Spring is in the air, which means people are pulling the covers off their backyard grills. Many are looking for top-quality meat, which leads them to V. Miller Meats, the new whole-animal butcher shop at 4801 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento.
Owner Eric Veldman Miller opened the shop in November after spending years as a chef at numerous restaurants, including Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco and Mulvaney’s B&L in midtown Sacramento. After a stint as an instructor at the local Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Miller plotted his next move. With the emergence of Sacramento’s farm-to-fork reputation and the renewed interest in serious home cooking, he decided to turn back the clock and become a neighborhood butcher.
Q: When did the idea of a whole-animal butchery start germinating with you?
A: Three years ago.
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Q: Did Sacramento have to change for this to even become a possibility?
A: The farm-to-fork movement started to gain quite a bit of traction. The talent pool of cooks and chefs really elevated over the last few years. It used to be hard for me to go to restaurants and be really excited – wow, this guy is doing something really cool. Now the chefs are not only building these really great dishes, they have an audience now.
Q: What made you consider meat as a business?
A: I was visiting family in Brooklyn and I went to this whole-animal butcher shop. I walked in and looked around and said, “This is it. This is what I’m going to do.” The owner told me to read this book by Joshua Applestone, “The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat.” This book really kindled this movement of bringing back whole-animal craft butchery.
Q: Using the whole animal and eating odd cuts of meat is part of the culture in places like Italy and Spain, but in America, we want filet mignon, rib-eye, sirloin and hamburger. Do you have to educate your potential customers to get them to try less-popular cuts?
A: The fun thing was, the first week everybody who walked in wanted a rib-eye – everybody!
Q: Did that scare you?
A: A little bit, yes. I like to stick to my guns on some stuff and I said we are going to do this whole animal thing. I told my butchers, we are going to be out of rib-eyes sometimes.
Q: So if I walk in at 4 p.m. and you’re out of rib-eyes, can you give me an alternative?
A: That goes back to my background as a chef, as an instructor, as a food enthusiast. So I might say, “That’s fine and dandy that you want to make Philly cheesesteaks out of rib-eye, but did you know Gino’s in Philly uses chuck?” Then they’ll come back the next time and say, “Now I need chuck.” It’s fun.
Q: Did you notice a change after the first few weeks?
A: A lot fewer people looking for rib-eyes. We’ve been selling a lot of sirloin, a lot of flatiron, a lot of the the flat meats.
Q: What’s the difference between the meat you sell and the commodity meat at most supermarkets?
A: My beef is 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished. Most beef is finished with grain and it changes the flavor and fat content. The first time I tasted grass-fed beef, I said “Hmm, I dunno. I wasn’t into it.” But now I say it just tastes like beef. You just use a little bit of salt and pepper and it’s fabulous.”
Eric Veldman Miller
Owner/butcher/chef of V. Miller Meats
He studied to be a chef at culinary school and worked in kitchens for years before deciding to open a whole animal butcher shop in East Sacramento.