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The Utah meat collective – bridging the gap in meat education

Tom Wheatley - Utah Meat Collective

Tom Wheatley, founder of Utah Meat Collective, is on a mission to assist meat consumers on seeking out sustainable meat sources that stay true to traditional methods of butchery. Making a connection to the meat we consume through education is the main goal behind Utah Meat Collective. Bringing together the diverse group of farmers, chefs, butchers and students to collaborate on meat education is an incredible step in a direction towards transparent meat consumption.

After retiring from his job in cooperate America, Wheatley had a passion driven desire to learn whole-animal butchery as a hobby to start. After a bit of coaxing, Wheatley convinced Philip Grubisa owner of Beltex Meats to let him do an apprenticeship for eight weeks at his shop and glean what he could.

“We bought a small farm in Spanish Fork and began to raise pigs in 2017,” Wheatley said. “I have always enjoyed the butchery part but knew that I didn’t have the skill set. I spent time with butchers and took classes then went and worked in the meat shop in Payson during deer and elk season, as a meat cutter for a few seasons in an effort to get more education for myself.”

The Utah Meat Collective was born after Wheatley reached out to Camas Davis, author of “Killing it” who went on a similar journey and started The Portland Meat Collective. In the book, Davis offers assistance to any reader interested in starting a meat collective.

“A few things resonated with me in the book,” Wheatley said. “One was how hard it was for me to get meat education and also how to better connect people to their meat. For those of us that eat meat, there is a lot that has to happen for that meat to be available. It became important to me to be able to convey those things that have to happen for meat to get on your plate.”

Wheatley’s initiative provides the perfect opportunity for both local animal experts and passionate culinary enthusiasts and innovators to join forces in passing down traditional methods of creating quality meat products. With hands-on education, future generations will have a greater understanding as they make their own informed decisions when raising animals or dining on meats.

“I want to be available to those who are interested and who are also on this journey to help facilitate that,” Wheatley said. “I would like to see an meat industry that was optimized for an animals well-being, the environment and for our personal health.”

For those interested in urban farming, Wheatly says chickens are the most accessible. Decide what breed of chicken you want to raise, some are raised just for meat, some egg layers. After about four weeks, the chickens will fully feather. This is a good time to expand their environment, and make a food choice about what you will feed them, chickens raised for meat will need a lot of protein.  After about 9 to 10 weeks the chickens have matured. There is equipment required for harvesting and nesting boxes needed for egg layers.

Wheatley hosts monthly classes on his farm from whole-animal butchery and harvesting a chicken to making bacon and sausage. Sign up for his newsletter to stay informed on class dates and other information at utmeat.com.

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