The way we eat is changing. Sustainable food, farm-to-table culinary tracks, and other methods of better food with better sourcing are becoming more and more common in America’s urban centers. Ironically, it might be more of a return to the past than a glimpse of the future. In the past, before mass commercialization of food, most people knew exactly where their food came from, either it was grown and raised by their own hand, or it was bought at local markets and butchers, who sourced their meat and veggies from other local ranchers and farmers.
While a lot of the food we eat comes from elsewhere — and Colorado’s climate limits us to just how much we can buy locally — we are blessed with having the perfect ecosystem in the state for growing delicious (in the eyes of livestock) grass. “We are a state that used to be half prairie. And if you can manage it appropriately, that means we are also excellent at raising livestock. I’d like to see this state be half prairie again,” said Kate Kavanaugh, the co-owner of Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe. Even though Denver doesn’t have a historical legacy of butcheries such as seen in other cities, according to Kavanaugh, the idea of caring where one’s meat comes from is growing. “It’s an idea that starts in two places: people getting curious while they’re eating out at restaurants, and those restaurants doing a good job of sourcing and educating, and people getting curious about how food affects their health and their bodies,” said Kavanaugh.
“A good local butcher provides a link between an urban and a rural environment, allowing the city to understand the agricultural components and food producers that surround and support it, and giving those ranchers and farmers a chance to better understand a large portion of their customer base,” said Kavanaugh.
In the Metro area, local butchers — both new and old — work to continue the traditions of the past, and just maybe, make the average Colorado citizen a more knowledgeable and more sustainable consumer of meat.
Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe
Where: 3326 Tejon St., Denver
The Lowdown: Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe is the child of co-owners and partners Kate Kavanaugh and Josh Curtiss. Their delightful space in the Highlands might be considered the leader of a butchery revolution in Denver. The shop is the only whole animal butcher in Denver, and according to Kavanaugh, one of the few shops in the country that specializes in grass-fed beef and the dry-aging of that same beef. The shop is fully dedicated to not only giving customers amazing choices in food, but educating them as well. “The more you learn about where your food comes from, the soil it was raised on, the impact you have as an ‘eater’, the more curious you get about where you live. I really believe that when we connect with the landscape around us we are able to be better stewards of the land. I want to see butchery pique peoples curiosity about how Colorado grows food” said Kavanaugh.
Oliver’s Meat Market
Where: 1718 E 6th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: At 95 years old, Oliver’s Meat Market on 6th Avenue is a family-owned Denver institution that has provided the city for decades with local corn-fed beef and other meats. Almost all their meat comes from Colorado (pork from Brush, lamb from the western portion of the state and beef from eastern Colorado with a small amount coming from the west of Nebraska). Oliver’s is one of those places that has been around for so long, that it must be for a good reason. The store is adept at not only providing an above-grade product, but also providing fantastic service and advice, helping steer the ignorant among their customer base in the right direction.
The Local Butcher
Where: 2669 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: Located in Denver Central Market, the Local Butcher serves aged-beef, cuts of pork, lamb, bison and poultry. According to their owner, Justin Herd, 80 percent of their meat comes from local sources in Colorado. The store also serves sandwiches and provides the other stalls at the Denver Central Market with their meat. The Local Butcher prides itself on providing the intrepid shopper with guidance on how to prepare recipes. Customer service, and providing feedback on recipes and how to cook certain cuts is one of the hallmarks of the shop.
Where: 2233 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: This simple, bare-bones Larimer Street spot is a unique experience, part full service, meat-centric steakhouse and part retail butcher. Butcher’s Bistro allows one to select their own cut to be prepared in the kitchen or to take home. Specializing in nose-to-tail preparation, it serves locally sourced beef, lamb, poultry and pork. As well, Butcher’s sources dairy and greens from local Colorado farms.
Where: 6911 Washington St., Denver
The Lowdown: In business since 1951, family-owned Tymkovich provides Denver with fantastic butchered meats, such as their two to three-week aged-beef, as well as traditional homemade sausages and other specialties. Having been in the business for so long, Tymkovich produces some of the finest “old-fashioned” meat products in the Denver area, such as their wide kielbasa selection. And just for extra deliciousness, Tymkovich also provides whole pigs ready for roasting or pit-bbq smoking.
Wheat Ridge Poultry and Meats
Where: 650 W 29th Ave., Wheat Ridge
The Lowdown: Another family-owned establishment, Wheat Ridge Poultry and Meats has been in the business since 1942, when it started as a humble chicken and egg farm. The shop strives to offer local products and sources its grass-fed beef from 3T Ranch in Franktown. While not all the meat is locally sourced, the shop does offer other local products such as community-made dairy, pies, pickles and tamales.
Where: 1606 Conestoga St #3, Boulder
The Lowdown: Boulder favorite market and butcher, Blackbelly is the first and only independent whole-animal butcher shop in Boulder. Using beef sourced from Carter County in Wyoming (the home region of head-butcher Nate Singer) as well as pork sourced from McDonald Family Farm in Brush, Colorado and lamb sourced from Boulder Lamb & Meats, Blackbelly has brought sustainable butchery to the forefront of the Boulder culinary scene. Dedicated to sustainability, Blackbelly has gone above and beyond, working with their sources to develop entirely new means of sustainable feeding for livestock.