It'll be bit of a trek for Valley food lovers, but that doesn't mean a trip to Proper Meats + Provisons in Flagstaff and later Tucson won't be worthwhile.
The butchery and deli claims to be the state's first butcher shop offering "100% Arizona farm raised meats." Owner Paul Moir says having locations in both southern and northern Arizona will help Proper Meats create much-needed infrastructure for the local meat market, as well help bring back the lost art of butchery.
"It's a craft that died out," Moir says. "But it's coming back."
The project is the latest to come from Moir his wife, Laura , who also own Brix and Criollo Latin Kitchen in Flagstaff and Proper in Tucson. The plan is to open an outlet of Proper Meats in Flagstaff within the next two months and a second Tucson shop by the end of the year.
See also: 7 Things to Eat and Drink in Flagstaff
Moir says Proper Meats will be a "meat shop with a deli component" -- as in about 10 seats and a small, rotating selection of deli sandwiches. Clearly the real focus will be on the selection of Arizona-raised meats that will include beef, pork, poultry, lamb (seasonally), rabbit (as available), and goat (also as available).
One the biggest differences between Proper Meats and other butcher shops is that this place will be practicing whole-animal butchery on-site, breaking down entire carcasses and making it all, from nose to tail, available to customers is some capacity.
To make that possible, Moir says he's faced some logistical difficulties. The restaurateur has to purchase animals from local farmers, send them to one of a small number of in-state processing plants, and then move the meat from the plants to his stores. The middle step, sending the animals to large, federally-inspected plants is "the bottleneck of the whole local food system," Moir explains.
(It would be like making farmers send their produce to an inspection site before they could sell it to you at a farmers market.)
What's more, Moir says there isn't currently a cheap way to move the whole animal carcasses from the plants to a retail shop. To solve that problem, he and Proper Meats Executive Chef David Smith will be doing it themselves. Moir says he's building a special refrigerated trailer and will be making the drive back and forth from southern to northern Arizona about once a week.
"It's definitely going to be more expensive," Moir admits. "But we're trying to keep [the prices] in line with Whole Foods and AJ's. We're trying to keep the system sustainable for everyone -- including the farmer and consumer -- and there's value in that."
As you can imagine, it's a pretty big undertaking to commit to sourcing meat exclusively from within the state, as well as to purchasing whole animals instead of just the beauty cuts. And Moir isn't shy about admitting that his position as a restaurateur is what's allowed him to take the risk. Whatever odds and ends might not sell retail, Moir has the ability to use at one of his three dining outlets.
In addition to all the usual meat shop offerings, Proper Meats + Provisions will carry a few specialty items, bringing local flavor to the Arizona meat market. For example, the shop will be selling Criollo beef, a rare breed of cattle that's native to southern Spain and well-adapted to our arid desert climate. The meat is known for being rich in flavor and quite tender, but difficult to find.
"My hope and my wish is that people will be able to shop for meat the way they shop for cheese," Moir says. "They'll be some choice."
Proper Meats will also be drying and curing its own charucterie and Moir says he's playing with the idea of selling items such as artisan hot dogs and dog food. There will be some prepared foods as well, think bolognese, pastrami, and roast beef. Moir's also on the hunt for a source of raw local cream to make pasteurized butter.
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On the subject of taking the concept to the Valley, Moir is a little obtuse. Though he says the idea of stopping for a drop off in Phoenix while driving the trailer from Tucson to Flagstaff does make sense.
We'll keep our fingers crossed.