Sometimes what’s old is new again. There was a time before the rise of supermarkets and industrial agriculture that if you wanted meat, you’d head to your local butcher shop. The owner would work with a whole animal that came from a local farmer, using everything from head to tail.
James Lum III, 28, and his 32-year-old business partner Matthew Greene wanted to bring this concept back to Virginia where they’re both from. They hashed out plans over a series of weekly dinners while living in Brooklyn back in 2010.
“At the time, we were working at The Meat Hook in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, and we had become extremely passionate about the mission of the whole-animal butchery,” recalls Lum. “Very few, if any, shops of that caliber yet existed in Virginia, and we wanted to be the first. Long meandering discussions of the concept led to a business plan, and, ultimately, our move to Charlottesville.”
By October of 2013, Lum and Greene had turned their dinner conversations into a brick-and-mortar reality with the opening of their first shop in Charlottesville, a charming city of about 43,000, about two-and-a-half hours southwest of Washington, D.C. Most recently, they teamed up with another young and passionate entrepreneur, Hunter Hopcroft, merging with his Harvest Grocery & Supply, in Richmond, to open a second stand-alone shop.
The concept is simple: provide meat to their customers from the best locally-raised livestock – and by best, they mean animals raised using sustainable, ethical, and environmentally-focused animal husbandry and land-management practices. Lum says how the animals are treated before and after death, as well as how the land is maintained, is their “number-one priority in selecting and working with local farms.”
The Charlottesville shop. Liz Barclay
The whole animal concept means more control over what they provide customers. They process the animals in-house, making every sausage they sell, curing and smoking their bacon, and dry-aging their own beef. Beyond that, they make a wide range of prepared foods, stocks, and sauces in order to use as much of the animals as possible.
“Not only are we going to insure the best possible end product with as little waste as possible, but we’re also making sure more of the consumer’s dollar is ending up in the pocket of the farmer. That just makes sense to us,” says Lum.
These guys also want to educate consumers, so they offer classes on the art of butchery, which Lum says are a great way to more directly engage with their customers. Their next class, on butchering hogs, is Feb. 15 at their Richmond location. You can get tickets here.
“We love good food and having a good time,” says Lum.