The Whole Hog—er, Cow |

The Whole Hog—er, Cow

“Nose to tail” eating—that is, using all parts of an animal, cooking everything from the ears to the innards—is nothing new in the culinary world. After all, necessity has always compelled those preparing a meal to find a use for every bit of meat; raising or hunting an animal takes enough effort that cooks don't want to let any hard-won flesh go to waste.
A number of urban chefs, however, are taking this one step further—not only using the whole carcass, but carving it up themselves. As the New York Times reports, the owners of New York restaurant Marlow & Sons ensure access to the best cuts of meat by buying unbutchered animals from local, humane farms, and partitioning them between that restaurant and their three other operations in Brooklyn. Chefs from each of these restaurants convene to divide up every week’s haul—a pig or two, often, perhaps a whole steer, the sides and organs of a cow—between their respective kitchens.

Of course, Marlow & Sons’ system is unique; with four restaurants in close proximity, ordering whole animals becomes economical. Smaller kitchens might not have the same flexibility. But whatever the operation, working with whole animals allows for a greater degree of creativity, and a closer connection to the food on the plate that involves the whole kitchen. It’s harder for a prep chef to improperly cut and therefore waste a side of meat, for instance, if he’s seen the animal it comes from.

Ethical issues will always pervade the culinary world; today, the treatment of animals and the environmental costs of meat production are two of the most pressing. In-house butchering will hardly resolve these concerns. But sourcing meat directly from responsible farms—and making use of every piece of a farm-raised animal—surely sets a higher ethical standard. While, of course, spurring ever more creativity in the kitchen.


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