A butcher's tale: Red Apple Butchers opens on North Street
That's the philosophy behind Red Apple Butchers, a local shop that celebrated its new location on North Street with an invitation-only opening on Thursday.
Attendees were greeted by wooden butcher blocks, a pink ceramic pig with labeled cuts of meat, a gleaming walk-in freezer and a spread of sausages topped by pickled onions — a recipe known as "Night in Tunisia," after owner Jazu Stine's favorite jazz standard.
About 15 people attended the event, including Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
The shop was previously a vendor located within Berkshire Organics in Dalton — something Stine referred to as a great opportunity to grow by starting small.
"We very quickly ran out of space," he said.
The shop, in the Crawford Square building at 137 North St., will open to the public on Wednesday.
Stine plans to expand the shop's purview beyond selling locally raised meat into providing prepared lunches, baked goods produced on-site and fresh vegetables and dairy products.
"The idea is to make it a bit more of a one-stop shop," he said. He plans to offer a small menu to start, and change it as necessary based on customer needs.
In a typical supermarket model for meat, animals are broken down, frozen and shipped long distances to stores, which has a direct impact on the quality of the meat, Stine said.
"What we're attempting to say is — that's unnecessary," he said. "We don't see the reason for that industrial approach. [Without it] the quality is better. It tastes better."
Stine plans to continue his practice of sourcing fresh meat like beef, lamb, chicken and pork locally, from farmers within 100 miles of his shop.
Schuyler Gail, who with her husband owns Climbing Tree Farm in New Lebanon, N.Y., is one of those farmers. She'll provide about half the shop's supply of pigs.
In the shop's walk-in freezer, she pointed out to a pig, cut in large sections, that she delivered to location on Thursday morning.
"The whole animal goes to one place," she said. "It's not ground up with a bunch of other animals from other farms."
This makes it easier for her to improve her product — the shop can give her feedback about things like the consistency of the meat.
It's also important for safety. If a recall were to affect the meat Gail produces, it's easy to figure out where it ended up.
But if a recall affects a business that uses meat products with contributions from many animals, it's impossible to tell which animal's meat was tainted, she said.
Stine came into the restaurant industry by accident. Originally from near White Plains, N.Y., he had studied engineering and architecture. Time spent hanging out at Dottie's Coffee Lounge turned into a cooking position, which led to various jobs in local restaurants.
He soon became passionate about what he calls "the bounty surrounding us" in the Berkshires, he said.
"Between the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires and the Hudson Valley, I challenge you to find something that is not available," he said.
Prices at Red Apple Butchers might be higher than those at supermarkets, but Stine said he intends to make his product accessible.
"The idea of cheap meat is kind of scary, if you think about it," he said. "The only way to produce cheap meat is if the animals are not being treated well."
Unlike supermarkets. Stine said he knows all of the farmers he works with personally and stands behind them — unlike an industrial food chain, which has no individual accountability.
"His passion for quality food is the most important thing I think we could be doing in the Berkshires," said Matthew Quetti of Stine. "Where else can you get something 100 percent local? We don't really have that anymore ... in the 21st century."
Quetti catered part-time for the shop during the summers when he was a student and will now be a full-time employee.
Long an employee in the restaurant industry, Quetti said he enjoys working for a small business with genuine, good people that care about their staff.
Stine has about nine other staff members. It's important for him to offer a healthy work environment, he said.
"The food industry can be very difficult, and not too kind to the individual," he said.
Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.
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