Cochon 555 Cutting Competition
Over the past few years Americans are returning to the age old concept of a local food supply. But we have come to realized that the disconnect with our food was so large that we almost have to begin again from scratch. We all want local meat, but the supply and networks are difficult to work with after years of factory-meat.
We have seen in the last decade the popularity and celebration of chefs using local foods, and from that, the rise of the local farmer and most recently the glorification of the neighborhood butcher shop’s meat cutters.
But as we try to re-create the local food supply, there is still one intricate part missing from the equation; the butcher. Between the farmer and the chef, lies butcher, the men and woman who transform the livestock into our cuts of meat. The butcher was once a highly coveted union trade, with great pay, job security, respect, and all the pride of any trade that is also considered an art. Today this has changed. Slaughterhouses and processing plants have disappeared and very few are being built. All of our energy in the past six decades is turning the art of butchering into an assembly line, where wages are reduced, the workforce is mobile and expendable, integrity is replaced by yield, and the butcher has been removed from our community and replaced with an unseen factory.
As the networks between local chefs, farmers and consumers strengthens, one thing has been made clear, the men and woman who butcher are a vital component in our food supply, and must be part of our community, just as the chef and farmer are. Butchering animals is not an unskilled job, quite the contrary, it is skilled labor. Very few chefs and even fewer consumers do not know how to break down an animal, nor should they, as it is extremely skilled and precise labor.
We seek out a food system where the journey from farm to table is responsible and in the skilled hands of people from within our community. All hands are pointing towards the butchering industry as the next piece to make the local food equation smooth and sustainable.
The trade of meat cutting and butchering is disappearing where and when we need it most. The slaughterhouses and processing plants have a hard time keeping skilled labor, and often are forced to rely on undertrained or frustrated cutters and butchers who find it difficult to take pride in work that can not pay them a living wage, and in an industry caught in a system that can not progress.
Cochon 555 can not change the system (not yet, anyway), but we can celebrate people who are favorably tilting the scales for our local producers. Years ago, the butcher was a celebrated job, and people regularly discussed cuts of meats with ‘their’ butcher. This period is once again upon us; consumers want to know where their food comes from and who is responsible for it.
What can Cochon555 do?
In order to continue to celebrate the local food movement and work towards a sustainable
food supply, we need to appreciate the people in the industry. In 2011 Cochon 555 will hone in on the men and women in the Slaughterhouses and Processing plants. We want them to share in the fame, the respect, integrity and better working conditions (both pay and job security) that local chefs and farmers are beginning to realize as consumers demand a local and sustainable food supply.
Cochon 555 is seeking the best “finished cutters” – those who can deftly take carcass from whole animal to retail case. We want those who can take whole animals and seamlessly transform it to the whims and desires of our chefs. And we want those who can translate the economic needs of our livestock farmers and balance that with the orders of their customers.
We are looking to the few remaining butchers tucked away local shops, in the back of supermarkets, in packing plants and slaughterhouses, wherever they have been able to find work. Our goal is to celebrate these men and women. To promote them as intricate parts of our food supply. Our aim is to make it a desirable trade and restore the art and integrity once associated with the work. Through the already established network of the local food network we ought to be able to open doors to better wages, more options of workplaces, and raise awareness of the necessity of keeping slaughterhouses and processing plants in the hands of our community. We want butchers to take as much pride in their skills as our chefs and farmers do. This pride will only encourage a growth in skills. This rise in skills will in turn lead to a growth in wages and create more butchering jobs. It has worked in the kitchen and farms, and so we expect it to work in the slaughterhouses and processing plants. In return, we the chefs, retailers, farmers and consumers will get back the last missing piece in a local and sustainable food supply for our proteins.
At Cochon 555, we will offer the following actions and services:
A Whole Pig Cutting Competition
Judged as follows:
25% knife handling and dexterity of roast tying
25% presentation of oven-ready retail cuts
We will have a “butcher booth”: On hand will be butchers and slaughterhouse workers and owners to discuss their trade. Videos and books will be for sale. Lists of local processing plants will be available for both farmer and chef.
Integration of the butcher into our local and sustainable food world: Our Cochon 555 Judges will also include local slaughterhouse/processing plant owners, managers & workers. They will sit down among noted chefs, media and farmers and judge the glories created by the local chefs.
Too often at our local food events, it is only the chef and farmer who are rubbing elbows with customers, drinking fine wine, and getting all the glory, we invite the butchers to take their rightful place in the limelight, and enjoy the wine, company and eats.
We are looking for underwriting partnerships; please contact [email protected] if you want to be involved.
The farmer, butchers and chefs are all glorified occupations, but the “finished cutter” is at an all time low. We can change the missing link.