Customers clamor for cuts of pork and lamb raised organically on Applegate's Iron Age Farm and sold at local farmers markets.
But they also want venison, duck and other high-quality, specialty meats that aren't readily available locally, says Iron Age owner Jonathan Boulton. So the heritage-breed rancher widened his role and repertoire to butcher and purveyor of fine foods.
Boulton & Son Butchers is at 165 E. Main St., Ashland, across from the Varsity Theatre. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-488-1112.
His Boulton & Son Butchers opened last week in downtown Ashland with help from more than $10,000 of community support pledged online through Kickstarter.
"I wanted to land on the map," says Boulton of his business location, adding that a boutique butcher shop is overdue for Ashland. "There's a gap in the marketplace."
Boulton plans to fill the gap not only by providing a wide variety of fine meats — many locally produced — but by involving customers in the art of butchery. Meats are trimmed to shoppers' specifications in plain view behind a wall of glass at the back of the store.
"Everything is cut to order," says Boulton. "We're doing whole-carcass butchering."
All the carcasses that come in halves or quarters to Boulton & Son were slaughtered at a facility inspected and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The closest processor of such livestock is in Springfield.
Some animals' origins are depicted in Boulton & Son's decor. Photos of local farmland and farmers who supply Boulton grace the shop's walls.
"I know them," says Boulton. "I've got photographs of them over there."
Among them is an Iron Age Tamworth hog, one of the oldest breeds from Britain and more recently prized for its self-sufficiency and hardiness in adverse climates. Since opening the shop, Boulton says he likely will scale back some of his two-acre farm's operation but hopes to provide enough pork to sell in the store.
"I heard that their pork chops were amazing," says Naomi Lipper of Ashland, who shopped at Boulton & Son on a recent weekday after hearing about it at the Ashland farmers market.
Lipper purchased a jar of broth house-made from beef bones, one example of how nothing goes to waste under the eye of master butcher Xian Cleaver. Roasted bones in a jar were sold as dog treats.
In the cold cases were locally raised beef, pork, lamb and chicken priced from $7 per pound for ground beef to $28 for tenderloin. Beef is exclusively grass-fed, and some meats are certified-organic. Fish from Port Orford Sustainable Seafood included black cod, rockfish, chinook salmon, halibut and albacore tuna.
Cured meats hailed from a variety of sources, but the shop had roasted its own beef for sandwiches. House-made ham, bacon, sausages and pastrami should be available soon, says Boulton, adding that the long-range goal is preparing all manner of charcuterie, from patés and terrines to headcheese.
"We're not going to always have everything," he says. "If people want something, they should let us know."
Customers last week carried out hot chicken and beef pies for $8 each or sandwiches priced from $8 to $10 on locally baked bread. A cooler contained bottled beverages, and shelves were stocked with gourmet condiments: mustard, truffle salt, even preserved lemons.
"Since Allyson's (Kitchen) closed down, it's pretty hard to find a decent sandwich to go," says Boulton.
Overseeing food preparation is Boulton's wife, Elisa, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. The couple moved from San Francisco to Applegate about three years ago and purchased some land where they could live more simply. Ironically, they're busier than ever, says Jonathan Boulton, who immigrated from Britain, where his great-uncle raised hogs.
More options for buying locally raised meats comes on the heels of a loss in the region's meat-packing infrastructure.
B & D Meats in Roseburg, formerly the closest USDA slaughtering facility, closed last month with no plans to reopen. Owner Bart Guthrie, who leased the slaughterhouse, says condensation leaking from coolers compromised the structure, and the damage was too costly to repair. The facility handled "a lot" of livestock from Jackson and Josephine counties, including hundreds of county fair animals that had to be sent elsewhere this year after auction, says Guthrie.
B & D's closure effectively doubles the cost to transport local livestock for slaughter, says Cameron Callahan, co-owner of The Butcher Shop in Eagle Point. With the wholesale price of beef also rising, Callahan says he is looking to purchase and license a mobile abattoir that would be the first in the state.
The Butcher Shop and Boulton & Son are prime examples of creating local markets that justify the cost of adding infrastructure for livestock, says Wendy Siporen, executive director of THRIVE, a nonprofit economic-development and food-advocacy group.
"Maybe this will lay the groundwork for a (slaughtering) facility," she says.
"We need one in the valley," adds Boulton.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.