Article co-written with Jack Smye.
When one walks into Community Butcher Shop, they are first struck by how clean and modern the open space is. With gleaming counters and exposed brick, the shop is a stark comparison to what it once was: a retailer’s room of basic white. With the new layout, it is clear that the ideology of fresh, local, and sustainable food is prevalent in every aspect of the butchering process.
The shop’s owners, Scott and Kara Walsworth, say they want this seemingly simple ideology to permeate within every level of their establishment. In the modern era of packaged meats – factory farmed and mass-produced – this local butcher stands as a throwback to a simpler time when the community actually had a relationship with the one who provided the most essential food for their families.
Arthur had a chance to sit down and talk with Scott Walsworth about his move to the heart of downtown Peterborough and what it is that his shop stands for.
According to Walsworth, just walking into the store can tell you a lot about what principles the Community Butcher Shop endorses. The shop is deliberately laid out in an open concept that has the butcher block in plain view from anywhere in the store. There’s a very good chance that any patron at any point will see a carcass being butchered.
The reason for this, as Walsworth explained, is because people should know where their meat is coming from. According to Walsworth, “when you make the decision to eat meat, there are some realities that come with it. I don’t think it’s fair or respectful to the animal to ignore these and fool ourselves into thinking that meat comes from a package or a box.”
He continued, “I want people to see [the butchering], I want people to make that connection – that an animal died so you can eat.”
Walsworth also commented on the process by which an animal makes it to his shop, noting that all of his meat comes directly from farmers within a 50km radius.
This butcher makes the conscious decision to only buy local meats that are raised ethically and free range. Most of this meat comes from Otonabee Meat Packers; a small abattoir that services local farmers and processes the animals as ethically and stress-free as it can.
Community Butcher Shop and another local establishment, Sam’s Place Deli, receive their meat from this same slaughterhouse. Walsworth clarified the important difference between a Meat Distributor and a Meat Packer and spoke a little about Sam’s.
“What Otonabee Meat Packers does is take in a whole animal and give back a dead whole animal. They don’t sell boxes of stuff. So Sam’s Deli is really cool because they go right to Otonabee and they’re not buying a whole animal but they’re buying stuff where it’s just the farmer and the slaughterhouse and there’s nothing else. So there’s a lot of accountability there.”
This idea of sustainability echoes throughout all of the work that this new butcher shop is doing. “The activist in me doesn’t want to be a business that’s yelling from the sidelines,” says Walsworth. “If I can get a loyal base of customers and start nudging over the years, even the farmers, towards more sustainable practices – I see that more as my role over the next fifteen years.”
He continues: “We try very hard in the shop not to shame people, like hey, you’re eating at the grocery store: here’s the stuff you’re eating. The binders, the food dye, here is how the animals are treated… people can find out that information on their own. I just want to be there waiting with an alternative. We’re here, we’re doing something different, and even if the ethics of it isn’t important to you- once you taste what we’re selling I don’t think you’ll go back to the grocery store.”
These Arthur writers decided to test out Walsworth’s words and purchase some of the locally sourced meat to compare with the sale price of grocery store meat we are accustomed to. One pound of Community Butcher Shop’s jerk chicken wings sold for $5.99 and were, in fact, juicy and succulent with more meat on a chicken wing than one is used to. Their Moroccan-spiced sausages were not only easy to prepare, but surprisingly flavourful and affordable in comparison to frozen Oktoberfest sausages for the same price ‘on sale’ at Freshco.
Some meat averages to just a dollar more than what one might pay for discounted meat at the grocery store, but Community Butcher Shop is dedicated to affordability – keeping in mind the students at Trent.
“I can feed a student on five bucks a day. There’s no reason for students to resort to Mr. Noodles,” says Walsworth. “We try to be affordable and the resurgence of the progressive food movement has been a gourmet thing. What we are trying to do is get back to the roots of the butcher shop; an everyday place to visit where you get your meat.”
In this model, there is very little freezing and preserving that goes on. All of the meat is fresh and right at hand – prepared earlier that day most likely. Patrons will have a relationship with their butcher and they can personally choose their cuts – knowing that an uncompromising amount of care and respect has gone into producing it.
In the shop itself, there is a grand antique scale on the main counter. On the wall behind it is a picture of a butcher shop called W. S. Fraser; the owner was Walworth’s wife Kara’s great grandfather.
“My parents were not butchers, I started working at a butcher shop in Oakville when I was in high school,” recounts Walsworth. “I then went to University for a long time, and I put myself through school working in butcher shop. I finished a PhD. in industrial relations (labor economics and relations) at U of T then went out to Saskatchewan and worked at a University for eight years as a professor. But it was always my passion to do this. It’s a little uncommon I suppose.”
When it comes to purchasing meat from here on in, this local butcher has certainly convinced these writers – who can no longer go back to pre-packaged grocery meat. Not only for the difference in quality and taste, but in the ideology behind the animal we’re eating. When asked what happens to the meat that isn’t sold, because they don’t freeze or preserve their meat, Community Butcher Shop donates to charity.
“If I have three or four slow days I wrap up a whole bunch of stuff and I give it to the Kawartha Food Share. I may not be making a ton of money but that was never the point of this. I mean I need to eat, but, I had a prof job and made money. This was more about lifestyle and something I thought was important.”