078 – James Lum III, Matthew Greene, JM Stock Provisions
Meat Work. Whole Damn Animal. In this conversation meet James Lum III and Matthew Greene of JM Stock Provisions. Our very own whole animal butchery right here in Charlottesville, Virginia. Third partner Hunter Hopcroft of the Richmond outpost couldn’t join us, but no worries. We had enough butcher talk to go around!
I always ask the question, “Who should I talk to next?” at the end of each Edacious conversation. When you get to four or five saying, “Talk to JM Stock!” you take the hint. These guys are the real deal. They’re doing the work, not just presenting an image to promote an image or make money. Every “Beef Day” they’re in the back breaking down entire animals. Autumn Olive Farms, a past podcast guest, delivers whole pigs, Free Union Grass Farm delivers ducks, and River Oak Farm brings chickens just to name a few.
Synchronicity and happenstance played a big part in the decision of these two Winchester natives and former restaurant professionals to open a butcher shop. How were they trained and what did it involve? We talk about it as well as how their Kickstarter campaign played a big part in their future success. Watch the video. The end is the best thing ever LOL!
“It was really cool. It was a great experience. It was very moving to see that many people step up and show their support for what we wanted to do and Matt and I as individuals and the future of sustainable food. We had donors from Houston, Texas and San Francisco. It was cool to see that.”
—James Lum III
JM Stock takes on interns every six weeks, one day a week, a renewable contract based on performance. They start out doing grunt work. If they can handle it, then comes the education. A great way to not only spread the gospel but discover untapped talent here in our area, creating jobs as they go. Half of their staff has graduated from the intern pool but that also means half just can’t cut it. Literally.
“There is very little that is glamorous about it. Being a butcher is as blue collar as it comes. It’s as blue collar as welding without the permanence of it. You could say that we’re artisans but it’s a term that is widely overused. We have a skill set that most people don’t have. We believe what we do is super important. But it’s not glamorous. It’s a lot of hard work.” —Matthew Greene
“Part of our job is making it seem lovely. Which could be part of the problem.” —James Lum III
“The goal is to make what we do seem cool because in order for us to be successful we need people to care about what it is that we’re doing. I think that that’s true for most businesses…what we’re doing is for the good of the community.” —Matthew Greene
It’s a conundrum. How do you get folks to care without making them too queasy about where their meat comes from? How do you survive the pushback from vegetarians and others who think it’s gratuitous and disrespectful to show a whole hog being broken down online. It’s a delicate dance between education and not respecting the animal for the sake of Instagram and a dance these two gentlemen navigate very well. One look at their social media can tell you that.
We discuss this dance. Educating folks about why talking to your butcher and finding out where your meat comes from is an important aspect of being an educated consumer. It’s not a luxury, but a new way of thinking that’s actually an old way. Not just picking up the vacuum-packed pound of ground beef but TALKING to the butcher, finding out where that beef came from. Maybe letting him talk you into a new-to-you off cut of meat like beef neck, which is delicious, easy to prepare, and tastes better than your momma’s pot roast.
In sourcing locally and supporting sustainable agriculture is often seen as “hippy-dippy” or elitist, particularly in Charlottesville. But as Matt says so eloquently, part of JM Stock’s goal is to support local, sustainable agriculture even in an area where real estate costs are high which means the cost to produce said animal is higher. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy, or only for the rich, or for those folks who consider themselves homesteaders. It should and can be for everybody.
“Our constant goal is to make it (sustainable agriculture) more and more approachable to everybody…especially for those in their late 20’s and early 30’s who are just starting to figure out what it is they care about as far as feeding themselves and feeding their families.” —Matthew Greene
How do you make a visit to the butcher less intimidating? We talk about that at length. Ideally, it should be no more fear-inducing than talking to your pharmacist, your hairdresser, or your barista. JM Stock knows interaction is key and keeps that goal in mind with every guest. Greeting every customer, engaging with them, getting to know them, asking questions, offering advice. When you have 80+ varieties of sausage alone, it helps when you feel comfortable enough to converse!
“The initial contact and initial engagement is the most important part of finding out with each particular customer what their personal preference is and making it an experience that is tailored to them.” —Matthew Greene
What is the first rule of Meat Club? To talk about it! A true CSA for meats. When you sign up you get a box of old favorites as well as new cuts with instructions and recipes on how to prepare it all. A great way to discover cuts you didn’t even know you loved. As someone who gravitates to the same ol’ same ol’ this CSA peaked my interest immediately. In fact, I started shopping for a basement meat freezer like my Grandaddy had!
JM Stock sources beef from Grayson Natural Farms, Wolf Creek Farm, and Deep Rock Farm. Pork comes from Autumn Olive Farms. Ducks come from Free Union Grass Farm, and chickens and turkeys come from River Oak Farm. Lamb arrives from Meadows Pride Farm. What happens when the animal arrives? We discuss the process, as well as why Beef Day is their favorite thing ever.
Can they tell if a cow was spring-processed or winter-processed just by looking at the meat? Do they ever “shop” for beef by looking at the cows grazing in the farm fields they visit? What are their favorite cuts and ways to prepare it? What is the Curse of Richmond? Is the Richmond customer different from one in Charlottesville? Who has the nickname Beef Neck? You’ll just have to listen to find out.
Did you know JM Stock has breakfast biscuits with their award-winning Tasso ham each and every morning? Specialty sandwiches on the weekend? One of the most extensive collections of beer, wine, and cheese in the area? Produce? This isn’t just a butcher shop folks, but a 7-days-a-week farmer’s market, a place to visit daily, to talk, converse about meat, and pick up whatever delicacies you need to feed your family. This episode only solidified my commitment to eating meat that is humanely raised and sustainable, which makes it the most delicious you’ll ever taste. Give a listen then get you some. I recommend the Cerdito sausage. Instant Best of 2017 contender. Cheers!
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
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