If you’re a vegetarian, or someone who leans in that direction, the mere thought of going to a butcher shop may be enough to turn your stomach. So it may surprise you to hear that butcher shops are—in our opinion—one of the hottest trends right now in meat-free food.
Wondering how this makes any sense? Ah yes, there’s one small detail separating these businesses from your typical butcher shop—instead of meat, the focus is on vegetables…or blends of plant-based foods masquerading as meat. The first hint that this trend was on the horizon was a few years ago when an Italian food market called Eataly opened in New York. The store boasted that it employed New York’s only vegetable butcher—a person that worked in the produce department, who would clean and cut your vegetables free of charge, in addition to give advice on how to prepare the food (very much in the same way an old school meat butcher would cut and advise a shopper on how to prepare a filet mignon). When Eataly first opened in 2010, the store’s head vegetable butcher was quoted as saying that her job was to make the world of vegetables less intimidating for people. We can get behind that mission!
Last year came the grand opening of Yam Chops, a vegetarian butcher shop in Toronto that gets our approval based on it’s name alone. The counter features foods like beet burgers, chick*n scallopini, coconut ba-con, and tuna-less tuna. Patrons can also order to-go lunch boxes, or cater a party or gathering.
Next came a Kickstarter campaign by a brother and sister duo looking to start a vegan butcher shop in Minneapolis, MN aiming to make protein-rich vegan meat alternatives like maple sage breakfast sausage and deli bologna, called The Herbivorous Butcher. The project was funded in full by last November and the team is now selling products through local farmers’ markets’ and pop-up shops as they prepare for an official grand opening.
The trend, it turns out, is not just a North American one. In late 2010, a Dutch company called De Vegetarische Slager—The Vegetarian Butcher—started with one “concept store” in The Hague selling sandwich and take-out meals made from convincing-tasting meat analogs. The company’s products are now available at more than 1,000 stores around Europe (including traditional meat butcher shops).
Australia is also home to a vegetarian butcher, this one by the name of Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher, which opened in 2012 outside Sydney. One-time chef to vegan actor Tobey Maguire, Spoon (what an awesome name for a chef) whips up realistic tasting and looking vegan sausages, burgers, and more, which you can eat on-site or bring home, deli-style.
So, what do you think of this trend? Is the word “butcher” enough to keep you out of a vegetarian butcher shop? Do you want your plant-powered food to mimic meat (in taste, appearance, or name), or would you rather it do its own thing? And most importantly—who has had the chance to try one of these spots? Tell us what you think in the space below!