By Gail Johnson
Katarina Edwards grew up on a farm in 100 Mile House and was plucking chickens by the time she was a teen. These days, she’s a butcher at Two Rivers Specialty Meats. The North Vancouver-based eatery and butcher shop works with small farms across B.C. and Alberta–like Brant Lake Wagyu, Peace Country Lamb, and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef–that produce sustainable, ethically raised meat.
Here, Edwards shares a glimpse into a day in the life behind the chopping block.
What was it like growing up on a farm?
My mom comes from a family of 11 children from Germany. They had a farm, restaurant, and butcher shop in New Brunswick. She passed all that knowledge along to me and my two younger sisters.
We had a variety of animals: pigs, goats, chickens… We always had our own meat in the freezer. We would milk the goats and we always had goat’s milk, and we would always make our own butter and cheese.
We would butcher goats or pigs; when we were younger, we would help with skinning them. We’d pluck the chickens. As I got older, there was more for me to do. I had a good understanding of where things were on the animal.
Did you always want to become a butcher?
When I was growing up, I was always really interested in cooking first and foremost. I followed the cooking path and moved to Kelowna and worked for chef Rod Butters at RauDZ Regional Table. It was perfect to work there; there’s a big focus on getting local vegetables, all kinds of local produce and meat. Growing up on a farm inspired me to work at a place like that with very strong values.
Then I ended up working in Calgary at the Yellow Door Bistro at Hotel Arts. I worked my way up from saucier to sous chef then chef de cuisine while building relationships with local producers and farmers.
Butchery was something I was always interested in. I wanted to have a little bit of a change from the cooking environment and delve into learning butchery, and that’s what brought me to Two Rivers.
Why Two Rivers?
When I was working at RauDZ, they do a lot of charcuterie and specialty meats, and we got some of our stuff from them. I was wanting to learn more about different cuts of the animal, and I liked that they support a lot of small, local farmers and sustainable farmers. There are all these huge suppliers and food that’s mass produced, but it’s important to get back to growing things naturally and sustainably. It’s the future of the food system, and it’s also a healthier way to eat. Their values were very similar to mine, so I moved west in November 2018
What does a typical work day look like?
The shifts vary, but for the most part I’m opening, so I cut fresh meat for the case in the morning and fill the case, making sure everything looks good. We have a pre-shift meeting every day to make sure everyone is on the same page. From there we plan out our day. We make sausages two to three times a week. Every Thursday we get in four whole lamb; we break down our lamb. We usually break down two to three dry-aged [beef] shoulders a week. Bigger tasks are spread out from day to day so we’re not overwhelmed. We do spatchcock chicken; I do a lot of chicken prep. And we coordinate with the kitchen if they need things like dry-aged burgers. WE supply them with whatever they need.
What do you enjoy about the work you do?
I love that I’m working with a product I’m proud of. We’re using meat that we know where they come from.
I love having interactions with customers and being able to educate them in ways I didn’t know how to before. As a cook, I can confidently explain how to cook a certain roast. You can always throw a nice steak on the grill, but there are so may other options. That’s the fun part: now that I have more experience, I can help the customers decide what they want for dinner.
We have a very strong team. I love being able to learn from my coworkers, who have different experience. There’s a really nice camaraderie. You can bounce ideas off somebody or learn a different knife skill or cut that you didn’t know before. In a butcher shop, people who are in it are very proud of what they’re doing and being able to learn from them is very cool.
Two Rivers Specialty Meats is located at 180 Donaghy Ave. in North Vancouver.