BY: LYNDA GRAY
PHOTOS: CHURLY’S BREW PUB AND EATERY

Wanted: a farmer of heritage breed cattle willing and able to supply A Lady Butcher.

“We’re always looking for something new because we know that customers always want what they can’t get elsewhere,” explains Hannah Miller.

A Lady Butcher is the name of Hannah’s Auckland business started in 2016 focused on total utilisation of pork, beef, and lamb, primarily through the production of quality New Zealand charcuterie (cured meats).

The beef is sourced from First Light Foods and individual farmers in Raglan, Gisborne, and Canterbury. Before coming on board as suppliers Hannah visits each farmer to ensure the management of their land and animals measure up with her requirements for ethically and sustainably produced beef.

“It’s important we’re on the same page as far as management goes and that they’re comfortable and able to work in a direct supply relationship.”

Originally from Oregon in the United States, Hannah’s interest in meaty issues has fed her travels plus her chef and butchery career culminating in the opening of A Lady Butcher. The name refers to the honorary title bestowed at an Australian restaurant where she worked and honed her traditional butchery techniques. From Australia, she landed in New Zealand and discovered it almost impossible to find NZ produced charcuterie.

“Most of it was imported which seemed insane to me as we produce some of the best quality meat in the world.”

It was her call to action to start the curing of NZ pork, lamb, and beef. From small beginnings a product range evolved: Wagyu bresaola; lamb prosciutto; and free range pork coppa, lardons and pancetta which is retailed and wholesaled to restaurants throughout the country.

The business also does bespoke curing of meat from farmer-supplied lamb, beef, and pork.

A Lady Butcher is situated on a street corner in the Auckland suburb of Mt Eden and comprises a butchery, and Churly’s brew pub and eatery. The craft beer, Behemoth, is brewed by Hannah’s husband Andrew Childs. The restaurant is a perfect channel for meat eating education. There are weekly Wednesday prime cut steak nights where diners are encouraged to try perfectly prepared and succulent steak including scotch, sirloin, eye fillet and lesser known cuts such as flat iron and tri tip.

“We try to get diners to try different things and cuts of different ages.”

Beyond the Mount Eden base Hannah attends farmers markets, runs butchery and charcuterie classes, presents in schools and to various groups, and offers tastings in specialist retail outlets.

She has a less-is-more approach to meat eating.

“Can its origin be traced and how was it raised? For me, it’s about more than just the meat. The meat is a vessel from which we can tell the NZ story.”

“I eat it every day, but not in huge amounts and that’s what I try to encourage. I say spend the same amount of money but on smaller amounts of high quality meat.”

She also wants people to consider the origin of their meat when choosing where to dine or what to buy from the butcher.

“Can its origin be traced and how was it raised? For me, it’s about more than just the meat. The meat is a vessel from which we can tell the NZ story.”

Her approach to meat preparation, cooking and butchery was heavily influenced while studying at The Culinary Institute of America in New York by tutor and London restaurateur Fergus Henderson. He championed old school butchery techniques, sourcing food locally, and total utilisation of a meat carcase as a show of respect for the animal.

The butchery side of her career started while working in a London restaurant where a master butcher taught her the British style of butchery, including traditional seam-cutting. That’s where cuts are made along the natural seam between the muscles. A cut comprising a single muscle has a consistent texture and is easier to cook than meat mechanically cut across muscle groups.

Hannah uses about half a beef carcase a week but hopes to triple that over the next five years sliver by sliver of the finest charcuterie and modest-sized slabs of succulent steak. Longer term, she wants to replicate and franchise the Churly’s brew pub and eatery throughout the country.

“For me it’s about educating Kiwis on the foods they are eating. We, New Zealanders, should be proud of our produce.”