The 33-year-old Dickson was on the corporate fast-track when he realized he wanted something more. Passionate about food, he dreamed of opening his own shop. But for Dickson it wasn’t just about the end product. Committed to understanding the whole process that brings meat to the store, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work, apprenticing at several farms, a small slaughterhouse and a butcher shop.
In 2009, he opened Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market, a Manhattan restaurant and retail concourse that’s a foodie paradise. (He’s since expanded to two more locations.) Dickson offers artisanal beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry. There are house-made sausages, dry-cured bacon, patés and rillettes, along with seasonal specialties like smoked turkeys and heritage hams. But this isn’t just another upscale butcher shop.
Customers can be confident that the products are antibiotic- and hormone-free, locally sourced from animals that are humanely raised. For Dickson, the way to guarantee these qualities is through relationships. In the last four years, he has built up a network of people who hold the same values, people who care about creating a sustainable, responsible food system.
Dickson gets his meat from three small family-run farms in upstate New York. He knows the men and women who raise his animals. He’s walked in the pastures where the sheep and cattle graze, and the yards where the chickens peck at the dirt.
Knowing and valuing these animals, Dickson is committed to running a “whole animal butcher shop.” He buys only the whole animal, and he tries not to waste a single bit. That means exploring overlooked, underrated cuts and reviving thrifty, traditional nose-to-tail recipes.
Most importantly, in everything he does, Dickson wants his customers to know more about their food. On the shop’s website, dicksonsfarmstand.com, you can follow the whole supply chain from the farmers to the butchers. And in the shop, you can actually watch the butchers going about their work in a large glass-enclosed cutting room.
If those generic plastic-wrapped packages at the supermarket attempt to wipe out the connection between the steak and the cow, Dickson’s Farmstead Meats wants to acknowledge it. For Jake Dickson, it really comes down to respecting what you’re eating.