Meet & Eat Jake Dickson, Dickson's Farmstand Meats

Meet and Eat: NY

Conversations with chefs and food personalities in New York City.

Editor's note: Time for another Meet & Eat with interviewer guru Laren Spirer. This week, it's more of a Meat & Eat, since she's chatting with butcher Jake Dickson.

20090122-jake.jpg

Jake Dickson in the background

New Yorkers, like many consumers across the country, are often unaware of the origins of the meat they eat. Jake Dickson is looking to change that. Dickson's Farmstand Meats brings humanely raised local meat to city dwellers while introducing them to the regional farmers behind the pigs, lambs and cows from which it came.

Jake (seen peeking out in the back of this picture) delivers meat through the Greenmarket and online ordering at several pick-up locations throughout the city, but has plans for expansion in the not-too-distant future.

Name: Jake Dickson
Location: Manhattan and Brooklyn
Occupation: Purveyor of Locally and Naturally Raised Beef, Pork and Lamb
Website: dicksonsfarmstand.com

How did your business come to be? After a mostly unfulfilling career in marketing, I began researching food-based businesses. The more I learned about meat, the more I realized that what is available to consumers is mostly poor quality and poorly (read: inhumanely) raised. The meat business draws an interesting cast of character and is incredibly complicated--I figured it was enough to keep me interested for a lifetime. Oh, and I love to eat the stuff too. Thus, Dickson's Farmstand Meats was born.

How do you select the farmers whose products you sell? My farmers need to talk the talk and walk the walk. There are a good amount of producers that can talk the sustainability talk, but the quality of the product just isn't there. And there are those that have good quality products that don't meet my standards of sustainability. My farmers must meet have both the quality and the ideals, while being within my 400-mile radius rule.

We were very intrigued by your "Grass vs. Grain Taste Test." Tell us a little more about why and how you came up with this package. There is so much misinformation out there about both products. I want customers to decide for themselves which they prefer based on taste, while being confident that both the grass-fed and grain-fed beef they get from me is raised humanely on small farms. With this package, they can try both and make educated choices about what they buy in the future.

Do you think New Yorkers, as city dwellers, are somewhat removed from the origins of their meat? I don't think New Yorkers are any more removed from the origins of their food than the rest of the non-farming population of the U.S. In our country's industrialized agricultural system, animals are slaughtered on a massive scale, yet nobody sees any of it. It's been purposefully hidden from everyone, not just New Yorkers.

If people want to get down 'n dirty with a lamb or pig, you offer butchering classes at Albanese Meats and Poultry. Tell us about that. The classes we offer are hands-on, as I believe you can only learn butchery by doing it yourself. With expert butcher 84-year-old Moe Albanese as your guide, participants butcher an entire pig or lamb themselves while I talk about how the animals are raised.

And the best part, you take everything home at the end. Sure, you might make a mess of it, but that doesn't affect how it will taste. We'll be adding a Part II class shortly where we'll teach consumers how to cook and cure meat, for the complete nose-to-tail experience.

Right now, you run your business from the Greenmarkets and drop-off locations throughout the city. Do you plan to start a brick-and-mortar location at any point in the near future? Without a doubt. I think that an old-school butcher shop is the best delivery mechanism for high-quality, locally raised meats. I've been looking at spaces in Manhattan, and hope to be open by the late spring.

What are some of your favorite meat dishes in the city? Sliders at the Little Owl; a Luger's steak; and pastrami at Katz's.

Any meaty recipes you'd like to share? Giada De Laurentiis's bolognese--hard to admit, but super easy and a definite crowd-pleaser. Also pretty much any recipe from The River Cottage Meat Book (a must have for any carnivore's kitchen).

Best pizza in the city? Arturo's on the Upper East Side.

Favorite burger? Spotted Pig--so much blue cheese, and I love the rosemary fries.

Favorite bagel? I don't waste calories on carbs. No, it's that the West Village truly lacks a good bagel joint.

Best late-night eats? Blue Ribbon Bar--I'm in love with their pickled tongue sandwich and eating standing up.

Undiscovered gem? Persimmon, an awesome modern Korean place in the East Village. It's tiny and BYOB with amazing food. The 5-course tasting menu is only 39 bucks. We took over the whole place for New Year's Eve and it was amazing

Guilty pleasures? Kashi's GO Lean Crunch. Man, I love that stuff. Balances out the diet I guess.

Food you won't eat? I'm not that into kidneys, though I wouldn't go as far as saying I won't eat them.

Most memorable New York City meal? Babbo about 6 years ago. First meal of that caliber I treated myself to. I didn't know food could be that good.

Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? My girlfriend, Jen.

What's the best recommendation she has given you? The Del Posto bar menu for $45. Outside of NYC? Visiting the meat mecca of The Maestro, Dario Cecchini, in Panzano, Tuscany.