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Butcher shop serves up sustainably-sourced meats

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

At Graze and Gather Meats and Provisions last week, owners Steve Sabicer and Michael Puglisi were hard at work getting Route 66’s newest shop in order.

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Puglisi was doing typical butcher’s work, slicing beef steaks and breaking down chickens for the butcher’s block while Sabicer was checking the shop’s inventory and lobby’s two main fridges. While this shop is a new venture, they have been in the business together for the last seven years.

Before the duo opened Graze and Gather this December, they operated Orange County’s “premier” butcher shop, Electric City Butcher, which opened in July 2014. Graze and Gather’s parent store got its start mainly because of Puglisi, who was a restaurant chef before becoming a butcher. After many years in the industry, he wanted to bring the high quality meats he prepared to the average consumer.

“Electric City Butcher really started out as a passion for whole animal butchery. And that’s literally receiving the entire carcass and breaking it down into fabricated cuts. It’s how butchering used to be done,” Sabicer said.

After seven years of serving Orange County residents, the butchers decided to take their skills to Claremont, utilizing their same sources and connections from ECB.

“I’ve been looking to bring ECB to Claremont since I apprenticed [in 2016]. And then when we partnered with each other on Electric City Butcher, from day one I was looking for a location here,” Sabicer said, revealing he’s been a Claremonter himself since 2010. “We’ve been looking for years and we actually got very far several times but small towns are hard to break into to launch a business in.”

It was not until the property between Rev’d Up Coffee and Common Thread Claremont came on the market that the duo finally secured a location in July to open their Claremont shop.

“We moved as quickly as we could … We did not start construction until September so it was a quick turn around,” Sabicer said. In April, Puglisi moved with his family to Claremont following plans for the business.

Sabicer said the shop sources most of their animals from local farmers they meet in person. “Our chicken is the closest, it comes from Murrieta just down the 215. Our beef primarily comes from three ranches: Mariposa up near Yosemite … Petaluma and … Eureka. Our lamb comes from Dixon … and our eggs come from GoneStraw Farms here in Riverside.”

The small business also offers sausages (which residents can customize), commercial dumplings filled with their meat products, fresh dog food they make in house, both seasoning and curing salts, and barbeque sauce. While their lobby is small, their selection is vast.

Meats at Claremont’s newest butchery, Graze and Gather Meats and Provisions include an assortment of locally grown and in-house made products including the picutred salami cotto, chorizo, tartufo salame, salame di Manzo and spicy sopressata. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

 

A news release describes Graze and Gather as a “full-service, environmentally responsible, specialty butcher shop.” But could those definitions actually apply to a whole animal butchery?

“Our mission and why we expanded this business from Santa Ana to now Claremont and hopefully beyond is because we’re trying to bring a different kind of meat to market,” Sabicer said.

“For decades … factory farm meat has been the only option for consumers. Over 95% of the meat that’s raised in the country is raised by a handful of ranchers and then processed by a handful of meat packers. And they set the requirements for how those animals are raised and treated and the only goal for them is profit.

“What we do here is completely different and on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a decentralized model,” Sabicer said.

Graze and Gather works directly with their farmers to ensure the animals they source are not only raised animals humanely, but also 100% grass finished. That just means “the animals never eat grain, they’re … on pasture their entire lives and we like to say they have one bad day where they’re taken to be processed,” Sabicer said. “After they are processed it comes to us directly … [the kill] does not happen here.”

When asked whether butchering can be a sustainable business, Sabicer replied, “The oxymoron is that people eating soy- and corn-based vegetarian products are actually doing more harm to the environment than the products we have in this shop. For every pound of impossible burger … you eat at the grocery store it creates about three to four kilograms of carbon dioxide.”

Sabicer said their beef, along with the farmer’s farming practices, “sequesters three to four kilograms of carbon dioxide for every pound of beef raised … Our farmers are actually repairing the damages caused by decades and decades of over farming and mass-producing animals.”

Puglisi said that aside from being sustainable butchers, they really just want to give Claremont the answer to the question, do you know where your meat is actually coming from?

“We’re pretty much as transparent as it gets and our goal is to increase people’s opportunity to get more locally and regeneratively sourced meats. This isn’t about us or us trying to take over the meat world, it’s about us trying to give back to the community,” Puglisi said.

In addition to selling high quality meats, Sabicer said education will be an essential provision the shop will bring to Claremont, as they have at ECB. “We’re hoping to bring classes here. We teach people how to break down chicken, pork and how to make sausage or terrine,” he said.

In the past, Sabicer and Puglisi have also collaborated with local businesses, including the Cheese Cave, to host cooking classes. Now with the shop much closer to home, they hope to engage in more collaborative efforts with Claremont businesses.

The shop is in its soft opening stages, learning what the community wants and training employees. Sabicer said they hope to have a grand opening sometime in January 2022.

Graze and Gather is located at 214 W. Foothill Boulevard. Its current hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; however, once the store fully opens, that will likely change. For more information or to check its inventory, call (909) 741-7300. You can also visit the shop’s website, www.grazeandgathermeats.com.

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