Concerned about climate change? We are, too! Pastured animals are an essential part of regenerating our soil. Soil regeneration combats climate change. This new year we resolve to educate our friends and customers about the virtues of pasture-raised animal husbandry.
—Monica & Aaron Rocchino & The Local Butcher Shop Team
Richard Cobeen is a good man to know, especially when it comes to a dinner party. On the afternoon before New Years, Cobeen is preparing a celebratory meal for thirteen people. Whereas other people would be frantically scurrying around the kitchen, “preparing dinner”, for Cobeen seems to involve little more than finishing up the massive jigsaw puzzles his family started over the Christmas holiday. “I used to have to do a lot more when I cooked meat,” he says. “But what I’m buying now is just so flavorful that I don’t have to do much messing around with it.”
Opening the refrigerator in his airy kitchen, Cobeen pulls out the main event: a twelve-pound beef rib roast, pasture-raised and grass finished at Stemple Creek Ranch in Marin County. It’s a beauty, with deep red muscle and a creamy white layer of fat on top. He’s sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and nothing else. The next step is a slow roast of three or four hours, followed (one can only assume) by dinner guests who will also find a reason to drop by the following day around lunchtime to devour any leftovers.
Cobeen, a third-grade teacher in Berkeley, has been buying all of his meat at The Local Butcher Shop ever since the store opened. “I started thinking about eating less meat, but having it be better meat. And also paying more attention to where it comes from and how it’s produced.” What that means in practice is that Cobeen eats red meat about once a week, and that when he does so it becomes more of an occasion, a reason to gather with friends and family. “We’ll do a Sunday dinner and instead of it being just another meal, now it’s an event,” he says. His go-to recipe for entertaining is a simple meatball in red sauce, with pork shoulder, beef chuck, and a few ounces of high-quality prosciutto ground together. “The recipe calls for extra pork fat, but this stuff is so rich that I never even need it.”
“I grew up in the country,” Cobeen says. His grandparents were farmers, and he was raised with an appreciation of natural meat. “Sometimes the duck we ate still had a little buckshot in it and you had to be careful when you bit down,” he laughs. His upbringing taught him that meat was special, and that none of it should go to waste. Even though he lives in the city now, that same ethic remains. “I don’t really throw any of it away,” he says. On Thanksgiving he brined and barbequed a heritage turkey; the day afterwards he made a smoky gumbo with the leftover meat, and after that came a long-simmered stock from the bones. “It’s all so good that I don’t want to let a single piece of it go to waste,” he says, “but I also think it’s the right thing to do.”
Rather than just grabbing a shrink-wrapped package off the endless shelves at a grocery store meat department, Cobeen feels that it’s important to think about where his food comes from. “The animals I eat need to be humanely raised. And I think about trying to have as small a carbon footprint as possible.” Every piece of grass-fed beef that’s raised on a nearby family farm is one less piece coming from a massive factory feedlot a thousand miles away. “I understand that there are a lot of things contributing to climate change and that my personal actions are only a small part of it,” Cobeen says. “But every little bit counts and it’s important to me to make choices that contribute to the solution rather than the problem.”
Richard Cobeen appreciates knowing that his ethical and environmental requirements are met every time he shops at The Local Butcher Shop, no matter what ends up in his grocery bag. “I don’t always know what I’m going to buy when I walk in,” he says. But the butchers never steer him wrong, suggesting cuts of meat he may not have considered and then offering advice on how best to cook them. Between the sustainable sourcing, the expert advice, and the unapparelled freshness, Cobeen doesn’t need to look anywhere else. Of course, all those good things contribute to the one thing that matters most: “The Local Butcher Shop brings me back to those days at my grandparents’ house,” he says, “when everything tasted so good and so real.”