December’s Darou Wellness Approved Business with The Healthy Butcher. Today we interview Mario, one of the founders about his vision and the store. The Healthy Butcher now has two Toronto locations at 565 Queen St. West (west of Spadina) and 298 Eglinton Ave. West (at Avenue Rd.)
What is the Healthy Butcher, and what makes you unique?
The Healthy Butcher is a one-of-a-kind butcher shop that represents the intersection of healthy meat with gourmet. You can go many shops to buy “good tasting” meat that was conventionally and unethically raised. And you can go to many health stores to buy Organic meat of very poor quality that ends up being a very poor eating experience. We are the only shop that spends an endless amount of time sourcing not only the healthiest meat (healthy for you, for the animal, and for the environment), but the best tasting meat.
Specifically what does organic mean as it pertains to meat?
The term “Organic”, with a capital “O” and shown with the Canada Organic logo means that the meat has been raised according to the federal Organic standards. These standards cover everything from the space the animals are given (indoors and outdoors), to the prohibition of the use of antibiotics or growth hormones, to the specifications of any feed (all feed must also be Organic, so no pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, etc). We are huge proponents of the Organic system; that said, just because meat is labelled Organic does not mean it is high quality – that’s what we ensure at The Healthy Butcher.
What is your criteria when selecting suppliers for your store?
We leave no stone left unturned when determining whether to carry a product in our store. We visit each of our farms, we ask the pointed questions that nobody else asks. For a meat (or any product for that matter) to be carried at The Healthy Butcher, it has to be ethically raised or produced, without any drugs of any sort, and the end product must be of high quality, meaning the flavour is out of this world.
When people are looking for good quality meat, can you explain some of the terminology? Organic, Grass fed, Grain fed, Free range, Antibiotic free especially. Many people are confused by these terms and may not be making the healthiest choice possible when reading labels. For example, a package of ground beef at the supermarket may have a label that says: “*Raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones. Vegetable grain-fed – contains no animal by-products” – is this really a healthy choice?
This is a great question, and a big one. We actually have a in-depth article called “The Healthy Butcher’s Ultimate Guide to Canadian Meat Labels” which can be found here. In a nutshell, the term “organic” is the only term in Canada that is clearly defined and has significant meaning.
“Grassfed” can be a bit deceiving; in order for the term “grassfed” to mean anything, a beef cow needs to have been fed grass and only grass, and not finished with grains or corn which represents 99% of the beef on the market. We like to use the term “100% Grassfed Beef”, and the result of grass feeding is that the beef is much healthier for you both from an Omega 3-to-6 ratio, as well as higher in other nutrients. Now, “grassfed” doesn’t apply to chickens though… as chickens are natural omnivores – they should be eating grains and protein.
“Free range” is commonly used to describe chickens that have been given access to regularly roam and graze outdoors. But, there are no specific requirements – and some “free range” chickens out there simply refer to chickens not raised in battery cages. So to us, “free range” is not a term we like to use.
“Raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones” is a great thing. It is estimated that 88% of antibiotics produced or imported into Canada are given to animals. The result is the creation of superbugs that cannot be controlled with antibiotics when we need antibiotics the most. But, the flip side of the coin is that “raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones” does not say anything about how the animal is raised, the space it has, the feed it is given, etc.
Finally “vegetable grain-fed”… it depends. Feeding grains to beef isn’t a positive thing, they should be eating grass. Feeding only grains and vegetables to chickens is also not a positive thing, as explained above, chickens are natural omnivores so they should be eating protein (in nature, they would be eating bugs, worms, and grubs). I suppose “vegetable grain-fed” is a good thing if the alternative would be to be feeding animal by-products.
The bottom line, it’s important to trust your source and not be afraid to ask questions. There are hundreds of marketing terms out there that are very deceiving.
After so many alarming films about factory-farmed meats which have scared lots of people into vegetarianism, what are our alternatives? Is there really ethically raised meat?
Yes, absolutely. I would gladly debate with any vegetarian the benefits of raising animals and eating meat. When properly raised, animals naturally fertilize soil, keep the earth healthy, as well as convert plants that humans are not able to digest into digestible meat.
The problem today is (a) most animals are not raised the way they should be raised causing harm to the environment and harm to our own health, and (b) we eat too much meat.
We profess to every customer: eat less meat, but eat better meat. The meat that The Healthy Butcher sources is different on many levels compared to the vast amount of meat available today. Is it more expensive? Of course. $0.99/lb meat should not exist, that’s a problem. But eat less meat, eat better meat.
For those of our readers who do not eat meat, what about seafood. Can you explain what ‘sustainable seafood’ means?
Another great question, and we’ve written an in-depth article on this topic as well, available here. Sustainable seafood can be defined as seafood (we group saltwater and freshwater fish, as well as shellfish into the term seafood) from either wild or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired.
A lot of times people shun farmed fish… but I would say if everyone were to switch to wild fish, we would decimate fish populations around the world within weeks. Just like raising of animals on land, there are good ways to raise fish in sustainable ways.
Again, it’s important to ask questions about the seafood you’re buying and feel comfortable about the source.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
I think it’s important today for people to re-form connections with their food sources. You’ll not only vote with your dollars to create a better food system, but you feel healthier as well.
Tell us about the great perk you are offering to patients and clients of Darou Wellness for the month of December?
We are offering 10% off everything in the store until December 21st with a special discount card, available at Darou Wellness. In the grocery world, 10% is a big discount when applied across the board. This will enable your clients to experience all the products we have to offer, at either of our Toronto stores – 565 Queen West, or our larger store at 298 Eglinton Ave. West.
The Healthy Butcher
Eat real. Live healthy.