Local Heroes Food Shop: Primal Supply Meats
It’s a logistical challenge to get an animal from the small, local farm where it was raised to a slaughterhouse, then to a butcher and finally to a dinner plate. So butchers Heather Marold Thomason and Cecilie May designed a more convenient system that benefits small farmers and customers alike. Their new company, Primal Supply Meats, is both a subscription service for home cooks and a wholesale provider for restaurants.
Joining the Butcher’s Club subscription service is simple: Sign up online, choose your box size, and select your pickup location. You pay as you go and can pause or stop the service any time. Members and nonmembers can also purchase à la carte items like eggs, stock or strip steak. A week’s subscription box might include sausage, a roast, and a couple pounds of quick-cooking cuts like pork chops or top sirloin steak, but specific cuts rotate. “We track what we pack for everybody every week so we can ensure variety,” Thomason says.
The magic of Primal Supply is in the supply chain Thomason and May have set up. They source whole animals from their network of local beef, pork and poultry farmers. The animals are broken down into primal cuts (think loin, brisket, and shank for beef ) at Smucker’s Slaughterhouse in Lancaster, and then delivered to the Primal Supply facility, housed in 1732 Meats’ operation in Lansdowne. In the massive space, they cut and vacuum-seal the meat and pack shares based on each week’s orders.
Through their wholesale program, they deliver larger cuts and extra ground beef to restaurants like Aldine, Vetri, Bar Hygge, Fork and High Street. “We use the two programs to make sure that the whole animal gets used without any waste,” Thomason says.
Their whole animals come from eight farmers who raise beef, pork and poultry in Southeastern Pennsylvania. They create plans for the season based on availability and demand, sometimes as much as a year in advance. “We’re working with the farmers to know about their herd size, their land and how it works for them to produce animals for us,” Thomason says.
It’s the most important part of the supply chain, and it’s the reason Primal Supply started. “We saw how hard it was for farmers raising meat to get it cut and sold,” Thomason says. With tentative plans for a brick-and-mortar location, Thomason and May will continue to increase demand for local, sustainably raised meat and make it easier for us to get our hands on it.