It was about time that I attended my first Introductory class to the Art of Butchery at Mosner Family Brands; I am the granddaughter of a butcher after all. My dear friend Chad invited me to be his right hand carver at this enlightening course that would to take the mystery out of the meat. Chad is a reformed vegetarian who turned into a voracious meat eater, so it is no surprise that he was enthusiastic about this butchery class. “After 6 years as a vegetarian and having fallen victim to the brutal cold and flu season that we had last winter, I was having a terrible time kicking the bug, says Chad. “I went weeks suffering with symptoms and one weekend found myself well enough to venture out of my apartment. I stumbled through the Greenpoint Farmer's Market in McCarren Park. Like a beacon in the darkness I was drawn to a vendor selling organic humane lamb. And so after 6 years of meatless misery, I bought 4 different cuts of lamb: sausage, chops, roast and steaks; I went home and cooked them all—rare. Within 24 hours I was right as rain and never looked back. From there I re-oriented my diet around high-quality animal proteins, fats and cruciferous vegetables, eating seasonally and restricting refined sugars and carbohydrates. I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been in my entire life.” What better way to kick-off Chad’s new found health and love for meat than with a butcher class.
Mosner Family Brands, located in Hunts Point Market in Bronx, New York supplies wholesale high-quality and humanely-raised: veal, beef, lamb and specialty meat products to premium food service distributors, restaurants and high-end retail stores. Founded in 1957 by David Mosner, the company is family managed and remains passionately committed to the principles of its creator: honesty, innovation, unparalleled service and uncompromised quality.
On arrival we were greeted by the third generation Mosner family members: Benjamin Mosner, Vice President of Sales; Jessica Mosner, Director of Sales and Marketing; and Seth Mosner, Director of Operations. This sibling team is on a mission to educate the masses. They explained labeling, the truth about veal, the age at which meat is slaughtered and a 100% hands-on butchering demonstration given by master butcher resident, Chris Bauso.
Our three hour class was held in Mosner’s USDA-inspected and refrigerated: processing, packaging, and distribution facility. The polar vortex that we are experiencing this winter prepared us for the 27-36 degree temperatures we were about to endure. I was dressed for a ski-trip minus the goggles; however, they would have come in handy during the butchering segment. On top of our pedestrian clothing we were given: white over coats, a set of butcher gloves; fabric and plastic, and hair nets—if necessary—to adhere to strict food safety guidelines by the USDA.
Benjamin Mosner focuses on strategy and stays on the cutting edge with their product offerings. He is like any good coach and business person I have known, striving to set the benchmark for excellence in the meat industry. He cultivates meaningful relationships with farmers locally and around the world to expand Mosner’s finest meat.
To kick-off the class, he gathered us around in coach fashion; all 18 of us meat lovers huddled for a warm embrace and cheered his Meat Chant.
“What time is it? MEAT Time! What time is it? MEAT Time!
Cut the MEAT! Eat the MEAT! Cut the MEAT!
Eat the MEAT! MEAT! MEAT!”
My toes were frozen and we had not even started, but I was determined to Cut the MEAT.
Before we sharpened our knives, Seth Mosner who focuses on plant processes, food safety practices and quality control throughout the production facility opened up a dialogue around the importance of Mosner's butcher classes.
“We are very sincere when we say that it is humbling to have the opportunity to teach, share our family history and introduce people to our trade,” says Seth. “Our goal is that Mosner Family Brands students should leave our building feeling informed and ready to make conscious buying decisions whether it be at the supermarket or a restaurant.”
Just over two years ago, Seth had the idea to offer butcher classes after a lunch conversation he had with his father. “Here we are 1,000+ students later. I never could have expected it to grow into the type of experience that it has become and to have connected with so many wonderful students (turned friends) along the way.”
The mission of the butcher classes is to widen the knowledge gap and loss of connection by the average person who purchases and consumes meat.
One of Mosner’s products is veal and Seth asked us to shout out our pros and cons about such. Here is my ugly story—calves are slaughtered at birth. Their veal is locally-raised and supplied directly from Elba, New York. The calves move around freely, engage in natural behavior and are slaughtered at four months. This might seem alarming—four months—but after this enlightening conversation it dawned on me that most animals we consume are slaughtered at a fairly young age.
Beef Cattle: 1-2 years, Sheep: 3-10 months, Pigs: 3-6 months, Chickens and Ducks: 6 weeks, Turkeys: 12-26 weeks, Rabbits: 6-8 Weeks.
“We want to be a company known for doing things the right way and with care; conscious of the customers and families we serve, the animals under our care and the health of our environment,” says Seth.
Benjamin and Seth described the anatomy of a cow and pointed out the primal cuts: chuck, brisket, shank, rib, plate, short loin, sirloin, tenderloin, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, round and flank. A tag was pinned to each carcass to track the entire history of the: who, what, when, where, and why of that animal.
Jessica Mosner was ready to talk about labeling in an adjacent room. Her marketing efforts have been vital in creating a strong business model for Mosner Family Brands. We discussed trendy catch phrases that are found on today's meat packages: free range, pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed, grass-fed/grain finished, organic, no animal by-products, local, natural, all-natural, antibiotic-free, no antibiotics ever or never administered antibiotics and certified humane. What was eye-opening was the skinny on antibiotics. “Antibiotic-free means the animal has no antibiotic residue in its system at the time of harvest. This phrase, while commonly used, is actually not considered good labeling practices by the USDA. No antibiotics ever or never administered antibiotics means the animal did not receive any type of antibiotics (preventative or otherwise) in its lifetime,” says Jessica.
“Even for the epicurean, claims and labels that you might find on a package of meat can be confusing and often have illogical USDA definitions. One of the most important tasks in the class is to illuminate some of the enormous animal raising and handling differences between proteins that have been labeled in a seemingly identical manner in stores,” says Seth. “We try to shed light on this fact and empower our students to ask the important questions before the time of purchase, which begins with understanding and establishing one’s own standards. If we bring students to that point, we have succeeded.”
Jessica and Ben also touched upon the different USDA grades: prime, is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle that has abundant marbling and is generally sold at high end restaurants; choice, a high-quality cut with less marbling than prime; and select, has a uniform quality that is the most lean grade.
Mosner Family Brands has a Local NY Program for heritage pigs. Together with a cooperative of 10 local independent family farmers their mission is to bring local heritage breed proteins to market and connecting chefs with heritage pork from New York State farmers that embrace natural pasture-raised methods that are supplemented with only a vegetarian feed. Animals are never issued hormones or antibiotics.
At this point we were offered the option to buy meat wholesale. Chad and I looked at each other with eyes much bigger than our stomachs. We bought and shared: grass fed beef from Australia, lamb chops from Colorado and prime beef from the Midwest. Chad had to hold himself back from buying the rabbit. We almost needed an intervention between the both of us. Chad has been storing his meat affair in his sister’s freezer because his New York City icebox is just that—a shoe box—to accommodate a popcicle or two. I on the other hand held myself back from purchasing duck sausages; I have a thing for duck and knew I would be making sausages with the pork fat and stew cuts from the straight loin we were about to butcher. Chris Bauso the master butcher showed us quickly how to cut the straight loin of a pork; a true craftsman as his knife was a natural extension of his hands.
Now it was our turn to be a butcher and my hands and feet were absolutely frozen. I had flashbacks of my grandfather and in that moment I leaned over to Chad and whispered, “I finally understand why my grandfather’s nose was always running; he lived in a cooler his entire life.”
We were split into teams of two and broke down the straight loin; Chad got the roast end and I got the rib end. We butchered all the primals: tenderloin, loin roast, bone-in and boneless chops, rib roast and pork chops. We also did side work for stew meat and fat trimmings. We then vacuum packed our pork and waited in the chilly lobby for our own personalized meat box to appear from packaging with our certificate of training. While we were waiting another group was coming in for the class.
Once we saw our boxes and paid our tally we rushed outside to thaw in a sunny 38 degrees—it felt like spring. I can hear the echoes of Benjamin’s Meat Chant as we jumped into Chad’s truck and cranked the heat.
There is an Advanced Art of Butchery class that I am thinking of attending and think it would be best to go when it is 105 degrees and humid in New York City.
The butcher classes given by Mosner Family Brands is a must for anyone who wants to understand primal cuts and how meat is labeled and processed. This family affair is dedicated to educating the masses through an open and honest dialogue. Thank you Mosner Family Brands for putting a stake in the ground—no pun intended.
Recipe: Bone-In Pork Chop Milanese with a Cabbage Compote
Bone-In Pork Chop Milanese
- 2 bone-in pork chops, pounded but not to thin.
- 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup of shredded pecorino Romano
- 1/3 cup of chopped parsley
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- 2 eggs, scrambled
- 1 cup of flour for dredging
- Salt and pepper for seasoning pork
- Olive Oil
- 1 small head of green cabbage, sliced 1-inch strips
- 1 medium onion sliced
- ¼ fennel, chopped roughly
- 1 green apple cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup of red grapes cut in half
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar.
Bone-In Pork Chop Milanese
- Pre-heat oven to 400° F and in a large bowl combine the panko, cheese, parsley, and nutmeg. Place the eggs in one large bowl and the flour in another.
- Dry Pork off with a towel and then pound the pork in a large zip-lock freezer bag. Once pounded season with salt and pepper.
- Dredge in flour, then egg, then finally the panko bread crumbs. Be sure to press the coating firmly into the pork.
- Place the chops on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil on both sides of the pork.
- Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake covered with tinfoil for 20 minutes on one side and an additional 20 on the other.
note: I did not pound out the pork to thin so the amount of time needed was necessary. If you pound the meat out to ¼ inch size it should take half the time. You may want to occasionally check your pork to make sure it is browning nicely and not burning.
- In a large pan add the olive oil and sauté the onions and fennel until translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and cook until wilted, about 10 minutes.
- Then add the apples, grapes and vinegar and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and let sit for 5 minutes.