Dario Cecchini Weighs In On The Rise Of Artisan Butchers - Exclusive

The commercialized world has an interesting relationship and history with meat, to say the least. For much of history, humans had to hunt or raise their own animals for food. As society industrialized, we began to rely on more communal sources for meat — first the local butcher or meat market; then, aided by technological advancements and the rise of suburbia, your local supermarket. Over the last two centuries, the meat industry has exponentially exploded, producing meat on a mass scale with little regard for much more than turning a profit. It's a huge one, at that: All of the top meat producers in the U.S. reported record profits — well into the billions — in 2022 (per Austin-American Statesman). For many consumers, that's translated to widely available meat at very accessible prices, despite the health, ethical, and environmental costs.

In recent years, though, there seems to be a trend in the opposite direction, marked by a growing appreciation for artisan butchers and the work they do. Shoppers are becoming increasingly educated about how their food gets from farm to table, causing many to rethink where and how they want to get their ingredients, particularly their meat. As people begin to turn away from mass meat suppliers, small-scale farms and butchers are stepping up, providing high-quality meat along with priceless education about making the most of it.

One such butcher who is seeing this movement unfold is Dario Cecchini. The eighth-generation Italian butcher has gained worldwide fame for his passionate and unique approach to the art of butchering. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Cecchini opened up about the philosophy behind his profession and what he thinks is driving today's rise in artisan butchers. 

Cecchini says there's more important things than just making money

It's all about tradition for Dario Cecchini. He's been butchering the way he was raised by his father, and his father before that, and so on. On a personal level, he takes a deeply compassionate approach to his job. "I am guided by the ancient inspiration of this profession, which I consider noble, and which requires respect for sacrifice," he told us. As he explained, "An animal is killed to nourish us, and so every part must be used with care, from nose to tail."

While huge corporate meat producers don't care about this relationship, Cecchini said, "A craftsman butcher knows this well." According to him, the world is finally waking up to this reality. "The revival of this new generation of artisan butchers is because people are understanding that life is not just about money," he said.

When it comes to food — especially meat — the race to the bottom is becoming a thing of the past as more people begin to understand that cheapest is not always best. Cecchini says he's seeing the growing reverence for "knowledge" about the impacts of what we eat, whether it be on our bodies, our communities, or the planet. That knowledge has helped spark a resurgence of butchers who are "doing a job that I consider extremely ethical," said Cecchini.

If you're looking to be more mindful about meat, there are a handful of butchers in America who are already embodying this philosophy and helping more people appreciate this sacred art. Cecchini says he admires "Dave the Butcher" Budworth in San Francisco, whose mission is to help butchers of tomorrow connect with the traditions of the old masters. He also mentioned his respect for Pat LaFrieda in New York, who is arguably responsible for glamorizing butchery in this country and making it cool to care about the quality of your meat.

For the latest from Dario Cecchini, follow him on Instagram, and visit his website for info about his restaurants and butcher shop.