Dear Mr. Gold:
It seems like there's a lot going on in New York and in San Francisco in terms of meat, but I haven't heard of much out of Los Angeles yet. I'm a recent USC graduate working with an amazing butcher in Brooklyn — a rock star butcher, he's been called — but I'd love to come back to Los Angeles. Are the fine Los Angeles butchers obscure because they don't fit the standard gentrified-profession stereotype? Do you happen to know of anyone in L.A. who breaks down whole animals? I'm interested in retail butchers who sell meat to the public.
Come to Los Angeles. Bring your knives. Butchering can be lonely, nasty, ill-paid work but it definitely has its consolations, and at the end of the day, you get to wipe your hands on your apron and go home.
There are, as you suggest, a few restaurant chefs who live for the moments when they get to break down whole animals, to explore all the delicious squishy bits that go missing when you get your meat in Cryovac-sealed parcels shipped from Iowa. Whole-hog is still a cool chef's toy at the moment, but the number of butchers who work whole-carcass is dismayingly small, and I haven't run across many young people getting into the business for aesthetic as opposed to economic reasons. The better wholesale meat dealers work whole carcass, of course, including Premier and Harvey's Guss, the latter of which will sell its terrific dry-aged steaks and such retail to anyone who calls a day or so in advance: (323) 937-4622.
And while there are no local rockstars of meat quite yet, nobody as famous for cutting up hogs as, say, Alex Weiser is for growing carrots, there are several wonderful butchers in town. I'm fond of Alexander's Meats in San Gabriel, where massive sides of meat hang in the aging room and the butchers, many of whom have been cutting meat in Los Angeles for 40 years, work very much to order. Huntington Meats in the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax do great work with prime beef, and Bel Air Prime Meats has great dry-aged steaks. The future, I hope, will hold more.