Finding good meat was difficult for New York food-lover and passionate consumer Jake Dickson: “the more I was learning about meat, the more I was dissastified with the quality and how the animals were raised…I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.”
So in 2007, Jake left the corporate world and dove head-first into the meat world. He trained on various farms and did some time at a slaughterhouse, and after a stint of selling meat at farmers markets, he opened Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market. It’s the kind of place that offers the kind of meat that he and so many conscious cooks want to buy.
To Jake, “good meat” comes from animals raised and slaughtered humanely, which he says is all about scale. All meat sold at Dickson’s is sourced from small farms that uses sustainable farming practices and pasture-raise their animals on vegetarian diets without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
The animals are slaughtered at Double L Ranch, a small slaughterhouse outside of Albany that on average processes about 7 cows a day; a large slaughterhouse can process 400 an hour, 24 hours a day. Double L provides more humane animal treatment, and increased oversight of the quality of the meat product. The whole path from farm to slaughterhouse to store is less than 400 miles.
Dickson’s is different from most other meat purveyors because they do almost everything in house: “the farmer’s just responsible for getting the live animal to the slaughterhouse, and we take over from there.” Today, most meat purveyors buy large sections of the carcass called primals, or purchase pre-packaged cuts of meat, picking only the parts of the animal they want to sell.
Dickson’s buys whole carcasses and butchers them on site, which presents a unique set of challenges. In order to be profitable and for Jake “to sleep at night,” the shop is committed to using the whole animal: “this animal was raised on our behalf, from birth to slaughter, and we want to make sure we’re getting the most out of it.”
Each week the shop gets four steer, eight pig, and five to seven lamb or goat carcasses. This means that for every tenderloin or rib eye that comes with a cow carcass, there’s a whole lot of other stuff to find a home for: things like organs and bones, or less familiar parts of the animal that still make fine cuts of meat.
With challenge comes innovation. At Dickson’s, cooks can find distinctive meat products not widely available elsewhere. The shop is reviving the lost art of butchery, offering unusual cuts borrowed from European or heritage traditions.
And by having an in-house chef and kitchen team, the shop can offer things like pates, pork rillettes, lardo with chilies, and Andouille sausages in addition to fresh cut meat.
Meat-heavy sandwiches like banh mi and Cubans are served during the week, and leftover butcher scraps are used for the highest quality of dog food you could ever find. At Dickson’s, for every part, there’s a path, and each path leads to something delicious that you can feel good about eating.
In this food video, see the meat chain from farm, to slaughterhouse, to store.
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