Jered Standing recalls attending a county fair years ago while still working in retail and encountering a pig. This might sound like Charlotte’s Web and, truth be told, it could be its sequel.
“I looked straight into the eyes of this pig and knew I couldn’t eat meat anymore,” Standing explains. Then, our butcher turned vegan. He became the vegan butcher.
“I am just made of empathy, and it’s just real hard for me to see anyone get mistreated, and especially animals who can’t protect themselves,” Standing mutters, teary-eyed and grinning in his butcher shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
Standing, a Santa Clarita native, grew up as many other suburban kids do, eating frozen meats or canned goods, nothing posh, nothing too fresh. He first entered the food space at a young age, working retail, from Safeway to WholeFoods, learning his new craft behind the counter in the meat section. These moments were his insider peek into the meat production industry and quite literally gave him a taste of how the industry as a whole operates.
Overproduction, overcrowding, and the unethical treatment of animals were all too much for Standing’s strong ethical convictions to handle. “Feeding the stock inappropriate types of foods such as grain instead of grass,” Standing points out, is another egregious common practice in the industry. These factors affect the overall wellness of each animal, and this transfers down the line to the quality of meat that is eventually consumed: “Unacceptable, I wouldn’t feed that garbage to anyone.”
“I used to have a horrible diet as a vegan,” he says while simultaneously slicing off the fat cap from a pork loin to fill in an empty spot in his display case. “Everything was processed and fried. Dairy was the hardest to give up.”
But a meatless butcher is not only an oxymoron, it goes against Standing’s passion: meat. Meat is his business. His raison d’être. His 9 to 5 (though more like 18/7). “I am not against meat, obviously, I love meat, but I love meat that is properly and ethically produced.”
The loyalty of his customers are what push him to keep fighting against the massive meat industry that works against what he is trying to promote. Standing provides the highest quality meats, sourced locally and treated humanely from pasture to plate. Imagine being served a whole chicken and provided with a full IMDB biography along with it:
FRENCH WAITOR (Heavy Parisian Accent)
SCENE (Fancy French Bistro, DTLA): Tonight, you will be enjoying Bernadette, from Pasturebird farms in Murietta, California. Bernadette enjoyed a full life on a pasture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She was never de-beaked and enjoyed foraging for worms, seeds and bugs in the California sun. She lived till a healthy age of 1 year and 9 months, and tonight we hope you enjoy the efforts of Farmer Paul in bringing Bernadette to your plate.
Sounds funny, almost unbelievable. Yet a hundred years ago chicken farming allowed chickens to be chickens, (un)de-beaked and eating bugs au natural. Standing is bringing this approach back with pizazz. And customers flock to his store – “I’ll see a hundred at least a day and speak to each and every one of them,” he says.
His creations – such as his pillows that look like flowers, but made of fat -- have exploded on Instagram (Standing has 20,000 followers). His shop offers classes on full hog, chicken and beef butchery, as well as the occasional pop-up (plain pizza or burgers stuffed with bacon). This aligns with his personal ethos that education will change the world.
Before Standing’s Butchery was even a blip of an idea, Standing embarked on a journey working in restaurants such as Salt’s Cure, where he did his apprenticeship for over a year, following up with a quick jaunt at Union in Pasadena. Bel Campo butchery and restaurant was his final destination, helping open their counter at Grand Central Market. There, he worked all aspects of the business, but specialized in his role as lead butcher.
In November 2017, Standing’s Butchery was no longer a dream, but a sleek, white tiled and unpolished wood accent brick-and-mortar store. Its open plan allowed customers to see all steps of the trade: the meat fridge, the carving knives, the dangling feet of a hog on the central chopping block. The store was also an accounting firm: taxes, receipts, shipping, ordering, janitorial staff… all aspects Standing was aware of, but now had to take part in each role. The tale of butcher come businessman of Melrose Avenue.
The eponymous store operates under simple rules of engagement: zero waste, education, transparency, full animal butchery, sourcing produce (yes, Standing calls meat “produce” similarly to how Australians do) from local farms that ethically raise and slaughter their livestock.
Every day at Standing’s Butchery, one can expect to encounter a completely different meat case based on what is available from trusted farmers around Los Angeles at any given time. And incredibly he raises the price on such “overrated” (his word) common products as chicken breasts or rib eyes, in order to incentivize his customers to search for alternatives like a whole chicken, priced at roughly the same cost of the two breasts detached separately. “I’ll even take the chicken apart and let them know how they can use the carcass to make stock,”
Standing says, reinforcing that zero waste is his goal.
He motions to José Rivera, one of his sous-butchers, hacking away at a chunk of beef. Rivera turns fistfuls of unappealing, rough and fatty pieces into healthy dog food. “Rib eyes are so overrated,” Rivera posits, and the two other butchers in the shop smirk knowingly at one another.
“One of my biggest struggles with the meat industry as a whole is the labelling of products,” he says, “And how ‘natural,’ ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ amount to scams that entice purchasers by evoking a sense of taking a moral high-ground.”
So, what’s next for Standing’s Butchery?
“I get to do what I want and do it the right way, but that all comes at a cost both to me and my hero customers,” Standing says, adding that he is ready to venture into the realm of online delivery for those who can’t physically make it to his store. “Even fast food joints are now offering pasture-raised beef products, something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” Standing laughs.
Standing’s Butchery is located at 7016 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038.
This piece was originally published in The Second Power Grid, a zine focused on food culture in Los Angeles. Read more work from The Second Power Grid on Ampersand, an Arts & Culture digital magazine based out of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.