By Katie Fleeman
Many conversations in the foodie world involve the V word: vegetarianism. It comes with a number of arguments: it's more sustainable, it's healthier, and how could you possibly eat another living thing?
The folks over at the Local Butcher Shop would like to challenge that stereotype.
A new addition to North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto, The Local Butcher Shop is the brainchild of Monica and Aaron Rocchino, two vets of the food industry (Aaron was recently a chef at Chez Panisse). Monica, a chatty woman with blonde ringlets, mans the business end of things while her husband, in his pinstripe apron, handles the butchering. They opened The Local Butcher Shop on the ideals of the Slow Food Movement: supporting local farmers, building community, and maintaining environmentally responsible practices. And they think meat fits in perfectly well with these principles.
"Just being a vegetarian doesn't mean you're a responsible eater," says Monica. "Soybeans are one of the biggest GMO options out there. Being a vegetarian doesn't solve the problem."
In order to live up to their slow food standards, The Local Butcher Shop buys exclusively from local, sustainable farms.
"All of the farmers practice sustainable farms where all of the animals, even the egg laying chickens are on pasture," Monica describes. "They're out eating grass and roots and worms."
The Local Butcher Shop provides a list of these farms on their website, many of which are contacts from Aaron's days are Chez Panisse. They further promote transparency by butchering out in the open, where customers can watch, and providing windows so customers can see where their meat is stored.
Not all of the local foodies have embraced The Local Butcher Shop. In response to a recent article about The Local Butcher Shop in UC Berkeley's Daily Californian, readers raised doubts about whether or not meat could actually be sustainable. Monica adamantly disagrees.
"Mowing is part of the cycle of grass," Monica explains. "I agree that meat production en masse in our unfortunately now 'traditional' methods -- where you have hundreds of cattle, and we're feeding them corn feed -- that's not environmentally responsible. If you have grazing animals, grazing like they were meant to, that's a really symbiotic relationship."
At the same time, Monica repeatedly voices her support for vegetarians, and instead of seeing a beef (pardon the pun) between meat eating and vegetarianism, she sees a difference between responsible and irresponsible eating.
"If you decide as a responsible eater that you don't want to eat meat, I support that," she says. "But you have to check out where you're getting your vegetable from. There's room in a responsible diet to eat meat."
In the end, The Local Butcher Shop believes in one thing: good clean meat. And it's this belief that guides their work ethic and sustainable practices.
"We're the most the most ethical butcher in town," Monica concludes. "It's all in moderation. For yourself, for your body, for the environment."