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5 butchers you want to know

Move over burgers and bratwursts. High summer is high time to fill the grill with meats that are anything but mainstream. From classic cuts to frugal alternatives, from local livestock to exotic beasts, the region’s independent butchers have something for every budget and palate.

Here are 5 local butchers who can make you look good at your next family barbecue:

1. The Butcher Shop

The Butcher Shop, 1532 S. Shasta Ave., Eagle Point, has steadily expanded since 2000 from a custom cutter of livestock and game to one-stop shop for locally raised meats, along with seafood, house-made dog food and some bizarre foods. Suppliers near and far fill customer requests for a host of peculiar proteins.

“We carry everything from camel to alpaca to llama to rattlesnake,” says owner Cameron Callahan. “I can’t believe how much rattlesnake I sold for the Fourth (of July).”

Callahan admits he’s never cooked rattlesnake — but that, naturally, it tastes like chicken. The reptile, smoked and canned, is the store’s most expensive item at $29.99. If it’s actual chicken customers want, Callahan suggests boneless thighs tenderized and marinated in-house for $3.99 per pound.

“They’re ready to go,” says Callahan, whose customers also clamor for marinated tri-tip and skirt steaks.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Call 541-830-3369.

2. Cherry Street Meats

Cherry Street Meats, 986 Cherry St., Medford, does the bulk of its business for about 200 local restaurants. Catering to a fine-dining clientele leaves plenty of hard-to-find items for a loyal retail customer base. Veal sweetbreads, for $16.95 per pound, are among the shop’s delicacies. The butcher will track down even lesser-known meats by special order.

"We do a lot of different cuts of veal,” says owner Bruce Emerson, who founded his business in 1981 as Emerson Distributing. “We do a full line of local grass-fed beef and local lamb.”

Thick-cut pork chops, for $4.95 per pound, are a customer favorite for grilling, he says. Boneless rib-eye is perennially popular. The majority of Cherry Street’s meats hail from the Pacific Northwest, says Emerson.

“My stand-by favorite is T-bone,” he says. “The bone adds a lot.”

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 541-773-1585.

3. Montgomery's Meat Co.

Montgomery's Meat Co., 175 N. First St., Central Point, augments custom and retail butchery with deli sandwiches and house-smoked meats for take-out. After nearly two decades as Jerry’s, the shop underwent a 2015 makeover, patterned after a Weed, Calif., store operated by Eric and Shawna Montgomery.

Beef tri-tip, priced at $8.99 per pound, is a favorite of Shawna Montgomery. The most popular steaks for grilling, she says, are “your rib steaks, your New York, your T-bone.” Customers can choose from organic, free-range and grass-fed meats, as well as a variety of sausages made on site.

“We do an Asiago and wine (sausage) that’s really popular on the grill,” says Montgomery.

House-smoking much of its meat inventory sets the shop apart, says Montgomery. Barbecued pork, beef and chicken are available beginning at 11 a.m. daily.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 541-664-0727.

4. Rogue Meats

Rogue Meats, 4865 Highway 234, White City, may be off many shoppers’ beaten path. But it’s within easy reach of some Sams Valley ranchers, who supply the store, and regulars of Rainey's Corner Feed & Hardware. The grocer’s back aisles boast house-smoked and nitrate-free bacon, house-smoked chicken breast, jerky, meat sticks, salami, pastrami and summer sausage.

“We make like nine flavors of hot dogs,” says owner Travis Ellis. Prices are $5.99 to $6.99 per pound.

The lower price of flat-iron steak has propelled the cut to popularity in recent years. Excised from the beef shoulder, the steak is second in succulence only to filet mignon, says Ellis.

“It’s rich with flavor, and it’s extremely tender,” he says. “And they’re still inexpensive, as well.”

Yet the New York strip remains Ellis’ favorite cut for grilling.

“It’s just clean,” he says. “It’s proportioned better.”

Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Call 541-826-0400.

5. Southern Oregon Fine Meats

At Southern Oregon Fine Meats, 885 Shafer Lane, Medford, sausages still reign supreme. The former Schulzke’s Sausage King continues to stock specialty German foods since Robert and Alisa Holland bought the store five years ago.

“We grind all of our own sausages and hamburger,” says Alisa Holland.

Distilling food icons — including Philly cheesesteak and Reuben sandwiches, lamb gyro, jambalaya and tikka masala — into hot-dog form is another calling card of Southern Oregon Fine Meats. Specialty dogs are priced from $5.99 to $10.99 for lamb.

“Literally, everything that would be in a dish is put into a sausage casing,” says Holland.

Embracing the eat-local movement, Southern Oregon Fine Meats also sells chickens, ducks and rabbits raised from Roseburg to the Rogue Valley. Orders for turkeys raised on local pastures already are available for the holidays.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Call 541-773-8896.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

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Cherry Street Meats in Medford offers fresh cuts daily. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta
The Butcher Shop co-owner Cameron Callahan arranges seafood in the newly remodeled Eagle Point shop.