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Dining Out

Somerville butcher that goes whole hog

Michael ­Dulock, in his shop on Highland Avenue, wants to change how we think about and use our food supply.

Photos by Emily T. Simon

Michael ­Dulock, in his shop on Highland Avenue, wants to change how we think about and use our food supply.

Carnivores with a conscience can eat a little easier, thanks to M.F. Dulock, a new full-service butcher on Highland Avenue in Somerville.

The whole-animal shop, which opened in September, sells only pasture-raised meats from farms within a 250-mile radius of Somerville. The hyper­local approach is the brainchild of owner Michael ­Dulock, a natural-products champion who wants to change the way we think about and use our food supply.

Emily T. Simon

Photo of the interior of the shop.

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Dulock, former owner of Concord Prime & Fish, grew up shopping at whole-animal butchers in Everett alongside his mother and grandmother. Years later, the memory of those neighborhood institutions inspired him to open his own place. Dulock is eager to help diners go back to their roots and eschew industrial, commodity foods in favor of locally grown alternatives.

Dulock works exclusively with small farms, many of which raise only five to six animals a year. The farmers may be attempting to subsidize the cost of their family’s grocery consumption. They may be trying to unplug from the grid. Or they may just be trying their hand at farming. Whatever the case, they usually do not have the resources to participate in a full 14-week farmers market season.

That’s where Dulock comes in: Through his shop, he can expose their products to a greater market.

Dulock is also committed to reducing waste and food costs by serving as a “whole animal” butcher.

“We need to be able to celebrate the animal and use all of it,” he said. “Our culture wastes 30 to 40 percent of the food we produce, which drives up cost. . . . If we can get more people accustomed to eating their way through the whole animal, we can lower the cost of meat.”

Dulock and two colleagues butcher the meat themselves, usually on Fridays. (Squeamish shoppers may want to plan their visits accordingly.) The selection typically includes beef, pork, lamb, goat, and veal, but because of ­Dulock’s approach to sourcing, the offerings can vary.

In keeping with the “whole animal” method, if it is edible, it is for sale. A recent visit turned up leaf lard, a high-quality pork lard ($8 per pound), pig ears ($3 each), and lamb’s head ($4 per pound).

Never cooked with offal? Staffers readily give suggestions, or you can browse one of the many cookbooks around the shop, most of them from Dulock’s personal collection.

Spice up your usual winter stew with some goat stew meat, available for $19 a pound. You will be in good company: Goat is the world’s most widely eaten meat and is especially popular in Greek, Mexican, and Indian cuisines.

Want to go whole hog? ­Dulock said he can typically source entire porkers for a pig roast within 10 days. Be sure to e-mail or call ahead.

Less adventurous eaters will find plenty of familiar options, such as brisket ($9 per pound), beef stew meat ($10 per pound), flatiron steak ($18 per pound), lamb rib ($22 per pound), and ­bacon ($9 per pound). 

Pasture-raised meats pick up the flavor of the grasses the animals consume. That means that they ­often have different flavor profiles from their commodity counterparts, which are primarily grain-fed. As for which tastes better, Dulock said it is a matter of personal preference and that he simply wants to give consumers an option.

I put a sirloin knuckle steak ($10 per pound) to the test by pan-frying it with kosher salt and cracked pepper and was pleased to find that the beef was tender and flavorful without any marinade.

To test out M.F. Dulock’s ground beef ($10 per pound), I recruited a South African friend, the only person I could think of whose love of red meat might rival my Chicago-bred carnivorousness. She whipped up a classic bobotie, sort of a South African version of shepherd’s pie, and the result ­impressed us both.

M.F. Dulock also sells house-made sausages. The banger ($9 per pound), a British-style option, had a deliciously hearty flavor heightened by sage, bread crumbs, and nutmeg. I also enjoyed the spud ($9 per pound), a pork-skin version made with boiled potatoes, coriander, and mustard, though it did not hold together as well as I would have liked.

The chorizo ($9 per pound) was disappointing: The spice was all up-front, with none of the lingering smokiness that normally makes this sausage so savory.

Down the road, Dulock hopes to add stocks, rendered fats, and jerkies to the shop selection. For now, the only jerky available is just for pets: dehydrated beef, organ, and pig ears at $4 apiece.  

Despite the seriousness of Dulock’s vision, the shop has a cheeky vibe. Staff members sport trucker hats and retro shirts; prints lining the back wall feature slightly off-color puns (this author’s favorite: “Stop Staring at My Rump,” with a hand-drawn picture of a trimmed and tied rump roast). During one visit, ground pork in the display case was molded into the shape of a piglet. It is a little cringe-worthy, but mostly fun.

In all, M.F. Dulock is a solid shop for those looking to put a little meat on their bones — and feel good about it, too.

Emily T. Simon can be reached at simonemilyt@gmail.com.
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