Food & Drink

San Diego's Best Butcher Shops for Ethically Raised Meat

Even with our seemingly slavish devotion to the elusive “beach body,” meat markets are gaining popularity all over America’s Finest City (and we don’t mean Pacific Beach on a Friday night). This meat mania comes as no surprise: Not only is it part of a national trend, but we’re also one of the best food cities in the country with more and more aspiring gourmands than ever before. The demand for sustainably raised, locally grown, and grass-fed meat is skyrocketing, boosting the popularity of restaurants like Cowboy Star Restaurant & Butcher Shop and other traditional small-batch cured meats available at virtually any farmers market.

Whether you’re a meat-eating millennial who cares deeply about your chicken’s origins, or a casual carnivore who just wants to pick up some high-quality burger patties, here are the SD butcher shops you need to know.

The Heart & Trotter

North Park

This two-year-old butcher shop claims to be the only local and sustainable meat store in San Diego county, and patrons can expect to pay a corresponding premium here. The Heart & Trotter prides itself on being a "whole animal butchery," which is exactly what it sounds like. The counter is jam-packed with more than just the standard choices -- think Denver cuts of beef and tongue alongside short ribs and carne asada. Every animal comes from a local farm that's been personally inspected by the owners, ensuring each hunk and slab was humanely raised and antibiotic-free.
 
For those curious about what goes on behind the scenes, the Heart & Trotter also offers a variety of intimate classes that'll teach you how to break down a whole pig, portion a lamb into primal and retail cuts, and the ins and outs of sausage making. There’s even a deli counter with a daily rotating sandwich special, and a few local beers on tap for those who prefer to dine on the (fairly small) patio. Be sure to grab a bag of bones on your way out, too -- your dog will be in hog heaven.

Iowa Meat Farms/Siesel’s Old Fashioned Meats

Grantville/Bay Park

Iowa Meat Farms in Grantville, and sister space Siesel’s Old Fashioned Meats & Deli in Bay Park, have supplied tried-and-true butcher standards to San Diego's eager epicures and home cooks for nearly 50 years. You won’t find any flashy marketing or frills here, though; instead, you’re more likely to stumble across an unusual cut of alligator or antelope nestled alongside fresh seafood and Choice Midwestern beef.
 
The experienced butchers at both locations (known as “Master Meat Cutters”) are happy to help you determine the best cut for your needs and budget, and both shops offer a variety of artisanal accoutrements like homemade barbecue sauce, imported cheeses, and local beer, alongside the free-range fare. Siesel’s also comes with a full deli counter for meat and cheese platters, as well as takeaway sandwiches made fresh to order -- the corned beef Reuben sandwich, piled high with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye, is show-stopping.

Liberty Meat Shop

Liberty Station

Liberty Public Market is one of those rare venues where locals and tourists can coexist peacefully, thanks to its huge variety of tantalizing dining options. With its cow-shaped neon sign beckoning hungry visitors towards the counter, Liberty Meat Shop is hard to miss even within the chaos of the perpetually packed market aisles. The butcher counter's glass case is packed with classic cuts of all-natural pork, beef, poultry, lamb, and more. Fans of high-quality standbys like ribeyes and filet mignons can expect the best thanks to Liberty's close partnerships with source farms and eagle-eyed quality checks.
 
The combined traditional approach and new-school vibe makes Liberty Meat Shop an understandably trendy stop for carnivores from all walks of life. If the weather is nice (and let’s face it, it’s always nice), snag an Italian-inspired deli sandwich -- like the Caprese or turkey Cobb -- and enjoy it on the market’s open patio. Pay special attention to the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, as they're topped with Liberty's own house-made BBQ sauce, Crooked Crown (which you can also buy by the jar).

Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Beth Demmon is a San Diego-based food + drink writer who loves craft beer and motorcycles (not necessarily enjoyed together). View her work at bethdemmon.com or follow her on Instagram at @thedelightedbite.