Spotlight On: Meat & Seafood Department

July 1, 2024
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Photo taken outdoors of four of the Meat and Seafood department staff: Susie, Matt S, Matt R, and Phil
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by Phil B, Meat & Seafood department manager

The Meat department started at the Brattleboro Food Co-op in 1988, and we have continued to provide the largest selection of naturally raised, certified humane, fresh meat in the area ever since. We offer a wide variety of cuts of all different species, including fresh pork, lamb, beef, poultry, and seafood, much of it from local and regional farms. And unlike other grocers, we cut, slice, trim, and package most of our products in-house, much like a traditional butcher shop. 

Regional & Local, Natural, Humane

Photo of the Brattleboro Food Co-op meat and seafood department aisle, meat is fully stocked on the refrigerated shelves and Matt S is stocking.

When I first started here, the thought of having all the beef come from the Northeast was just a dream, and it didn’t seem plausible for the volume we produce. Now, 100% of our beef is sourced regionally, with nearly everything coming from here in Vermont and neighboring New England and New York State farms, which limits the number of trucks driving from the Midwest and beyond and minimizes our carbon footprint. Our beef purveyors include Hardwick, Northeast Family Farms, Black River, Meyer Angus, and Pineland. Hardwick is a 100% grass-fed line that’s so popular we typically go through a side a week (half a steer). We receive what are known as “primal cuts” from them, which we trim, cut, and merchandise for display. We buy all of our chuck (shoulder) beef from Pineland Farms. This supplies most of the ground beef you will find here at the Co-op. Most, if not all, supermarkets and grocery stores receive their hamburger coarse-ground and then regrind it. We maintain a uniquely high standard for producing fresh hamburger at the Co-op by grinding everything in-house. 

Our fresh lamb is sourced from Mosner in NYC, ensuring its freshness and quality. While the tonnage for lamb is relatively small, we cut fresh chucks for chops and steaks, as well as fresh loin chops, boneless legs, and shanks. We also receive trimmings that we grind in-house, further enhancing the freshness and uniqueness of our lamb offerings. 

The pork that we carry here is all from Dubreton in Canada, including our house-made pork sausages. Most pork in other stores is sourced from the southern US, from large companies such as Hormel and Smithfield. These places use what is known as gestational crates, and create an environment for the animal that isn’t up to our humane raising and handling standards. 

There are three suppliers of fresh chicken here at the Co-op. One is Murray’s from PA. We sell a variety of their products, including bulk chicken that we package ourselves. Our local option is Misty Knoll Farms, which makes Vermont-raised chicken and turkey that the farmers cut and process themselves and deliver us quality retail packages. We also carry Farmer Focus 100% Organic Chicken for those who prefer certified organic.


Photo of sign on the Meat department cutting room door that says "Meat Room Safety, Caution, Sharp knives and/or dangerous machinery in use. Please enter with caution, do not startle the crew. Thank you.

More than 80% of the products we sell here are fresh. This is significant because other stores you will find in retail meat have a much more extensive selection of what are known as processed and prepackaged meats. The emphasis here is on maintaining a much more extensive selection of fresh, unprocessed meats that we cut and package right here at the Co-op using our own vacuum sealers, which eliminate the use of foam trays and pads that appear to be an industry standard elsewhere. We also strategically schedule days where the bandsaw and grinder are used to save on cleaning supplies, hot water, electricity, etc. Most meat shops run their machinery daily.

Sustainable Seafood

Photo of the Brattleboro Food Co-op seafood counter. Susie is serving a customer.

Our seafood department takes extreme pride in carrying sustainable fresh seafood that is delivered six days a week. Here at the Co-op, we emphasize farms and fisheries using sustainable practices in farming, harvesting, and handling methods. All farms and fisheries are regulated, monitored, and inspected by all forms of government agencies. Many species’ sustainability standards are measured by and dependent on production and seasonality. Our suppliers are located in Massachusetts in towns such as Boston, Gloucester, New Bedford, Fall River, and a handful in Maine. Many items we carry in the Seafood department are seasonal or only available during one brief time each year, such as soft shell crabs from Maryland, shad roe, and smelt.  

Healthy House-Made Sausage and Marinades

Both departments also offer various marinated items made in-house, ensuring the highest quality and freshness. Our house-made sausage is frozen to eliminate the need for so many preservatives. (The standard practice is ten cups of salt per 100 lbs; we only use one.) We make an average of 200 lbs of sausage per week and have a variety of flavors. 

photo of arthur and anna from the meat and seafood department outside posing for a picture