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Ahhh… all better now.

21 Aug

Had pneumonia. That’s why I haven’t been around. Back and frisky. So what’s new?

Well, I did a fantastic two-day workshop at Sterling College in the beautiful (as, “time seems to have forgotten it”) village of Craftsbury, Vermont. We had eleven students from all over the USA and Canada, including a Toronto chef, a chef from New York City, a Texas farmer and a few awesome young ladies. Love the way that more women are getting in the craft – or should I say art? – of butchery.

Pig, deconstructed

Pig, deconstructed

We processed a pig that had been raised by the students at Sterling College. Weighed in at 560 lbs… now that’s a whole lotta hog.

I demonstrated how to cut half the animal on day one; the students then had at it on the second day.  Every day we cooked up some of the pig for lunch.  One of my favorite dishes is side pork, pork steaks and cutlets.

The 2-day workshop is part of Sterling’s two week course on Charcuterie.

Check it out.


Toot. Toot.

22 Jan

… tooting my own horn here. So reader warning – the following post is unabashed promotion (after almost two years of work,  hey, why not?)

and here it is!!!

and here it is!!!

My book is finished! Published! Available to all! Three hundred and twelve pages of juicy meat-ness, with chapters covering:

  • The real definition, work, and role of a culinary butcher;
  • The roots of butchery from pre-history to today;
  • Meat: selecting your breed, grading and aging, tenderness, storing, and reheating;
  • The truth behind meat marketing claims of “organic”, “natural”, “free-range”, “grass-fed”, “pasture-raised” and more;
  • How meat gets to the table: farmers, slaughtering methods, stress and animal welfare, the role of meat inspectors, cut sheets, what’s legally allowed/not allowed when purchasing meat for further processing, keeping integrity in the local meat movement;
  • Understanding the commercial meat food chain and what goes on behind the scenes at meat markets large and small;
  • Processing your own meat: what you’ll need, tools, safety, and preparation;
  • Beef: domestication, terminology, how cows work, raising methods (grass, grain, etc.), meat-safety issues, hormone growth implants, antibiotics and feed additives, carcass yield and marbling scores, cutting up a beef forequarter and hindquarter, and a partial list of beef breeds;
  • Pork: domestication, terminology, raising methods, grading and inspection, cutting up a side of pork, and a partial list of pork breeds;
  • Sheep: domestication, terminology, raising methods, cutting up a whole lamb, and a partial list of sheep breeds;
  • Chicken: domestication, terminology, how to cut up a whole chicken;
  • How to make sausages;
  • Value-added products: what they are and how they can help increase your bottom line;
  • Your own butcher shop: size, equipment, display, marketing; and,
  • A better way of thinking about meat: including a holistic overview and some conclusions.



“The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat” comes with a CD with my complete butchery course –  over 800 photos that show you exactly how to cut up a side of beef, side of pork, whole lamb and chicken. Every step described and illustrated.

So how’s them apples? 


And just to prove it’s real, here are a few early reviews:

“Is there a bible of meat? There is one now. Cole Ward’s book demystifies the whole process of how animals are raised, slaughtered, and eventually make it to your plate.  From learning about breeds to cutting up your own side of beef, you will be a more empowered meat eater once you read this book.”
                     Rebecca Thistlethwaite, author, Farms with a Future

“This comprehensive book is far more than a guide to cutting meat – it’s for anyone who want a better understanding of meat (and we all should). Engaging, informative, and yes, fun!”
                     Nicolette Hahn Niman, rancher and author, Righteous Porkchop

“Cole Ward has done an extraordinary job of balancing the widely diverse components of meat production, marketing, and quality in this comprehensive and uniquely informative book. The author has taken every effort to present even the most contentious issues surrounding meat production from a balanced and accurate perspective. His through treatment of thse issues provides the reader the opportunity to make a well-informed decision as a matter of personal choice, unencumbered by emotion or innuendo.  However, the real value of the book is in the articulate way Ward connects the reader to both the science and the artisanship of gourmet butchering.  His comfortable style and incomparable knowledge of gourmet butchering make this a valuable resource for quality meat aficionados and a must read for chefs, butchers, and meat lovers everywhere.”
                       Mark Boggess, PhD, animal scientist and meat-industry expert

A Piece of Meat – philosophical musings for the New Year

31 Dec


… was thinking about this phrase and all it connotes. Often not so positive things.

Like, “He’s just a piece of meat” .. or .. “She’s a piece of meat” .. look this up online and you’ll see what I mean. 

Culinarily-speaking, “a piece of meat” seems neutral. Just some meat, nothing in particular. No differentiation. Could be any kind of meat. It’s all the same, right?

By now, dear readers, you know this isn’t so. Every cut and kind of meat is different, and delivers its own  tastes and textures. Meat is really much of my life, since I’m a butcher. And to me, it’s a wonderful substance; one to be valued. Not just because my destiny is to transform “just a piece of meat” into something special, just for you. But also because before meat becomes  meat, it is flesh. This is obviously something that disturbs vegetarians, but I hope when you read my book, you’ll see that the process of turning flesh into meat can be humane.

So when you tuck into that New Year’s roast beef or steak, consider your plate.

And I wish you all a very Happy New Year.


PS: for the person who asked about upcoming meat classes, my usual answer: I have classes throughout the year – just phone me at 860 372 0681


Please get Fresh with me!

22 Oct

Here’s something you might not know. When you’re buying pork, “fresh” has a particular meaning when applied to cuts like bacon, shoulder or ham. It means that the meat is not smoked. Thus, if that piece of pork it’s called “ham”, it’s smoked. If it’s called “fresh ham”, it’s not. Other examples are pork steak versus fresh pork steak, picnic shoulder versus fresh picnic shoulder, bacon versus fresh bacon. You get my gist. And keep in mind that if the pork is smoked, it may not be fully cooked. Read the label or ask to find out whether it’s “partially cooked” or “fully cooked”.

... from my lips to yours ...

… from my lips to yours …

Lots of folks ask me about fresh bacon – as in, isn’t it just bacon with an adjective? Nope. Fresh bacon is not smoked (it’s often called side-pork in supermarkets). If you get it from a butcher, it’ll be called fresh bacon or sliced pork belly. And it’s delicious. You bacon lovers – as in all of humanity – ought to try it sometime.


And more information you probably won’t care about… what does “Excellent” or “Good” mean nutritionally?

When dieticians use the word “excellent” when they talk about a nutrient, it’s not a matter of opinion; it means something specific. A meat is termed “excellent” if it contains 20% or more of your Daily Value (DV) of nutrients like vitamins or minerals.  It’s called “good” if it contains 10-19% of your DV. So what’s a Daily Value, you ask? (I can hear you.) Estimates are based on an average diet of 2,000 calories per day.




What Grade of Beef is Best?

11 Aug

Frankly, I’m not sure that grade matters much. This somewhat surprises me. I used to be a firm believer in premium or choice beef. However, long involvement with the local movement has given me the opportunity to sample a lot of local meats (often as the farmer was cooking it to serve for lunch as I cut his carcass up). I’ve done some rethinking about the importance of grading, particularly in beef.


I’m now more convinced that – where beef is concerned – quality has more to do with the breed, the type and quality of its feed, the soil it was pastured on, how humanely it was raised, how it was slaughtered, how it was aged and how it was cut and processed. I have had very lean meat that was surprisingly tender and I have had extremely marbled meat that was chewy.

Keep in mind that different breeds of animals have different attributes. Some are more efficient at converting feeds like grass to meat and fat than other breeds. Some breeds do better in harsher climates than others. There are just too many variables so it is important that you do your research. 

New Year and a ham-bone

12 Jan
Winter in Vermont

Winter in Vermont

First of all, a (very) belated HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you.  I’m fine and hope all of you are too.

Second, to the mysterious lady who posted the following… an answer.

The lovely lady’s question:  “What to do if I don’t have a bandsaw?  Cole, your DVD has you dividing your ham with one, but I’m just a gal with a borrowed meat saw.  What’s a girl to do?”

From Cole to the lovely lady: “If you’re just cutting your ham in half, begin by cutting it all the way around with a good steak knife or scimitar (curved butcher’s knife).  Then all you need to do is to cut through the bone with the hand saw.   If you do this properly, you will only have one small round bone to cut through. Good luck.


Teres Major…ly… WRONG!

4 Mar

I’d have preferred mustard.

Every once in a while we have to eat a litle crow.  I’m about to eat my serving.

A while back I wrote a blog about Flat Iron steak being the second most tender piece of meat in a beef cow.  Somebody commented, and I believe it was Ben Hartwell of Sebago Lake Ranch.  He commented that someone told him that the Teres Major was the second most tender cut.

I disagreed.  Now let me be honest.  In my 46 years as a butcher (and I modestly consider myself one of the best), I have never eaten a Teres Major.  Can’t even pronounce it.

I don’t really know why.  I just never had until Friday, March 2nd, when a chef friend of mine was a bit confused on the conflicting information about the very subject.  So he cooked up a Teres Major (also known as the Petite Tender) and I was completely blown away.  It was one of the most incredible pieces of meat I have ever eaten.  It was tender and I dare say a bit more tender than the Flat Iron.  But the texture, the flavor and the unique mouth feel were different than the Flat Iron.  So I have to truly say that I was wrong. 

Yes, wrong.
As I tell everyone in my classes, one of the things that make a great butcher is the willingness to learn, and to not have an attitude that because we have so much experience, we know it all..  We don’t!  We sometimes learn from our students.

So I am going to consider the Teres Major the second most tender piece of meat in a beef cow, and the Flat Iron the third most tender.  However, I will still highly recommend the Flat Iron as a truly fabulous piece of meat.  But not without including the Teres Major as well. 

Thanks, Ben, for raising the question.

Where it is on the person.

King of Steaks and Roasts… FLAT-IRON!

17 Feb

Flat Iron –  in the Gourmet Butcher’s not-so-humble opinion…

Where it comes from

The FLAT IRON comes from the inside of the beef’s shoulder blade.  This limits its movement.  The lack of movement makes Flat Iron the second most tender piece of meat on the whole beef (next to the Tenderloin). 

The big bonus – along with the the tenderness – is its flavor.  Coming from the forequarter and the chuck gives this particular cut an incredible amount of flavor. 

Flat Iron is an awesome grilling steak, but it’s also incredible broiled or pan seared. 

How juicy it is

Now let’s talk versatility…

 I often take four to five Flat Iron steaks and stack one on top of the other, tying them together nice and tight.  I then trim the ends, then roast the whole thing as as though it’s a prime rib or any other oven roast.  Never more than medium rare for roast or steak. 

As a roast – well, move over prime rib.  There’s a new kid on the block, and the new kid may just dethrone prime rib as king of the steak or oven roast.  In my opinion, it’s there already. 

You be the judge!

Cuts of Meat – some totally confusing information

31 Jan


For those of you who are stumped when you get to your processor to have your animal cut, or who have trouble communicating with your butcher because he only understands grunts, you might want to go to and buy The Meat Buyer’s Guide. 

This is a handy tool.  Even a butcher can get confused at times when asked for cuts that aren’t typical for his or her geographic area.  This guide will show you all of the muscle groups for the specific animal, and help you explain what you want to your butcher.  It will also help him or her explain to you why or why not you can have a particular cut out of some primal cuts.  Because often if you want it this way,you can’t have it that way. 

Let me explain (or to misquote Desi, “Cole, you got some splainin’ to do.”)  A good example is loin of beef.  If you want T-Bone and Porterhouse steaks, then you cannot have NY Strip and Tenderloin or Filet Mignon.  And vice versa. 

It all boils down to cutting that particular primal cut two different ways.  You need to choose one or the other. 

However, if your butcher is willing (as, ahem, I would be), you could have half the primal cut one way and the other half cut the other way… which results in a little bit of T-Bone/Porterhouse and a little bit of NY Strip/Tenderloin. 

There.  Now do I have you completely confused?  Hope not – it’s really quite simple.

Downloads and Pork (not necessarily in that order)

7 Oct

Supermarket pork

The pork sold in supermarkets doesn’t taste very much like pork to me.  I see it labeled “flavor enhanced”.  Hah.  Just what does that mean exactly?

Pumped full of sodium and pork broth, and who knows what else.  It’s also wet and sloppy to handle.  And to me, it leaves an aftertaste in my mouth after I eat it.  I personally have gotten ill after eating this crap. 

Now it’s only locally-raised pork for me.  What a difference in taste and texture. 

Oh, and commercial poultry ditto.  Although Bell & Evans poultry – if you can find it – is very good.


Many of you have been asking us to make The Gourmet Butcher DVD available as a download.  

So we did.  

Now you can buy the whole 4 hour course, or just one 1-hour episode (Pork, Lamb, Beef Hindquarter or Beef Forequarter) individually, as downloads directly to your computer.  Take a look at