Trade Show

The ATA Talks Butchering with Chicago’s Rob Levitt

Author: Scott Gieseke

In a culture increasingly dedicated to knowing the origin of its food, the popularity and acceptance of hunting appear to be on the up swing, especially among locavores. And while you might say interest in the art of butchering is trendy right now, it’s just status quo for longtime deer hunters.

So what did famed Chicago butcher Rob Levitt, who hosted demonstrations at the 2016 ATA Trade Show, teach attendees (essentially a room full of avid hunters and meat eaters) that they don’t already know?

Well, quite a bit.

What’s different about Levitt’s approach is his creative application of butchering. He’s dedicated to using venison in diverse ways that doesn’t limit the hunter to a bunch of ground meat. He’s also resourceful, using meat cuts many hunters discard.

Levitt shared plenty of nuanced knowledge: the granular, specialized artisanship that is often limited to craftsman of a specialized trade. Here are a few:

Tender meat: how tender a cut of meat is has more to do with the muscle and less to do with the age of the animal.

Age and flavor: The age of the animal impacts flavor more than tenderness. The older animal moves more over time, which creates more blood circulation and it’s that circulation that creates flavor compounds, making older meat more flavorful. That accrued circulation is why older cuts of meat are darker.

Exercise and muscles: The type of muscle matters and the amount the muscle is exercised impacts the meat’s toughness. While exercise increases circulation and, as a result boost flavor, it also strengthens muscles making them tougher. So an active, wild animal’s meat is likely tougher than a farm-raised animal, but it’s also packed with more flavor compounds.

Levitt, who owns The Butcher & Larder in downtown Chicago, was sponsored by Eastman Outdoors at the 2016 ATA Show. For more butchering tips from Levitt, check this out.

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