Phoenix Phoodies: The Meat Shop

The Meat Shop (202 E Buckeye Road, 602-258-5075‎) is all about family. From raising the Yorkshire/Duroc piglets themselves to butchering the bacon to bringing it to their store and Valley farmers markets (Tonopah and Downtown Phoenix), the Wilson family does it together.

Famous for their three types of bacon ('regular', Irish, and guanciale) and generous pork chops, The Meat Shop's pork has found its way to some darn good Valley restaurants, including The Mission and Pasta Bar. And, amazingly enough, they've done this in under a year!

Open since July 2008, family matriarch Beth Wilson and butcher Paul Randolph (he married into the clan), and other family members work to keep their tidy store open six days a week, from 8 to 5. They're even on hand at various farmers markets around town with unique cuts and preparations of pork you just won't find anywhere else. As the Spanish say, they use every part of the pig except the oink.

Chow Bella: How did you start The Meat Shop?

Beth Wilson: We started raising calves for dairies, and it didn't really work very well. My daughter and husband did a joint venture with pigs. They got some sows (a female pig), a gilt (a female pig who hasn't given birth), and a boar - six in total. So that's how we started, the pigs just kept on going. We built a temporary barn until we could move into our new farm about a year and a half ago, and that's where we raise the hogs today.

Paul Randolph: They like to reproduce rapidly (laughter).

CB: How many pigs can a sow have at a time? Is it called a litter? PR: Yes, it's a litter. An average litter is about 9-10. A great litter is 15 to 16 piglets.

BW: Yes, that's true. But we have to keep track of what is happening. You have to know which boars are capable of fathering the larger litters. This way we can make sure we have healthy, thriving livestock.

CB: What is your most popular piece of pork? PR: Hands down it's the bacon. We'll easily go through 250 pounds in a week.

CB: What exactly is Irish bacon? I've seen that at the farmers market. BW: It's basically bacon with the loin attached. We started making it after a special request for a local restaurant and it took off from there.

CB: Is there an underrated piece of pork? PR: Yes, the jowl. You say 'jowl' and people just think of the fat part of the cheek. They get a little squeamish. But then you have them try the guanciale, which is essentially bacon made from the jowl, and it's so delicious! They always change their mind.