The article in last week’s Stranger attempting to shred the Bill the Butcher chain’s claims of providing local, organic meat at their Seattle area outlets — including their new, nearby Madison Valley location — has prompted a response from the company.
Here’s one of the meaty passages from the Stranger:
William Von Schneidau vouches for the quality of Bill the Butcher’s meat. According to the signage above Bill the Butcher’s meat cases, the beef, pork, lamb, veal, goat, chicken, fish, and game are all “certified organic and natural.”
But there’s one thing Von Schneidau and Owens won’t share, and that’s the names of the putatively organic ranches that supply the shops. “But if we get to know [the ranchers] and we actually know them—we actually know them by their first names, we talk to them every day—that’s good enough for us,” says Owens. “We have the relationships, and that’s good enough to have source verification that we trust.”
Von Schneidau says that the names of the farms aren’t important to his clients: “We don’t want to confuse the consumer getting into too many ‘this farm, that farm’ things.” Within the next six months, he says, the Bill the Butcher supply chain will be solidified, and then they’ll consider revealing sources to their customers. Meanwhile: “If I did a blind test with you, and we served a top sirloin from five different farms… nobody will notice the difference anyway.”
In an “open letter” posted to their Web site, Bill the Butcher responds:
In our marketing, in our signage, on our web site, and in our brochure we have never represented our meat as being “100 percent certified organic.” Instead, we have said “organic and natural, grass fed and local” to best represent our total mix of meaty offerings.
Transparency is of the ultimate importance to us and we are creating a system that allows us to track our meat from the farm to our cases. You will be able to learn not only where our meat comes from and who raises it, but also what the animal ate, how it was harvested and the interesting nuances that nobody has ever attempted to reveal, such as the specific breed/bloodline of the animal. We’ll provide you with information allowing you to pinpoint your ultimate preferences in the quest for your perfect steak. For instance, you will be able to discern the difference between Natural Short Horn Brahmin beef raised and finished on grass vs. Organic Limousin beef raised on grass and finished on organic grain.
In a mere 9 months, we’ve formed a new supply chain of local and conscientious ranchers and farmers who raise and produce healthy and safe food. We will start showcasing our ranchers and farmers, those who agree to be featured, next week. As you may already know our meat and poultry comes from Snohomish County, King County, Anacortes, Lopez Island, Spanaway, Duvall, Arlington and Mt. Vernon in Washington , and from Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This mix is constantly changing and growing as we add new suppliers to our team and we are proud to say that our local roster of farmers is the best of the best. We will always go as close as we can and as far as we have to in order to deliver products of the highest standards.
CHS has received quite a few notes asking if we were planning to follow up on the Stranger story — apparently, the lure of a butcher shop has enticed a few of you off Hill and down into the Valley. We’ll look for an opportunity to add more. There’s also our very own Capitol Hill butcher now operating in the Melrose Market at Rain Shadow Meats to consider.