“A big part of why I do what I do is the creative aspect of it. Like I can see a whole lamb and picture in my mind the different ways I can take it apart.” said Jered Standing, head butcher at Grand Central Market’s Belcampo Meat Co. “Man, there’s really no way to talk about this without sounding douchey, is there?”
Standing is not a douche—he’s actually quite humble—but there’s no easy way to reflect on the more aesthetic elements of your own craft without inadvertently veering into Kanye Westian territory. It’s like Alinea chef Grant Achatz once said on the Food Is the New Rock podcast, “You need other people to proclaim you an artist, because otherwise you look like an asshole.”
Standing is neither a douche, nor is he an asshole, but one look at his ornate animal flesh arrangements behind the glass at Belcampo (or on his Instagram feed) and you’d be quick to call him an artist. Whether it’s a rose fashioned out of bacon, lard flowers sitting atop a peppercorn-studded pork loin, or the intricately archictectured meat club known as the short rib rollup, it’s obvious that Standing is elevating butchery past transforming animal into commodity.
And you can too! This past Saturday, Standing taught his first home butchery class at the Institute of Domestic Technology, where students got hands on experience breaking down and spatchcocking a whole chicken. His next set of classes plans to be even more ambitious—he wants people to get up close and personal with breaking down a whole hog. Students also be cooking it throughout the evening to sample the different textures and fat contents from different parts of the animal, starting from the shoulder and moving back to the rump. And that’s on top of the wine tasting and goodie bag of raw pork to take home. The schedule for his next set of classes isn’t yet set, but keep a lookout because they fill up fast.
Teaching people about the craft of butchery brings Standing’s thesis about ethical meat production full circle. His first job in the industry was at a local grocery store where he became familiar with the ugly side of factory farming. He was so disgusted by the way that animals were raised on large-scale operations that he became a vegetarian for three years, before realizing that simply abstaining from meat wasn’t the way to bring about the kind of change he wanted to see.
“Not eating meat doesn’t put any pressure on the industry to change like being a conscious meat eater does. “If you don’t eat meat, as a meat seller, you’re just not my customer, he said “But if you’re buying someone else’s meat and not mine—and I’m seeing that—then the pressure’s on me to look at what I’m doing, and why you’re buying from that guy.” Giving people the tools to do their
When Standing decided to really devote himself to artisanal, everything-by-hand butchery around three years ago, he thought he would have to leave the L.A. area. Even compared to some other major metropolitan markets, we suffer from a geographical problem when it comes to sourcing ethically raised meat. New York City has all the nearby farms upstate, San Francisco has access to all the livestock in Merced, Kings, and Tulare counties, and L.A. is left in a sort of agricultural void with only a few small scale producers to choose from.
After doing some poking around online, Standing found out that Bay Area-based Belcampo Meat Co. was opening their flagship location in Grand Central Market. He was one of the first to be interviewed, one of the first to be hired, and he’s been there ever since. Alongside a few cult hit ventures like Lindy and Grundy (may it rest in peace), Belcampo has been one of the main catalysts in the growing popularity of craft butchery in L.A. And if you need any proof that people really are taking more of a vested interest in their meat: tickets to Standing’s last chicken butchery class sold out in five minutes.
Even with his pedagogical chops and his big-name title at a big-name meat company, Standing still wants the person-to-person interaction at a butcher shop to be the most important thing. “I don’t want to get rid of that part where I’m gonna have a conversation with you about a cut of meat you’ve never seen before and give you in-depth instructions on how to cook it,” he said. “I want it to be like I’m right there in your home while you’re doing it… Wait, that sounds creepy though.”
Standing is neither a douche, nor an asshole, nor a creep. He’s just a dude who really cares about meat and hopes you will, too.