Former Chez Panisse chef opens sustainable butcher shop in Berkeley

Taryn Erhardt/Senior Staff
The Local Butcher Shop, Berkeley's newest sustainable butcher shop, opened its doors last week. The owners aim to keep the butchery process transparent for customers.

By using meat from sustainable ranches and keeping the butchery process transparent for customers, a former Chez Panisse chef and his wife are aiming to change the experience of buying and eating meat with their newly opened Berkeley butchery, The Local Butcher Shop.

The owners — couple Monica and Aaron Rocchino — opened their new shop last Tuesday at the corner of Cedar Street and Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley, wanting to make high quality meat more affordable, as well as raise “culinary consciousness,” Monica Rocchino said.

“For me, it’s about sustainability and best environmental practices and really making sure that animals are cared for in the way that they’re supposed to be,” she said. “It’s really irresponsible to eat meat that’s raised in a way that’s not responsible for the environment.”

The Local Butcher Shop gets its meat from local ranches, with the farthest ranch only 150 miles away.

“We had some kids come in and see the heads of chickens and make the connection that their dinner comes from animals,” she said. “I think the majority of the country doesn’t realize that when they’re eating their plastic-wrapped meat.”

According to Ben Provan, business manager for Ingel-Haven Ranch — a supplier to The Local Butcher Shop and Chez Panisse — they raise grass-fed animals with no antibiotics, chemicals or hormones in the feed. This philosophy for raising cattle is a “win-win-win,” he said.

“It’s best health for the land, best health for the animals, best land for the customers,” Provan said. “Our animals, they move around a lot more. They get rotated every couple of days, so there’s a lot more flavor in it.”

Monica Rocchino said she also wants a “more holistic approach to selling the animal” by pricing the meat based on which third of the animal — front, middle or rear — it is from instead of putting different values on certain cuts.

“There’s a value in every cut of meat  — it just depends on how you’re looking to cook it,” she said. “We’re trying to level out the playing field and take away the preconceived notion of what’s less valuable or what’s a lesser cut. It’s not really less valuable — it just takes a little longer to cook.”

Sarah Ryan, an owner of the butchery Star Meats in Berkeley, said she welcomes the new butchery and is unconcerned about competition because “we do everything they do,” she said.

“The more people we have buying locally produced, sustainable, antibiotic and hormone-free meat, the more chance we have to change the industry,” Ryan said.

While Monica Rocchino said the Local Butcher Shop is negotiating a deal with Chez Panisse and with a local pet shop to provide dog food from less popular cuts, she said they are primarily focused on providing a “responsible” option for purchasing meat.

“We want people to know that when they ask for a cut, we’re bringing that whole animal into that cut,” she said.