Seattle-based Bill the Butcher heralds its new retail concept as "the return of the neighborhood butcher shop." But it's bringing it back with a twist: the focus is on organic and natural, grass-fed meats.
The first location, in Woodinville, WA, opened in August 2009 and it now counts six in the Seattle area with several more on the way. While small, it is also publicly-held, reporting sales of $559,000 in its first quarter, an increase of 266 percent versus the same period last year.
"We are pleased with our performance in what is only our sixth quarter of operations," said J’Amy Owens, chief executive officer, in a statement. "In this short amount of time, we have achieved a tremendous amount in refining a retail concept that we already know to be powerful. Bill the Butcher will be to meat what Starbucks is to coffee."
The company works directly with local ranchers and farmers who follow sustainable and organic practices to "deliver the highest quality meat that is healthiest for consumers while being good for the environment," according to the company's website. At the same time, it works with "small farmers and ranchers who treat animals humanely and share our belief that grass pastured meat is far healthier."An article last year on MSNBC noted that Bill the Butcher is just one of a number of meat shops popping up in cities across the country appealing to consumers looking to be more connected to their food as well as those concerned about health, the environment and the better treatment of animals.
Ryan Ford, co-owner of The Organic Butcher in Virginia, said that when his shop opened nearly five years ago, butchers regularly spent 20-to-30 minutes with first-time customers explaining where the meat came from, how the animals were raised and what terms like "grass-fed" meant. But much of the service provided by the new breed of butchers replicates the interactions between the butcher and consumer of yore that doesn't happen as much in supermarkets anymore, including offering advice on cooking, cuts and portion sizes.
Speaking to MSNBC, Ms. Owens likened the high-end meat trend to the movements toward local wine and gourmet coffee.
"It’s an ancient commodity that is changed by how it’s presented to the consumer," she said.
She also expects many consumers will pay a premium once they taste the difference between locally grown meat from animals raised without added hormones or antibiotics and regular grocery store meat.
"After you have a latte, you rarely go back to Folger’s drip," Ms. Owens said.
What do you think of the growth potential for organic, upscale butchers?