When it came time for Charley Cummings and his wife Kristen to decide what to feed their family, they had plenty of options for seasonal, local organic produce and other goods. Meat, however, was a different beast. After years in the agriculture industry, Kristen knew many farmers raising livestock on responsible local farms, but what was missing was a supply chain linking them to people on the lookout for better quality meat. That is until 2014, when Charley founded Walden Local Meat Co., a meat-share company that’s slated to open its South End brick-and-mortar in early November.
With Walden’s service, customers receive monthly shipments of dry-aged cuts of meat that are delivered to their homes throughout Greater Boston and elsewhere in New England. The team sources 100-percent grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork, lamb and poultry from small farms within a 250-mile radius of its Billerica distribution center. “We’re choosing small industrious farmers over industrial factory farms,” Charley says.
Photo credit: Holly Rike
Now that philosophy will be on display at Walden’s Shawmut Avenue location that boasts crisp white tile floors and gleaming refrigerated cases. Kristen has taken control of the shop along with head butcher Tommy Trainor, who recently joined Walden from Babbo Pizzeria. At less than 800 square-feet, Walden’s first foray into retail space is more about sharing the brand’s story and less about pushing gigantic volumes of product. But, of course, meat is the main dish, and shoppers won’t find normal commodity products here. Adds Charley, “There’s nothing normal about the way the industry raises meat.” With whole animals butchered in-house, there’s unusual cuts like beef oxtail and Denver-style lamb ribs as well as curated dry goods, spices, sauces and cookbooks.
Next on the menu, Walden will soon sell wine and craft beer in addition to offering butchering and cooking classes for home chefs who want to experiment with different cuts of meat to serve their families—without the side of guilt. “There’s something really cool about coming together around a meal when you feel 100 percent about where it came from, what it’s made of and the people who grew it,” Charley says.
With a few years of running Walden Local Meat Co. under his belt, Charley Cummings has gained an even keener appreciation for well-raised meat. He breaks down three of the biggest advantages of using grass-fed beef.
“The fat on a grass-fed animal is much lower in saturated fat.”
“A commodity product will leave a greasy feeling in your mouth long after you swallow it. Grass-fed beef has a cleaner finish.”
“From a flavor profile perspective, grass-fed beef has a more concentrated, beefier flavor. Our product is dry-aged as a whole carcass and that results in a much stronger concentration of flavor and much lower water content than in most industrial commodity products that are wet-aged, which leads to a really heavy iron taste.”
Walden Local Meat Co. 316 Shawmut Ave., Boston, waldenlocalmeat.com