'Those cows were happy': Regina chef takes butchery back to basics
The search for a delicious Saskatchewan hanger steak brought Greg Reid to the butcher block.
A Newfoundlander at heart, the chef moved to Regina for love.
"There wasn't a place where I could go ask the butcher 'Where does this animal come from? Do you have this cut?' I couldn't find that place," he said.
Reid's idea to become an artisanal butcher favouring fresh and local over frozen and global began to grow during one fateful drive through pastures surrounding Swift Current, Sask.
"Where the heck does all this cattle go? And why isn't someone marketing Saskatchewan products?" Reid recalls thinking.
A few years later, in June 2016, Reid began to work as a custom butcher shop for the Saskatchewan food company Local and Fresh in Regina's Best Food Forward kitchen.
By November Reid's Artisanal Butchery was well on its way to supplying fresh cuts of beef, lamb and pork to local wholesale and retail markets.
Reid said the "artisanal" aspect of his work comes from a commitment to quality and a nod to the "old ways" of preparing meat. This means the product is never frozen and requires hours of preparation.
"It's a million-hours-a-week job," Reid laughed.
Happy cows are tasty cows
"This is a red angus," said Reid of the cow that was the hulk of beef he was shaping into a braised-meat-lover's dream.
He knows the life the animal had — where it lived, what it ate, how it was killed — and he's on a first-name basis with the farmer who raised it. They hung out last week.
"Those cows were happy. They were out in the fields, they were grazing, they were with their friends," he said. "We try to source most of our animals from one farm."
Reid's biggest demand is for beef, all of which comes from a single farm in Herbert, Sask.
"One of the first things that someone said to me when they bought some of our meat was 'Man, this tastes like the meat I had when I was on the farm,'" Reid said, adding that the way the animal is raised contributes to its taste.
All the beef he uses is dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days. Reid said this allows the beef to relax and the flavour to concentrate — a "controlled decay" he likened to the process of deriving rich flavour from aging cheese.
Weekends spent in 'meat limo'
Reid said his current operation is small and relies on the support of family members. The dream is to one day open a retail space with room for an educational space dedicated to the quality cuts and cooking.
Currently business is busy, with each week spent prepping food for online orders and the Regina Farmers' Market and weekends spent selling meat and driving to pick up meat in the company's refrigerated vehicle — fondly named the "meat limo."
Reid acknowledged that others in the local food business could have been rivals, but have become partners and the support and willingness to collaborate is heartening.
"There is lots of people out there who are excited about what we're doing and working with us," he said.
Reid attributes much of his success to his strong social media presence, which includes a fun Instagram account and photo contests that involve snapping a photo of the "meat limo" when you see it for a chance to win a piece of artisanal meat.