Creating the Manifesto

This is the last of a 3-part series.  You can catch up by reading Road Trippin' Across Europe (Prolog), Origins - part 1, and Meating Fellow Revolutionaries, part 2. 

We were up early the next morning and ready to begin the formulation of the Manifesto. Michael had outlined five key points he wanted to touch on in our mission statement:

  • Tradition
  • Quality
  • Education
  • Craft
  • People

For each of these subjects, Michael had assigned a speaker who would lead the discussion for 15-20 minutes after which we would begin a group discussion. All the speakers were experts in their respected fields.

TRADITIONS:

The “traditions” segment was lead Henning Wiesinger, owner of Steensgaard Farms, a Danish nose-to-tail farm, slaughter facility, and butcher shop.

They do it all under one roof, from “seed to sausage”.

He discussed how the connection between the farmer and butcher has become lost, but fortunately, Steensgaard has been instrumental in preserving this traditional method of butchery.  The unique aspect of Steensgaard is their method and ideology of harvesting. Their animals aren't transported to a distant slaughterhouse - they are harvested right on the farm using a state of the art harvest facility.  It is the farmers who know the animals and lead them to the slaughterhouse where they go in a special enclosure until they are slaughtered. This ensures the lowest possible stress levels to the animals. Once slaughtered, the carcasses are immediately hung up and broken down while still warm, ensuring a quality product.  It also provides close cooperation between the farmer and butcher by creating opportunities for them to work together on meat quality and product development.

After Henning finished, we came together as a whole and tried to outline a statement on traditions.

We honor the valuable traditions of butchery.

It might seem very simple, but you have no idea how much discussion and thought went into that sentence.

QUALITY:

Adam Danforth, a James Beard award-winning author and butcher from Oregon then spoke on the topic of quality. Adam is an advocate for consuming older animals – these animals have more time to develop complex flavor in their meat. He also emphasizes flavor over texture, while the rest of the world buys the exact opposite. This discussion then led into another concerning the long-term sustainability of meat. The earth cannot support 7 billion people who eat meat every day. Adam's solution: eat less, but better meat.

Again, we converged for group discussion. The main point in this session was ensuring that superior quality was maintained through the whole process, from seed to sausage.

We insist on transparent and honest meat.

 EDUCATION:

Michael lacked a speaker for his point on education. Moved by my non-traditional path to butchery, he asked me if I would be willing to speak on the subject the night before.

Me?

I was the youngest butcher there and had little experience compared to the old guys who were born with blood stained knives in their hands.

But I wasn’t going to turn an opportunity like this down.

After a quick lunch break consisting of some incredible beef cheek tacos, it was my turn.

I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my life. I even spent a lot of time acting as a kid and I’ve got two state titles to prove it. But, this was different. This was my career.

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.

After a quick prayer, I took my place at the head of the room and began to tell my story: The revelation in my Entrepreneurship class at TCU, the slaughterhouse down in South Texas, selling my car to pay for a three-month apprenticeship at Fleishers in NYC, as well as my time in France and Italy.

The discussion that followed centered around setting up a cost-free international apprenticeship program among the butchers involved in the manifesto, with me as the example and guinea pig.

We promote the exchange of knowledge and expertise.

CRAFT:

Dominique Chapolard and Kate Hill handled “Craft.” While Kate talked about the Chapolard system and butchery in France, Dominique went to work on a half carcass, demonstrating his skills. Many butchers hadn’t seen a carcass broken-down with this method before.

We represent a craft that is the joyful expression of tradition and innovation.

PEOPLE:

Olga Graf and Akina Kai, two design thinkers from Berlin, were charged with helping these butchers think “outside the box.” They led a discussion revolving around the interactions between butchers and consumers.

We lead the conversation about responsible consumption of meat.

After Kate and Adam had tweaked the wording a bit, the Manifesto was ready to sign.

One by one, we were called to sign the document. A roar of applause filled the hall as Michael, the last to sign, finished his signature.

This was the first step in the organized meat revolution. As a craft, we have grown tired of the unethical practices and inferior products from large industrial meat companies. We have set in place guidelines by which we can organize behind.

Yes, it probably didn’t seem like much to you as a reader; however there was a lot of thought and conversation behind those five lines.

I’m sure they will be modified and changed at the next summit, but until then, it’s a start.

After a long day of discussion, carts of beer were rolled in. Everyone started breaking out his or her products for sampling.

Meating Fellow Revolutionaries

This is the second of a three-part series… Catch up by reading Road Trippin’ Across Europe  and Manifesto Origins.

In the beginning, I was just an extra – tagging along with Kate and Dominique.

Man, I was damn lucky. What ended up happening in Copenhagen in the confines of Folkets Madhus on that late August weekend changed not only my life, but potentially butchers across the world.

FullSizeRender
FullSizeRender

We journeyed into the industrial side of Copenhagen on Thursday afternoon. The streets were lined with soccer fields, communal gardens, and countless bicyclists. Nestled between a couple of old warehouses laid our destination: Folkets Madhus.

There we were met with open arms – Michael Museth introduced us to his team and gave us a quick tour around his impressive facility. Folkets Madhus is comprised of:

  • a large commercial kitchen,
  • a dining hall for catering events,
  • a sausage preparation room,
  • an incredible teaching kitchen,
  • and office space available for rent to similar businesses.

Did I mention the Cold War-era bomb shelter out back? Or the organic garden on top of the bomb shelter?

 

 The Cold War era bomb shelter behind Folkets Madhus.

The Cold War era bomb shelter behind Folkets Madhus.

That night, we had a traditional Danish meal of stegt flæsk med persillesovs  and got acquainted with Hendrik and the Viking contingent of the Butchers' Manifesto.  In case you are wondering what stegt flæsk med persillesovs is, it is fried slices of pork belly with a parsley sauce.

The next day, butchers slowly trickled through the front door. They came from various points in Europe and North America: butchers from Oregon, Canada, London, Amsterdam, Gascony, Poland, Germany, Denmark…. and of course Texas.

 Michael welcoming those from close and afar.

Michael welcoming those from close and afar.

Michael constantly made sure we felt comfortable and at home – he even showed us a pork shoulder without a purpose in cold storage.

In a room full of butchers, that pork shoulder didn’t have a chance!

I immediately broke out my knives and removed all the bones.  I scored the skin on the opposite side and Dominique took over from there.  He gave the shoulder some salt and pepper as well as a beer to braise in. Since Michael had casually talked about Texas barbecue earlier in the day – I felt it was a perfect time to break out my great-grandmother's recipe.

 Some good Texas BBQ sauce coming to a boil.

Some good Texas BBQ sauce coming to a boil.

While I prepared the sauce, Dominique took a pork tenderloin, covered it in mustard and placed it in the oven. Then he decided it was time for my final test under his supervision: Pâté de Campagne.

Taking the unused scraps and unwanted pieces of meat, along with potatoes, onions, and blanched liver, we made good use of Michael’s commercial kitchen. Two hours later, I had four beautiful terrines of pâté resting, waiting to be appreciated by my new meat friends and connoisseurs.

 French pâtés ready to hit the oven.

French pâtés ready to hit the oven.

Not to be outdone, the Danes got busy in the kitchen as well. Gustav, a Danish master butcher the same age as I, prepared Rullepølse – rolled pig belly with sage, tied, put into a mold and boiled.

 Gustav going to work on the pork belly

Gustav going to work on the pork belly

Absolutely amazing flavor!

As the crowd gathered, I shook hands and got to know some of the guys. Who would have thought I would run into a familiar face, but there was John Ratliff, owner of Ends Meat in Brooklyn. I originally met John back in NYC when I was apprenticing at Fleishers. He had given us a tour of his shop where he produces a wide variety of Italian-style charcuterie. He and his shop were one of the driving forces that originally led me to France to learn charcuterie.

The meat world is so small!

 John Ratliff of Ends Meat, Brooklyn, NY

John Ratliff of Ends Meat, Brooklyn, NY

That evening, all of the butchers gathered around the large table in Folkets Madhus to officially begin the summit. Michael told his inspirational story and his motivation for the gathering.  One by one, people stood and formally introduced themselves until it was time to “break bread.” After a few beers, Michael suggested we head to bed to rest up for the long day ahead of us. Slowly, the crowd of butchers drifted across the street to an indoor soccer pitch (field), crowded with yellow, single person tents.

It's not the Ritz, it's the Yellow Tents
It's not the Ritz, it's the Yellow Tents

to be continued...