It’s 3 o’clock on a Friday, and Los Angeles feels like the inside of a pressure cooker — the result of a record-breaking June heat wave. Jered Standing, 36, cools down with a beer on Horse Thief BBQ’s patio outside Grand Central Market. He's hardly a stranger here, having worked inside the open-air venue for nearly two years as a founding butcher for Belcampo’s first L.A. location. Old friends nod or wave as they pass by.
Standing built a strong following while working at Belcampo, but he left the company in March with his sights set on opening his own shop — he expects to sign a lease any day now, although he's not sure where yet. The departure from Belcampo was an amicable one, he says. It was also a necessary step toward bringing his own vision of whole-animal butchery to life.
“The best I can hope for when working for someone else is that their view aligns mostly with mine,” Standing said. “I have a specific way I want things done, so I’ve always wanted to have my own business." His goals, as he describes them? Accessibility, traceability and zero waste. "There isn't anybody doing what I'm going to do," he says.
Perhaps Standing has reason to speak with such confidence, as few butchers can claim a professional background as varied as his. He says that while most learn the trade via structured and somewhat brief apprenticeships, his training was piecemeal, gathered from different people and in different ways. This may have made his path longer or more winding, but it also afforded him various perspectives and methods with which to tackle a task.
After graduating high school in Santa Clarita, Standing took a job at a local grocery store, where he was eventually promoted to the meat department. It didn’t take long before he quit, dismayed by the product and the meat industry as a whole. The experience turned him vegetarian for several years.
“Though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating meat, I avoided it for ethical reasons," he said. "I think it's important animals don't get mistreated, and I didn’t want to support a system that was doing things in a really ugly way."
After doing some homework, including reading much of Michael Pollan's work, Standing figured out that he'd have more of a direct impact — and get to eat meat — if he became a conscious consumer. So he secured a job at Whole Foods and an apprenticeship at the original Salt’s Cure in West Hollywood. For the latter position, he brought in whole animals and helped design menus that used all of their parts. Standing counts his time here as invaluable: While honing his butchery skills, he learned that the life of a line cook isn’t for him. He craved customer interaction.
His subsequent move to Belcampo delivered that and more. After working briefly at the company’s farm and slaughterhouse in Mount Shasta, he helped hire and train staffers for the L.A. stand. Once the dust settled, he even got to indulge his creative side. He filled the cases with clean cuts of meat but also loin roasts adorned with lard flowers, and he turned unused kidney and liver into dog food. The lard flowers are, in his mind, a testament to his personal aversion for stagnancy, as well as his own sense of self-competition.
Whether you’re a novice or a expert in the kitchen, Standing hopes to push you as a cook, too. That’s part of the reason he started Mallet and Cleaver, a blog where he shares recipes and how-to videos ranging in focus, from making the perfect steak — hint No. 1: Invest in a good meat thermometer — to mastering the very complicated art of short rib roll-ups (hint No. 2: A good boning knife is a must). His Instagram account, while bereft of pro tips, is porn for the meat-loving set, full of raw Mexican chorizo crépinettes (flattened sausages), bacon blankets, ribs and cushions of lamb.
If you want some face time with Standing, sign up for a class on whole-hog ($125) or whole-chicken ($95) butchery — he’s hosting sessions regularly in partnership with the Institute of Domestic Technology. Soon enough, fans also will be able to chat with him across his very own meat case.
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Whatever L.A. neighborhood he lands in, patrons of his forthcoming butcher shop can expect a simple setup. Standing will sell only raw product, all of it sourced from local farms he trusts, including Stemple Creek Ranch out of Petaluma. All animals will be grass-fed and pasture-raised, and there will be specialties such as house-made sausage, meatballs, marinades, stock and bone broth. Dog food will be available as well.
In addition to quality meat, Standing hopes to deliver equally impressive customer service. “None of my employees will ask, ‘What can I get for you?’” he said. “It’s going to be a conversation about what you like to cook and how you like to cook it. You might tell us why you like a certain thing, and we might offer something better that you’ve never heard of."
Not so long ago, he said, that’s what a butcher shop was all about — and soon, he hopes, he'll be bringing that experience back to Los Angeles.
For shop and butchery class news, follow Jered Standing on Instagram @jeredstanding.