Following a successful summer at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Herbivorous Butcher
is moving ahead with plans to open a brick-and-mortar location to sell its “meatless meats.”
From ropes of “pepperoni” hanging from the ceiling to the black-and-white tile lining the walls, the new butcher shop envisioned by Aubry Walch and scheduled to open next year will have all the hallmarks of an old-time butcher—except the meat.
The Herbivorous Butcher cleared the coolers during its June opening weekend at the Market
. Despite consistently upping production, Walch says she’s sold out her inventory every weekend since.
“We keep making more batches and we just can’t keep up with demand,” says Walch, who started the business with her business partner and brother Kale Walch.
To better feed the demand, the siblings plan to open the Twin Cities’ first meatless butcher shop in early 2015. They’re currently working with Studio M Architects, which designed the Wise Acre Eatery, to replicate the idyllic atmosphere of a traditional butcher shop. “We hope to take people back in time when they come in,” Walch says.
Aubry Walch’s been a strict vegetarian for 18 years. Her brother Kale is vegan. After wearying of available meatless options—which are often frozen, and contain loads of sodium and long lists of unrecognizable ingredients—they began concocting their own meat alternatives from locally sourced whole food ingredients.
They decided to put their culinary acumen to the test and enlisted 10 test groups that included vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters for an eight-week stint of food testing. The results, Walch says, were resoundingly positive.
It’s not just vegetarians and vegans gobbling up the inventory. Walch estimates that at least 60 percent of their customers are full-blooded carnivores discovering healthier meat alternatives for the first time.
The main ingredient in almost all of the products is vital wheat gluten sourced from Whole Grain Milling Co. in Welcome, MN. Even though the product is 95 percent protein, it’s extremely low in carbohydrates and fat, and is cholesterol free.
“We have people who come to us because they have heart disease or diabetes…and they can’t eat meat anymore,” Walch says. “We’re the perfect alternative for them and they seek us out.”
There’s no shortage of meat-free protein alternatives on co-op shelves in the Twin Cities, but the Herbivorous Butcher has uncovered a serious hunger for handmade and locally sourced meatless meat. Every item sold at the Herbivorous Butcher is made fresh by hand in small batches from locally sourced whole food ingredients and is never frozen.
Thus far the meatless mainstays at the Herbivorous Butcher include pepperoni, Italian sausage, barbecue ribs, deli bologna and teriyaki jerky. Once the new shop is up and running, other market specials including Mexican chorizo, maple sage breakfast sausage and beer brats will be available.
Finding the right investors has been somewhat of a struggle, Walch says. The problem isn’t a lack of interest; it’s that many see a lucrative opportunity and want the meatless butchers to automate all their production, freeze their products and distribute nation-wide. Walch isn’t willing to sacrifice the artisanal approach and reliance on local ingredients that going so big would require.
Instead, the Herbivorous Butcher is taking the crowd funding approach, and will launch a campaign later this fall.