Several years ago, James Peisker and Chris Carter founded one of America’s finest butcher shops, Nashville’s Porter Road. At the shop, they sell what’s basically the highest-quality beef, pork, lamb, and chicken that you’ll find anywhere: It’s pasture-raised on local farms with no antibiotics or hormones, vegetarian-fed with non-GMO feed, and hand-cut at their own facility. All of their beef is also dry-aged for a minimum of 14 days, resulting in some superb steaks (and a spectacular whole-animal burger blend, which we had the opportunity to sample). Well, there’s some good news for folks not lucky enough to live in Nashville who want to try these meats out for themselves: Porter Road now ships to all 48 contiguous states, fresh (not frozen), via two-day air. We had the opportunity to chat with James and Chris via email about what makes their butcher shop unique, and why they decided to start shipping.
The Daily Meal: What was your motivation for opening your own butcher shop?
James and Chris: Back in 2010, while running a catering business together, we realized how hard it was to get our hands on quality, local meat from sources we could trust. Nashville is surrounded by farms, but there was a gap between farmers and consumers. So we took it into our own hands.
What differentiates it from other butcher shops you’ve encountered?
Buckle up, this is going to be a long answer.
We use local farms that we personally vetted and regularly check in on. All of our farmers run 100 percent pasture-raised operations, meaning our animals never set foot on feedlots nor are they ever confined to indoor spaces or small enclosures. None of the animals are given antibiotics or added hormones.
We use local farms to ensure that no animal has to undergo a long, stressful journey to get to our processing facility. Any stress during the final days, hours, or even minutes, of an animal’s life can ruin all of the hard work put in up to that point.
Owning our own processing facility means that we have control of the butchering process from beginning to end. From the moment the farmers drop the animals off, until the meat is en route to a customer, it never leaves our sight. Additionally, having our own facility means we can dry-age all of our beef for a minimum of two weeks (and sometimes way longer)!
We practice “seam butchery” which means we cut our meat by hand following the natural muscle groups. This allows us to access cuts that you typically can’t find in the grocery store meat section and drastically reduces waste.
The thing that makes us especially unique and different is that you can access our meat from anywhere in the continental 48! We’re thrilled to give conscientious customers across the country access to a better product.
How do you source the meat you sell?
All of our meat comes to us from farms local to our processing facility. These family-owned farms have dedicated themselves to not only raising meat in the most ethical way possible, but to being stewards of their beautiful land.
What made you decide to get into the shipping game?
We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy this delicious meat that is better for the environment, animals, and taste buds. At our East Nashville butcher shop, we kept getting questions from customers and visitors about sending our meat to people outside Nashville, so it’s been really exciting to share the news that we now ship to anywhere in the lower 48 states!
I was especially impressed by the burger meat, which smelled like a sweet, minerally, slightly funky perfectly dry-aged steak. What’s in your burger blend, and how is it treated?
Unlike most producers of ground beef, we age the whole sides of beef for a minimum of 14 days. Allowing the beef to age gives it that slight funk that one would typically associate with high-end steakhouse steaks. Our whole animal blend is ideal for burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, etc.
Most butchers use a blend of different cuts in their burger blend, but you think using the whole animal is best. Why?
Each cut of beef has a distinct flavor profile. By blending different cuts, we end up with a more well-rounded and multi-dimensional product. Additionally, a whole animal grind means that we are able utilize all of the clean trim. Why throw away trimmings from filets, ribeyes, brisket, etc. when it could be used for an amazing burger?
What’s your favorite little-known cut of beef? Why?
James: Denver (boneless short rib) has the perfect combination of bite, intense beefy flavor, and fattiness. It's incredibly versatile; from searing, to braising, to smoking, Denver steak is a fantastic option. Definitely a good cut to keep handy.
Chris: Though it’s traditionally thought of as a lesser cut, top sirloin has to be my favorite. It’s lean but still flavorful and tender. Top sirloin is also a great affordable alternative to filet!
Would you advise people to stop buying whatever’s in the meat aisle at their supermarket? Is it really that bad?
We don’t want to advise people to stop shopping locally, but we do think that it's important for consumers to educate themselves. The majority of “buzzwords” aren’t actually regulated, so meat producers are able to make misleading claims without repercussion (“cage-free” chicken being a great example).
Porter Road encourages the consumer to take some time to educate themselves, and find farmers and butchers you trust! Not everyone has the time or accessibility, so we are there for you!
What single item that you sell are you the most proud of?
James: Hot dogs! We’ve taken something that everyone is familiar with and turned it on its head. We don’t add any special ingredients or get crazy with it, but a 100 percent beef hot dog without any fillers or dyes, made with dry-aged beef, and smoked over cherry wood, is something special. It’s what a hot dog should be.
Chris: I’m all about our Chorizo. Our recipe combines our favorite elements from both Spanish and Mexican chorizo, leading to a sausage that is a little spicy but still very versatile.