Summertime’s on approach, so it’s time to start thinking about backyard grilling. Whether that means something along the lines of beef, pork or chicken, even rabbit, lamb or venison, J&R Natural Meat and Sausage in Templeton can offer you something a cut above.
The butcher shop/meat market/deli recently relocated to a larger space in the Trader Joe’s Center off Vineyard Drive. In addition to just giving the crew more room, the new layout will allow the companuy to expand its deli offerings into sandwiches and rotisserie chickens. (J&R also still operates its Paso Robles retail facility on Riverside Drive.)
J&R is owned by three partners — the father/son team of Jim and Ryan Fogle and Laird Foshay — all of whom have longtime local roots. Foshay is a Paso Robles rancher and vintner, while the Fogles and their employees offer something you don’t see very often — years of authentic butchering experience and service. In addition, because J&R also operates the only mobile harvesting unit in California, they are dealing with the entire process from beginning to end.
“We really like working with small ranching operations,” said Ryan.
That allows J&R to assure that all its meats are more distinctive for what they don’t have than what they do. The “Natural” part of the J&R name means that none of them have added hormones or antibiotics, and almost all are locally raised and grass-fed.
Equal attention is paid to the items that aren’t local: grain-fed beef from the Midwest still doesn’t have any antibiotics or hormones, and the Mary’s chicken from Fresno County is free-range and air-chilled (a process that maintains taste and lessens cross contamination).
Even the deli meats J&R uses for some of its sandwiches are nitrate-free “because a lot of people are allergic to nitrates,” Ryan added.
Being a full-service butcher shop that deals with whole animals has both its benefits and its challenges.
On the plus side, all the meat is meticulously cut by hand and then dry-aged, cured and/or smoked in-house. That includes everything from pastrami, to bacon, to the dozens of flavors of house-made sausages.
“It’s artisanal,” said Ryan. “The meats we offer you here are really special.”
Among the challenges of this hands-on approach is educating consumers about the availability of product. Most people are quite familiar with ribeyes, ribs and tri-tips, but you can only get so many of those when you’re processing in an individualized “nose-to-tail” manner.
“Everyone wants to cook tri-tip, but you only get two of those per animal,” explained Ryan. “When you’re looking at a big case of tri-tips, just think how many animals that represents.”
That said, the staff at J&R is more than willing and able to talk you through different cuts of meat, which are often far less expensive than the more familiar cuts and often far more versatile in terms of recipes.
“I know how to cook every single piece of meat in here,” Ryan said. “It’s our job to help teach people how to cook all these cuts, especially when it comes to something like grass-fed. That’s a way different cooking process than with grain-fed — it needs low, indirect heat and you definitely don’t want to overcook or it will be tough.”
Which would be a shame, given the care with which these meats have been prepared.