The popularity of plant-based foods is on the rise, and the trend doesn’t seem to be letting up. But it’s safe to say that sustainable eating is no longer just about going vegan, or a concern only for those who opt out of eating meat completely. For meat eaters, it can mean finding alternatives to processed meat, or knowing where it’s sourced.
“If you’re going to be eating meat, you should know where it’s coming from and that it’s been raised in the most ethical, sustainable way possible,” says Caitlin Fulton, general manager and co-owner of RGE RD.
You may have heard “ethically sourced” and “local” so many times, they seem like another set of buzzwords by now. But Fulton and Blair Lebsack, co-owner and chef at RGE RD, have seen firsthand the difference it can make in swaying consumers’ choices. The restaurant is best known for its seasonal Canadian cuisine, smoky dishes and rustic, warm atmosphere. Yet, if you ask Lebsack what truly makes RGE RD stand out in Edmonton’s culinary scene, he will tell you it’s the commitment to using the whole animal — as well as ingredients from Western Canada. It goes beyond trends — above all, eating locally is about deeply connecting with the community.
So maybe it’s no surprise that when Fulton and Lebsack decided in spring 2019 to expand the butchery shop as a full retail operation, the team wanted to replicate the same feeling of “hospitality first” in their new space.
“The way people buy [meat] sometimes, it’s anonymous, quick, and convenient — but really, we want to get back to knowing where the food comes from and the people who are providing it,” says Fulton. “For us, it’s another way to integrate into the community and meet our neighbours.”
It’s also about bridging the gap between RGE RD’s specific suppliers from across Western Canada and consumers.
“If we can get all of our food from local farmers, who are open to sharing their product, then we can take over the process to connect everyone… and our guests can get that same high quality of food in their house,” says Lebsack.
More than a butcher shop, The Butchery by RGE RD will be a place where people can feel comfortable asking questions, learn how to cut meat based on their needs, and even get cooking tips and classes from chefs themselves. Lebsack promises a space that will be radically different from a typical, stark white butcher shop — it will be warm and inviting. Customers will even be able to grab sandwiches or draft beer on tap, from a small selection supplied by local breweries.
And it doesn’t end with access to local product. True to its community-centred design, the new butchery will include a private dining room, where people can arrange meetings and presentations during the day.
Set to open this spring, the butcher shop will offer roasts, cut steaks, prepared items like pâtés, smoked meat and sausages. It will also have a frozen section with meatballs, beef and chicken stock. As expected, all will be sourced from local suppliers like Nature’s Green Acres and Jeff Nonay with Lakeside Dairy.
But beyond that, its another way for the restaurant’s team to unleash its creativity, and to bring in even more seasonal specialties.
“When you allow people to be creative, they’re always having ideas,” says Lebsack.
This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.