Bill the Butcher's assurances.
20
I buy the big bags of meat at IGA Cash and Carry. It's inexpensive, and tastes good. Now, if you want to know what the meat you are eating ate, raise it yourself. It really isn't that hard, just don't go nameing it.
21
OMG Cindyriffic, you seem like the type of person that makes me want to punch old people in the mouth. You actually post comments about your other comments with links to YOUR other comments. wow what a fucking turdbrain. Wow now I feel like I need to shop at this store since idiots like you aren't shopping there, and I am a freaking vegetarian!
HEY LOOK AT ME
22
@ 21, do you always comment when you're drunk?
23
Check out Rain Shadow Meats on Melrose between Pike and Pine. It is NOT a chain store lying to its customers about whether or not its products are organic AND the origins of its meats are clearly advertised. What's more, the shop's butcher is also its owner and sales person. In other words, one person is accountable for sourcing meats, butchery, and retail sales. This means you can have a conversation with Rain Shadow Meats' proprietor, and he can tell you what the farm is like where the meat came from, because he's been there and why its cut the way it is, because he cut it. It's a whole lot of peace of mind.
24
Christ--what a terrible name for a butcher. All I can think of is Daniel Day Lewis' psychotic "Butcher Bill" character in "Gangs Of New York". I suppose "Gein's Meats" was already taken.
25
Well I think his wife's comments cited at the beginning of the article and her past associations should be a red flag unto itself. Nike McDonald's aren't exactly high class, moral and sustainable operations.
26
I don't really mind them not stating which meat comes from which farm. However, if they've got up signs saying it's organic when it isn't, that's a legal issue. There's a reason that certified organic is more expensive, which is that it's bloody well expensive to do. Frankly, as someone who's worked on farms that are properly certified, I'm not going to demean the regulations by shopping somewhere that's going to lie about what they're selling.

The other major problem with this is that if they're buying "natural" meat and selling it as organic, it means that farms that actually do take the time and effort to raise meat within certification guidelines are losing business because of this company's duplicity. The butcher is using the misrepresentation to take away the very market that people think they're supporting when they shop there.
27
Check out The Swinery in West Seattle too. They don't mess around and they're stuff is darn good. They sell more than pork too, though their bacon is the sh*t.
28
The boss was at the Madison store the other day and he really brings on the hustle. A real salesman. My first impression is they are trying to bring together lots of localish high end labels and products and sell them to wealthy people. All the meat I asked about had a bit of a caveat. Something about what they hope to do eventually... And he explained the large Makers Mark bottle over the counter by saying they trade bourbon for meat. Maybe I'll take him up on it. It certainly felt like a shop made by a marketing department. This article is fascinating. Good job.
29
This sounds like Bill the Butcher is putting the cart before the organic horse. Firstly, there is NO organic certification in the United States for fish (you cannot certify water organic), and the closest organic fish that even comes close to meeting the standards would probably be Irish or Scottish Salmon. These are organic according to the standards of other countries. You can certify the feed organic, but to quote a trout famer I've known, "Fish don't eat broccoli. They just don't. You need to feed them fish meal and grain, and unfortunately, that means government corn and wheat most of the time."
Secondly, in this article, the staff has been exposed as inept, misinformed, and misleading to the customer. You'd better know what your fish, steer, and lamb are eating. Is it grass, grain, or corn fed? Is it simply grass finished? If you want to be beyond organic, you need to know what kind of grass it is that they're eating, if their pasture is clear and clean of sprays and pesticides, and if the soil is fertile and free of rainwater contamination.
If this is truly about the quality of the meat, and not a marketing machine (if only we all had our lovers to be our PR guru), there needs to be a hell of a lot of education of staff before BTB can back up his claims. Don't shit in my hands and tell me it's where an organic ribeye comes from. You can say anything is beyond organic. I've known farmers who do not subscribe to the organic movement because they feel that simply stating that their product is "No Spray" is enough. They're not deceiving the customers into thinking what they're getting is a superior product based on name association alone. It's good, honest food, and if you eat it, you'll be healthy. If I infer, through reading this article and visiting the butcher shops, that these hardworking family farms are being misrepresented, as a businessman and business model, there needs to be considerable change before I can ever endorse a place like this.
Train your staff. Know the difference between all natural, natural, kosher, halal, wild caught, farm raised, and please drop the beyond organic nonsense. It's a huckster's phrase, and if you want the respect of informed consumers, don't be a snake oil salesman. I understand that there's the bottom line of putting money in your pocket, although you can comfortably exist on the stock offerings. Still, there's nothing worse than a poorly informed attempt to take you to the cleaners for the purpose of making a buck when you know they're wrong. I don't care how good your pork chop tastes. It's not organic. You lie to me, you lose my business as a consumer, and I'm sure as Ms. Owens can probably tell you, each lost consumer, over a lifetime, represents in a business like this, $20,000 or more, assuming that they don't tell their friends (which they will. The uppities LOVE doing that).
Start off on the right foot. Educate your staff. Educate your staff. Do it, or you'll soon see that the hype machine wears off.
How many of the staff can break down a PSMO? Can you seam separate a leg of veal? If I go up to the counter and ask someone to chine a rack of lamb for me, is it going to be a long drawn out spiel over how the bone makes it taste better? Be less about the story, and more about the quality, and for fuck's sake, DON'T LIE TO THE CUSTOMER!
30
I got a 4# roasting chicken from the Mad Valley the other week. I really liked the shop itself, but the chicken, which I prepared exactly the same as I've done with many supermarket chickens, (brine overnight, convection roast in cast iron skillet to the same internal temp), was pretty unremarkable. In fact, I prefer the better supermarket ones for taste and juiciness. I'll try Rainshadow next time.
31
If he is selling it, someone else slaughtered and processed it. Every piece of meat came into his store with a USDA Establishment number on it. Customers should have access to those establishment numbers, if they care, and can at least learn something about where those animals were slaughtered and if the plant is certified organic. If he won't tell you the establishment numbers, or won't show you a label with those numbers on it, then he definitely has something to hide. We can all talk about what he may or may not be doing, but those process plant numbers are specific and real, and he had better have them or risk going to jail. Recalls are based on plant numbers, so consumers should have access to those numbers.
32
Seconding the recommendation for Bob's Meats in Columbia City. We get all our pork from there. Their beef is also grass fed and local, though we get most of our beef directly from a local farm because we has connections. It's great to fill the chest freezer with a quarter beef in the fall.

33
I'm going to Rainwater right now.
34
JBS @ 31: my understanding (and this is based on conversations with the WSDA's organic beef specialist in Oly) is that the slaughterhouses are USDA inspected and certified for operation but not certified as organic or non--that the same slaughterhouse can process both organic and non-organic animals, and that doesn't bear on the certification of the rancher or the claims made at the retail point of sale.

CSN @3, there are lots of org's out there (generally groups of farmers and ranchers) offering independent certifications as "natural," and in 2009 WA state senate passed a bill authorizing the state certification of "naturally raised and naturally raised grass fed cattle." it's pending in the house, where it should pass this season.

and yes, i second, and third, and raise my hand "aye" for all the votes for Bob's and Rain Shadow and A&J's and Don & Joe's and all the other indy shops that have been mentioned and those that haven't. bob's especially (owned by james, bob was his dad) seems like the direct inspiration for the more glammed-up and retail-ized Bill's
35
SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!
36
Rain Shadow Meats on Caphill has thundering hooves and painted hills beef. Both grass fed, with painted hills corn fed the last two weeks. Plus the owner won't lie to you about his products. Shame on you Bill!
37
I wonder if he is breaking the law by providing inadequate labeling. I found a pdf produced by the state of tennessee which is designed to clarify USDA requirements. Giving it a quick read, it is pretty clear to me that Bill is not in compliance if (big if) butchers are required to label their food.

In other words, if butchers selling meat out of a case are required to label the food, he is not in compliance. If they aren't, well, they should be.

http://cpa.utk.edu/pdffiles/cpa150.pdf
38
Follow up: more label requirements:
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Regulations/Man…
39
@21 Really? Don't be such a douche.
40
Isn't is a plain and simple legal issue if they are selling any items as organic that are not actually organic? Also, you can buy local, organic meats and produce at most good grocery stores and farmers markets around the city. Why would we need a boutique butcher anyway?
Does Bill the Butcher have a "signature scent"? If not, I vote for a mix of blood and garlic, with a hint of bleach for sanitation.
41
At least with product that is sold as is in the case, it needs to have Country of origin law attached to it. It needs to have Wild or farm raised if it is fish, and for meat, it needs to have either a USDA certification on the product, or a certification posted in a 'conspicuous place' according to rules and regulations stating that it is inspected as a facility. That simply means that all the purveyors are in compliance with USDA standards and practices. Whether or not it is labeled as all natural or organic is another thing entirely. This hasn't gotten to the point yet of the Orange Juice/OrangeAde debate, or the Cranberry Juice Cocktail phase (% of juice versus water/cornsyrup, etc.) if only because it is still considered among many to be a niche market. Flat regulations cannot be applied yet. If it's certified organic, prove it by staking the Oregon Tilth or similar signpick next to the meat. That's the added cache of things such as Marine Stewardship certification with fish. It is a selling point if you can prove through third party certification that your product meets the rigorous standards of what can be considered Wild, sustainable, or organic. If you can't, or if you won't, you're just blowing smoke up our asses, and it is outright lying to the consumer. Withholding of information is tantamount to lying and poor business practices. This is the organic trade here, not the Back of the Yards stockhouses run by the mob from the early 1900s. Have a little pride in your business, own up to your product, and give the customer the ironclad proof they need to see that what you see is what you get.

With that, I checked out Rainwater today. Small little counter, but if you want transparency in your food supply chain, go there. Every steak, every fresh meat item has the farm of origin lined up right there, and the sausages, crepinettes and confits are housemade. The proprietor is right behind the counter, and if you need further proof that he's the real deal, there is a window into the cooler. You can see every piece of meat that is waiting to be broken down from a subprimal, and it is stamped or sealed with where it came from. There are hanging porkbellies and a six bone Rib roast hanging on meat hooks. What more do you need?

I got a hangar steak for one, as well as some cheese from Calf and Kid, and some japanese baby turnips from Mint and Marigold, and each one had the full backing of someone who was forthcoming with information, (the woman at the cheese place tasted the ricotta to ensure quality before I bought it), and were honest about where it came from (The turnips came from Oxbow farms in Snoqualmie valley, first of the season, in the ground that day. If you've ever dug a turnip, you know what a fresh one looks like. Unbelievable appearance and flavor).

That spot is going to be something special. They've all bonded in the two and a half weeks that they've been open, and it's well worth it to explore and support the single proprietors who are making a good honest living by selling something that we all can believe in- quality product and compassionate service.
42
I had searched for months for a reputable butcher and finally stumbled A&J Meats at the top of Queen Anne. Sustainable, grass fed beef, local farm raised hogs, no factory chickens and their own smoke house. The family operating it has been around for over 90 years and they know their shit! Stop spending your money in these phony chain store, Whole-Foods, Starbucks, feel good theme joints . They advertise sustainability but still use tons of real-estate, out smaller businesses under, offer the same colorful packaging and usually get caught lying to you about the quality of their products and where they came from. Butchering is an art form, handed down from generation to generation. A dying art form at that. At least support a business that actually gives a shit about its craft and what its customers put in their bodies.
43
I did the Whole Foods thing for a while, and while public perception typically is that of what you're onto, they're one of the few bigger box stores that actually retains the journeyman position of butchering. It doesn't really matter too much, though. Unless you get out in the country (yes, further than Woodinville), there aren't nose-to-tail butchers. All meat comes in shrinkwrapped/vacuum sealed, broken down into a single rack or subprimal. Most people don't need to do more than run it through a bandsaw to make it look like a finished product. It's sad, but true. We don't know how to trim a fat cap because we don't have to. At least give them a little credit there. Even if WF sources are large scale, they're fairly upfront about it, and usually start with a higher grade, if somewhat jejune piece of meat.
44
'...she exhorts retailers to focus on the customer's emotional experience and not the products themselves: "The purpose under every single transaction is personal. They're not buying the shampoo, they're buying the feeling—they want to take home the feeling... That's the reason they're there."'

... actually, I'm there to make sure that I'm eating local, sustainably farmed meat that is organic and free of preservatives.

I guess you won't be seeing me in YOUR shop!
45
Now I feel like a jerk. Rainshadow. The guys gave me a great steak. Go there. All the time. Every time.
46
We get the cow straight from the farm at Hemlock Highlands [http://hemlockhighlands.net]
47
Wow... I've shopped at BtB a few times over the last couple of months, both the Woodinville one and the new Redmond one (well, it's convenient to Victors - my favourite coffee shop :) and been impressed by the look and texture of the meat, but now... well... I'm looking for a good butcher, one that also sells things like goat, in the Redmond/Woodinville area (Rainshadow, whilst it sounds good, is just too far away for me to pop to on an evening when I want a nice steak to sling on the grill). Anyone any suggestions?
48
Here's an interesting follow-up: Not one certified organic beef ranch in Washington state sells beef to Bill the Butcher.
49
I myself shop at Madison Market! I know the beef is from Oregon, Pork is from Idaho and the lamb is from Colorado (yes Colorado) some of the best lamb I have ever tasted. I trust the butcher from Madison Market. He always answers my questions and has some GREAT ideas when it comes to cooking. He has given me some excellent recipes as well. There Cioppino is made from scratch which is very Delish. I recently tried their salmon dip (whichis their own recipe) and it was fantastic. They also have some of the best and freshest fish on the hill. I have been shopping there for years and really trust what they say I am getting is what I am getting. Lots of literiture on all products. According to the butcher if I want to go see the farms I am welcome anytime, that says a lot for me. I have tried their crab cakes some of the best around, kind of spendy (as crab is)so they are a special treat when I can afford them. Give Madison Market a try I think you'll agree with me. All their meat is very very good.
50
I myself shop at Madison Market! I know the beef is from Oregon, Pork is from Idaho and the lamb is from Colorado (yes Colorado) some of the best lamb I have ever tasted. I trust the butcher from Madison Market. He always answers my questions and has some GREAT ideas when it comes to cooking. He has given me some excellent recipes as well. There Cioppino is made from scratch which is very Delish. I recently tried their salmon dip (whichis their own recipe) and it was fantastic. They also have some of the best and freshest fish on the hill. I have been shopping there for years and really trust what they say I am getting is what I am getting. Lots of literiture on all products. According to the butcher if I want to go see the farms I am welcome anytime, that says a lot for me. I have tried their crab cakes some of the best around, kind of spendy (as crab is)so they are a special treat when I can afford them. Give Madison Market a try I think you'll agree with me. All their meat is very very good.
51
Wow. I feel really used though I guess it kinda points to why I also felt strangely underwhelmed by the Mad Valley store.

I just assumed one of those guys there was "Bill" and that the lady running the checkout was the wife with the heavy hand at all the "cute food". To find out that's it a corporate chain store, explains all that cute food (margin on impulse shopping), and also why there's no place where it looks like the "butchers" are "preparing food" or why they weren't able to explain some of my simple questions about it. It's just a meat counter!

Particularly galling to me know is a brief exchange where I mentioned that I really liked "The Swinery" and the guy "Bill" starts bad-mouthing it as I was standing there thinking you'd think as an independent sustainable butcher, he'd be just as much into what they do and totally like, "Yep, they're great". I chalked it up to poor business skills and excitement at having his own store..over-riding common decency and the unity of butchers.

I appreciate very much this article, because now that store and my couple experiences there make so much more sense. Those guys don't have to be butchers at all!

That pushy sales guy who's not "Bill" probably doesn't have a clue about sourcing local meat, he's just unloading whatever truck shows up and what some person sitting in a cube is ordering on the phone.

Really, just wow.
53
Hey, look! Dishonesty in the meat industry. How udderly surprising!
54
Thank you Matthew. This is real journalism and a pleasure to read.

Something rare these days, where even the publisher of this story is a corporate mouthpiece masquerading as a local, independent weekly.
55
Rad article Bethany! Love the deep journalism. Haven't eaten meat in 11 years, but I'll make sure to talk shit about this place to anyone who'll listen.
56
Oops, sorry for the improper credit. Saw as I was posting links elsewhere that Matthew Richter was the author. Way to be guy I haven't read from before. Stranger, feature this guy more often.
57
I was shocked last year when I learned that the "Atlantic salmon" I had been buying was farm-raised, not wild Atlantic salmon. I was told that the Atlantic labeling meant the species, not where it came from. With food sold so deceptively, I no longer trust any grocers.
58
@57, i know... my wife pointed out that the pasta i bought, marketed as "made with whole wheat," was not in fact whole wheat pasta. ("made with whole wheat" means they put a little whole wheat in the mix)
59
Matthew,
I enjoyed your article on meat. I used it as a opportunity to talk to my employees about being honest about where our meat comes from. Forty years in this business has taught me that you are only as good as your reputation. Customers are interested more now days how our product is raised and fed. One mistake a new employee (or a server in a restaurant) makes is to tell the customer everything is organic or raised in the owner's back yard and fed fresh cut grass. The 'natural' label is used or overused so much now days that it's hard for us in the industry to keep up to date ourselves! For example, a piece of meat can be labeled "organic" even though the animal has not been fed exclusively organic feed all year round. Knowing if a company has good information on the source of its animals, how clean their operation is, etc. is important too. We sell a variety of meats at different price ranges for our customers. I try to let them know where I get it from and as much as I know on how it is raised and fed. The customer deserves to know this information to help them decide how to spend their hard earned bucks.

Don Kuzaro
Don & Joe's Meats
Pike Place Market
60
Jim, Don't let that sour you. If they marketed it as "Wild Atlantic Salmon," then that in itself is incorrect, and they should be mightily chastized for that. There is no Wild Atlantic Salmon, and there never will be again. What you need to look for is a species of salmon, one of the big five "King, Sockeye, Coho, Keta, or Pink", and then ask if they're farmed or wild. Fresh does not mean wild. Fresh means fresh. Nor does medium salmon mean a type of salmon. Medium is a size, not a flavor. I want my salmon to taste like a king. I've seen farmed sockeye, farmed Coho, and farmed King, with the latter being the most common. Be wary, and ask questions. Look for the snips on the tail, well worn dorsal fins, and if you see fillets that all look the same in color, that dayglo orange, ask.
Here's where it gets tricky as a consumer: Who owns the water? A fish can say that it was caught in Iceland, but when you are trolling international waters, there are strange boundaries, oftentimes muddied, where different groups overlap. Some call it piracy, but it's a fishing gray area.
One such industry is the King Crab Business. There's Russian and Alaskan King Crab, which both fish out of the Bering Sea. How can you tell the difference? Different countries have different methods of cooking and processing their fish. Look at how the cuts are. If they are sharply cut along the divisions between the leg, chances are they're probably United States processed. If not, they may be Russian.
One other issue is where the fish is processed vs. where it is caught. A lot of the portion cuts of frozen seafood that you get in the store say "Product of china", even if it says "wild Alaskan salmon". Why? Because it's cheaper to catch the fish in Alaska, slowboat it to Asia, process it over there, and send it back to be sold in the United States. Doesn't mean the fish is bad, or mistreated, but there are also sustainable options that are caught and processed in the United States.
THis law has been Mandatory for all retail operations since 2008. If someone asks you, you must know. Wholesale operations are required to let the retailers know exactly where their product comes from.
With that said, Don is a standup guy. I've gotten stuff from the counter at the market a few times, and they're great about educating the customer about the reality of what it means to have a fresh cut of meat. It always tastes great, and to Don, I say thank you for being upfront about it and educating your staff. Let's hope that more butchers follow your lead. You've earned some business here.
61
Please refer to Mr. Bill Hicks' views on marketing and advertising below. And please everyone, stop being so damn gullible, if the restaurant or store doesn't know where their meat comes from don't eat/buy from there.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0…
62
Sounds like Bill is engaged in an unfair or deceptive act or practice on the public. The Washington Attorney General investigates complaints for matters like that.

Form is online at https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/…
64
Went to bills the other day. $25 per pound was the average price. I walked out. Glad I did.
65
How do you make it big in Seattle? Guilt and adjectives.
66
They labels are mostly a bunch of bunk anyways. I'm much more interested in overall sustainability. "organic" is a checklist of "don'ts", with no clear end-goal.

For instance if he brings in cows from the Nevada, then its probably just adding to the water problems they have there. Greenhouse's might use more energy, but can easily be certified "organic". etc
67
I inquired about the source of their pork from the salesman/butcher in their Laurelhurst shop a few months back. When he told me Carlton Farms pork (Carlton, OR), I asked why they didn't buy from Pure Country Pork in Ephrata, WA since they were closer, a family farm, and their hogs certified by the Food Alliance as "raised in a sustainable and natural environment." It didn't appear that he had ever heard of Pure Country Pork...
68
I inquired about the source of their pork from the salesman/butcher in their Laurelhurst shop a few months back. When he told me Carlton Farms pork (Carlton, OR), I asked why they didn't buy from Pure Country Pork in Ephrata, WA since they were closer, a family farm, and their hogs certified by the Food Alliance as "raised in a sustainable and natural environment." It didn't appear that he had ever heard of Pure Country Pork...he also wasn't very forthcoming about the source of some of his other meat, so I haven't been back since.
69
I swear you can sell anything to the affluent chumps who reside in those well-heeled and carefully chosen neighborhoods. Just so long as it reinforces their smug sense of piety. Let them eat grass-fed, free-range, organic chateaubriand!
By the way, if you Google "Bill the Butcher", a picture of Daniel Day Lewis in "Gangs of New York" will appear at the top of the results page.
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Rain Mountian on Cap Hill is AWESOME! And Russ knows where EVERYTHING comes from, including the names of farmers, etc. And he has fresh squab...mmm, pigeon!

A n J on Queen Anne is good too...
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I can't help but wonder how many of you offended posters are in fact vegetarians? You have no dog in this fight, christ, if you hate this butcher shop so much, just don't get off your fucking high-horse long enough to go there... Instead of eating organic beef, I suggest that many of you just go ahead and eat shit, and die...
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I would like to apologize to any customer that purchased Dog Mountain Farm chickens or eggs under the assumption that they were certified organic. Transparency is very important to us. The decision to sell through a third party wasn't even considered until we met William and learned about his plan to feature local meats. Since we no longer would have direct customer contact, we insisted on signage to tell the story of how our animals are raised and processed. This was exactly what Bill the Butcher wanted to highlight. From the time William opened the first store in Woodinville, we provided information cards which were prominently displayed. In addition to William visiting our farm, David and I took the time to visit the Woodinville and Redmond stores to ensure our products were appropriately labeled and talked with the butchers working in the shops. William and his staff took our feedback and made the changes we asked for, including instructing customers on proper cooking methods. I can't validate the statements made in this article, but I believe there was absolutely no intent by the owners to misrepresent products in their stores. They have set big, bold goals that must be challenging and I am certain any lack in training of new staff is being addressed. There aren't many sources for local meats and most producers are small with limited or seasonal availability. How consumers choose to spend their food dollars is critically important to the sustainability of our local agriculture. We, as farmers, are fortunate to see the return of neighborhood butcher shops and to have a year-round outlet for our high-quality, farm-fresh products. I encourage consumers to support your local farms and butcher shops and make your choices based on more than one critic's point of view.
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Bill's rebuttal to this article is up at http://billthebutcher.us/An_Open_Letter.…
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Well said Cindy! Looking forward to catching up with you and your Dog Mountain crew at QA Farmer's Market to pick up our weekly ration of eggs. One privilege of city living is that the farmers are willing to come to us. With a little planning we can make eye contact with the people that raise our dinner.
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Snap, Bill the Butcher just called you a liar. Or at least set up some strawmen and shot them down.
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Another casual reminder that marketing is a dirty, dirty enterprise.
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Bill's response : http://billthebutcher.us/An_Open_Letter.…

There’s No Mystery.

It isn’t easy being green, but for us there is simply no alternative.

It takes a substantial investment and a period of years to get an organic certification and many local farmers and ranchers just cannot afford to pursue this, and that is why we have never stated we are “100 percent certified organic.” In order to ensure our farmers meet our standards, we give them our vendor specification kit. This application requires the farm to demonstrate to us that they do not use hormones, steroids, antibiotics or genetically modified inputs. We formally call their product “Bill the Butcher Natural” and you can review our specifications on the Meat Standards tab at www.billthebutcher.com.

In our marketing, in our signage, on our web site, and in our brochure we have never represented our meat as being “100 percent certified organic.” Instead, we have said “organic and natural, grass fed and local” to best represent our total mix of meaty offerings.

Transparency is of the ultimate importance to us and we are creating a system that allows us to track our meat from the farm to our cases. You will be able to learn not only where our meat comes from and who raises it, but also what the animal ate, how it was harvested and the interesting nuances that nobody has ever attempted to reveal, such as the specific breed/bloodline of the animal. We’ll provide you with information allowing you to pinpoint your ultimate preferences in the quest for your perfect steak. For instance, you will be able to discern the difference between Natural Short Horn Brahmin beef raised and finished on grass vs. Organic Limousin beef raised on grass and finished on organic grain.

In a mere 9 months, we’ve formed a new supply chain of local and conscientious ranchers and farmers who raise and produce healthy and safe food. We will start showcasing our ranchers and farmers, those who agree to be featured, next week. As you may already know our meat and poultry comes from Snohomish County, King County, Anacortes, Lopez Island, Spanaway, Duvall, Arlington and Mt. Vernon in Washington , and from Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This mix is constantly changing and growing as we add new suppliers to our team and we are proud to say that our local roster of farmers is the best of the best. We will always go as close as we can and as far as we have to in order to deliver products of the highest standards.

Our ranchers and farmers and their careful, humane practices have allowed us to open four butcher shops in Woodinville, Madison Valley, Redmond, and Laurelhurst. Each shop has been outfitted and furnished almost entirely from renewed, reused or recycled materials.

We’ve hired a talented group of executive chefs, culinarians and butchers who are all dedicated to sustainability. In the process, we have created over 30 local jobs. We’ve also spent more than $300,000 buying organic and natural, grass fed meats, local chickens and wild fish from people who believe as we do – that the only meat to eat should come from progressive producers who practice better and more humane ways to raise animals in support of human and environmental health.

Our business is just getting started, and we have had some growing pains that are being addressed with an internal training program to ensure accuracy at every level in the shops. But our mission is crystal clear: to bring the butcher shop back to the neighborhood, with clean, environmentally healthy meats brought to you directly from local farmers and ranchers.

It is not easy to be the change agent of a cause this important, but we ask that you continue to support our efforts and assure you that we are going to change our corner of the world “one steak at a time."
78
Does it bother anyone that the name of Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan's buddy from The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Inc. virtually required reading at this point, had his name misspelled in BTB's list of must reads as "Salatini"? Not once, but twice? Far be it from me to attack the strength of character, but are there not fact checkers, has anyone actually read one of those books, and moreover, do they even know who he is and what his story is? His philosophy does not support what it has been proven that BTB does, customers such as Dog Mountain receiving an exemption based on their local status. I think something good that has come out of this is that it has pushed their agenda of revealing, or scrambling to find, their flagship sources of proteins. Good job, Matthew.
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These people sound like charlatans.
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Hey Bill. Why no mention of where you get your smoked sausages and wieners and Landjaeger and Bacon? Taste like Bavarian Meats. When did they go organic? You fooled us. Now go.
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This is the central problem with the whole "organic" movement. It's become such a popular marketing buzzword, that any and every kind of business wants to get in on it, and will do anything to market themselves as "organic".

I just recently saw an ad for a pesticide (for pets) company touting its organic model, and showing people picking flowers out of fields to make flea shampoos. What they neglected to say was that this is the way pyrethrin pesticides have been made for years. Chemicals have all been derived from plant or animal sources at some point. Just show the plant source of your chemical, and you can market anything as "natural". The terms organic and natural are slowly being rendered meaningless by their own popularity.
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I have been a meat cutter for 12 years and the only place I buy meat is at whole foods market! 100% knowlede of all the products they carry, they have all the vendor info upon request, the farms come in and do demos and they are the only certified organic company in the world!
Best shop hands down!
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The best, and really only, places to get your meat and know EXACTLY where it comes from are the FARMERS MARKETS. Seattle has a bunch of great farmers markets where local farmers sell directly to the consumer (and I don’t mean Pike Place – I’m talking about U-Distr, Broadway, Ballard, Columbia City, etc). There is no middle-man, and there is no false labeling or marketing – just the farmers selling what they produce on their own family farm. They will tell you exactly what you are getting and what their farm is. It doesn’t get any better than that, unless you go out to the farm yourself to buy, or, grow it yourself. At the U-Distr. farmers market I can buy goat meat, lamb, beef, chicken, pork, eggs, cheeses, not to mention the enormous heads of heirloom lettuces, the flats of raspberries…and every dime goes to directly to the farmer, not the butcher or grocery store owner. (Although I do certainly appreciate the butchers and grocery stores that sell local, sustainable products, and I support them when I absolutely can't make it to a farmers market.)
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@29.. Well done. Thank you, Stranger, for this story! This is just another case of someone taking advantage of the "Green Hallucination" our country is having. It seems like Owens saw "Food Inc." and found herself a new bandwagon to exploit. I will definitely be going to Rainshadow Meats.
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The best, and really only, places to get your meat and know EXACTLY where it comes from are the FARMERS MARKETS. Seattle has a bunch of great farmers markets where local farmers sell directly to the consumer (and I don’t mean Pike Place – I’m talking about U-Distr, Broadway, Ballard, Columbia City, etc). There is no middle-man, and there is no false labeling or marketing – just the farmers selling what they produce on their own family farm. They will tell you exactly what you are getting and what their farm is. It doesn’t get any better than that, unless you go out to the farm yourself to buy, or, grow it yourself. At the U-Distr. farmers market I can buy goat meat, lamb, beef, chicken, pork, eggs, cheeses, not to mention the enormous heads of heirloom lettuces, the flats of raspberries…and every dime goes to directly to the farmer, not the butcher or grocery store owner. (Although I do certainly appreciate the butchers and grocery stores that sell local, sustainable products, and I support them when I absolutely can't make it to a farmers market.)
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Maybe I'm missing something but how can meat that "comes from as far as Colorado and Nevada" be considered local, by any stretch of the imagination? - granted, it could be worse, but thats not what I think of when I think of local - I think more of a 100-mile diet type thing.
And it seems they're using the terms "natural" and "organic" interchangeably, which you can't do. "organic" is a certification, "natural" used as a sales pitch to get people to buy more of your product., AFAIK, there is no organization that certifies whether something is "natural" or not
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All retailers selling products with an organic label are required to maintain the documents to prove it. Retailers are exempt from having to be certified but not exempt from maintaining the records. This is a requirement of the federal organic labeling laws (1990 Organic Food Production Act and 2002 National Organic Standards). In addition, the retailer must make these records available to accredited certifiers and the National Organic Program. If any customers are concerned about the organic integrity of this retailer's meats, they can lodge a complaint with the National Orgnaic Program, itself, or with an accredited certifying agency. A complaint always prompts an investigation. The Washington State Dept of Agriculture Organic Program is Washington's most local certifier. The WSDA Organic Food Program's # is 360-902-1805
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This was a hilarious, and awesome, article. I'm bookmarking it for everyone I hear talking about buying local who believes what they're told in a store. Good work! Keep it up!
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I wonder if the people driving up in their German made cars with their leather seats are really concerned about buying local? The dead hide that heats up your behind, Is it organic?
To think you can change the world with a steak is a mistake. Love and compassion for our food should also go to our fellow humans.
90
reposted
I am glad to see that a paper would be so honest. I have over 30 years in the meat industry and Bill the BS'r is bad for our industry. To call these people meatcutters is insulting to say the least. I went to his store in Redmond. He had pork displayed above his beef. Do they have a health card. The open bottle of booze is a violation of state law.Can you say L&I. Boycot BS and his little dog too.
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Great article; for a moment I was pleasantly surprised that an online paper I'd been reading had finally done some investigative journalism rather than paraphrasing the latest Reuter's blurb. Then I remembered this was the Stranger, and not 'another Seattle online paper, which needs to take notes'

Keep up the good work!
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Bill:
"In the future" when the "product lines are secure" and we see the "full disclose", THEN I will shop there.

Meanwhile, I am sticking with Fisher's Meat in Issauquah. Not organic, but the quality and professional service and skill are outstanding, and at least I am giving my money to a local company, not a giant food conglomerate.
93
I attempted to write a Yelp review of Bill's in Redmond to sum up our feelings on this development and to warn other people. It posted on May 19 and since that time, it has been removed. I find this highly suspect and one more (bad) example of what a poor business model this place has!
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My visit after all of the comotion resulted in watching the butcher stumble around trying to figure out what sausages had pork or beef in them. While some of the sausages in the case were raw and possibly made by BTB, the cooked/smoked ones were made by Bavarian meets.
While great product Bavarian makes no claims to be organic either.
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"The purpose under every single transaction is personal. They're not buying the shampoo, they're buying the feeling—they want to take home the feeling... That's the reason they're there."'

This thinking is the heart of what's wrong with our economy. Marketing and profits mean everything and actual product quality means next to nothing. This has to stop. This is hurting America.
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"Bill the Butcher customers pay 10 to 20 percent more than at comparable local butcher shops,"

Really? Did we drop a zero somewhere?
97
The "organic" label is meaningless. All I want to know is what the rancher fed the cow. I don't care for beef that has been force fed grain to fatten it. The grass-finished beef is the best, in my opinion. It is what nature intended beef to be.
98
I love this article. The writer is brilliant. I am still laughing. I have been doing some consulting on livestock processing. While I am not an expert, what I do know is that a huge part of eating local is how the animal is slaughter. Quite a few very nice farmers send their very nicely raised critters to really bad bad bad slaughter operations. They do not have much an option because most of the small slaughter ops shutdown when all the processing went industrial and now the USDA regs are very expensive. Key question for any butcher is where was the animal slaughtered and how many animals do they do a day. If you are concerned about the human issues this is very important. Recommended reading -- Eating Animals - Foer.
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What about packaging? Buying organic meat wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray is the equivalent of one step forward, and then one step backward again....
100
I'm one of those "old persons," so I'm commenting with trepidation. I wish I could put all this behind me. I tried and failed. I like meat; I was raised in KCMO. When we had hamburgers, they were "Prime." Steaks, ribs, all the time. I'm also an "animal person." I'm as concerned about "humane" treatment of my future steaks and chops as about organic or taste issues. I detect several different motivations in the comments. Class envy, for one. Biologically, we're meant to eat meat. That's my belief. This should not be a class issue. Those wealthy "chumps" who grab dinner at BTB likely don't have time to do the research and deep thinking some of you have done. I'm retired. When I eat meat, I'd like to think that the creature, sentient, probably conscious, highly intelligent and capable of deep human-like emotion, did not suffer a horrible life and death. Hunting, when you think about it, is far more humane. I've known several of these creatures very personally (ducks, horses, other birds, dog, in some countries) and I can attest, albeit anecdotally, to the intelligent and emotional part. I know that if I ever visited a slaughterhouse I would never eat meat again. I haven't even watched the documentaries. This is my issue; I respect all of yours. Here's my thought: I/we --some of us-- contribute to animal charities. Buying "humane meat" (instead, if necessary) could be the win/win "contribution" to consider. To encourage. Is there a source out there? (BTW Try! to be gentle. Y'all scare me.)