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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Kansas City's Cowtown legacy lives on in these great butcher shops and meat markets

Workers prepare orders behind the counter displaying cuts of meat.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
Local Pig offers a variety of meat products, including handmade sausages, seasonal specialities, and classes.

The cattle trade brought big business to Kansas City, and a history of barbecue shaped our culture. Now, local butchers are carving out a niche for high quality meats and specialty items, whether you're putting together a charcuterie board or preparing for a neighborhood cook-off.

This story was first published in KCUR's Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Kansas City has a long and glorious history with meat, and we don’t just mean burnt ends.

Beginning in 1871, the Kansas City Stockyards brought some of the best livestock to the Midwest, helping to define what quality meat looked like in the U.S. for the next 120 years.

In 1949, the West Bottoms establishment Golden Ox is credited with blessing the world with the Kansas City strip steak,a boneless cut that’s taken from the short loin. For years, the American Royal hosted its annual World Series of Barbecue at the former Kemper Arena (now Hy-Vee Arena) on what was once stockyard land nearby; it's now held at the Kansas Speedway.

It should be no surprise that Kansas City’s local butchers still carry on that tradition. With a level of experience and meat knowledge that you just can’t find anywhere else, local butchers are your best guides for creating a great meal, whether you’re having a neighborhood barbecue showdown or just cooking for yourself.

You can also find a higher quality of meat at your local butcher than most groceries or supermarkets. Most butchers buy from small local farms, where they know how the animals were raised and prepared. That means a fresher cut of meat with a deeper flavor.

Not to mention, you’ll find cuts of meat at a butcher shop that you won’t catch in the supermarket aisle. Want to cook up some rabbit, ox, or alligator? Now you can.

Although the Stockyards are long since closed, Kansas City still has plenty of great butcher shops to choose from. Here’s our guide to where you should start shopping and what to look for.

Local Pig

Steaks and pork chops at the Local Pig butcher shop in the River Market.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
Steaks and pork chops at the Local Pig butcher shop in the River Market.

There is no better place to start this adventure than the iconic Local Pig. Local Pig has been around since 2012 and came to City Market in 2019. And although they do tons of things well, their sausage really stands out.

All of Local Pig’s sausage is handmade, which is important because it’s made with quality cuts of meat rather than castoffs (a good sausage will contain about 80% fat). Unlike mass-produced brands, the flavors of the sausage are deep and run throughout, with casings that are uniform but not so tough that it ruins the preparation.

Local Pig carries around 11 kinds of sausage made from chicken, pork, and beef. Where they really shine are some of the fun flavor combinations that you just can’t find anywhere else, such as Red Wine Italian, Bourbon Apple and Chorizo Verde. No matter if you’re smoking, grilling, or making pasta, you can’t go wrong.

Pigwich in River Market accommodates its outdoor diners covered or uncovered depending on the weather.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Pigwich in River Market is the restaurant sister to the butcher shop Local Pig.

Beyond their sausage, you should check out their seasonal offerings and ready-made meals as well. Their beef wellington is a must-try around the holidays: with a seared beef tenderloin covered in pate and puff pastry, it’s one of those meals that always creates a memory.

While you’re shopping, you can also pick up meatloaf, pot pies, soup, and so much more, or head next door to their sister restaurant, Pigwich, and try their signature pulled pork sandwich.

When you want to learn to create your own culinary vision, Local Pig also offers classes on Sunday afternoons. Let the experts teach you everything you need to know about making sausage, how to butcher a whole hog or crafting a charcuterie board, all while sipping on some beer.

You’ll leave knowing a whole lot more about the craft, and bring home some great meat with you!

Broadway Butcher Shop

A display case shows a variety of cuts of meat.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
Along with options of meat-to-cook, Broadway Butcher Shop, on Main Street, offers a selection of charcuterie.

A good butcher can define a neighborhood. You can get to know your fellow residents, the farmers that supply the shop, and discover new recipes. Broadway Butcher Shop opened in Midtown in 2012, and their own tagline lets you know what to expect: “We don’t just sell the products; we sell the knowledge of how to make them great.”

When you’re looking for a great cut of beef, look no further than theirAkaushi beef, also known as the Emperor’s Breed. Wagyu is a specific breed of cow that initially was only available in Japan, and Akaushi Beef is the top-tier Wagyu with a distinctive deep flavor – a real indulgence.

When you cook Akaushi beef, don’t get fancy by over-seasoning or marinades. Add salt and pepper to taste, sear each side for about three minutes, and then cook off the flame until your preferred level of doneness.

Now add to that Broadway Butcher’s house-made sausage, responsibly harvested seafood, and pasture-raised chicken, and you’ll make this a weekly stop on your shopping trips.

If you’re having a party, then stock up with cheese, salami and more to complete your charcuterie board. This is where things get really interesting. Think of Broadway Butcher as your field guide to the perfect composition of cured meats, cheeses, and crackers.

The butcher will guide you through things like prosciutto, mortadella, or house smoked bologna. Broadway also offers a smoked cheddar that they do in-house as well, and don’t forget about Honey Bee Goat Gouda or perhaps the marinated feta.

Then fill the rest of the board out with olives and house-made sauces and dips. Whatever you choose, they advise selecting something hard, something soft, and something pungent when laying out your board.

The Upper Cut KC

A display of meat products at The Upper Cut KC.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
The Upper Cut KC is known for brisket and the popular Latin American picanha.

You don’t get much more farm-to-table than The Upper Cut KC, which opened in 2015. Located on North Cedar Avenue in Northeast Kansas City, it’s the kind of place that knows your name, order, and your favorite cut of meat.

Bite-sized bacon-wrapped wagyu stood out among the steaks, pork, and chicken. Inside the freezers, you can find anything from duck breast to premade meatballs.

The Upper Cut KC is a great place to get your briskets. Briskets come from the chest of the cow, and come in two parts: the thick side and the flat end. To cook, you want to go “low and slow,” which is BBQ talk for low temperatures — around 275 degrees — and for six to eight hours, depending on the size of your brisket. The flat will give you wonderful tender meat, while the point is perfect for burnt ends.

Burnt ends from the point of a brisket have a thick char, called the bark, that makes them crunchy at first, but when done right, the meat inside is juicy. You can learn more about the rich history of burnt ends, and the pitmaster who defined our city’s style, from KCUR’s podcast A People’s History of Kansas City.

The Upper Cut is also a great place to experience picanha, known as the queen of meats in Brazil. This cut comes from the top rear of the cow, and carries a nice fat cap that keeps the underlying meat tender and packed with flavor. Hugely popular in Latin America, it’s normally skewered and grilled before being sliced at your table. The seasoning is traditionally kept light to not overpower the taste of the steak.

North Oak Quality Meat Market

A chalkboard lists meat cuts and prices by pound, in different colored chalk.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
With prices and cuts displayed on a huge chalkboard, North Oak Quality Meat doesn’t start cutting until you’ve made your order.

North Oak Quality Meat Market has been serving Gladstone and the Northland since 1971, with a loyal customer base that keeps coming back year after year.

One of the things that really stands out about this butcher shop is that the display counter only holds three cuts of meat. Unlike other shops, where you’ll see a variety of pre-cut steaks and other meats on display, North Oak Quality Meat doesn’t start cutting until you’ve made your order – it doesn’t get more personal than this.

Why does this matter? Because not all recipes are the same. It’s less wasteful if you only need ¼ pound of skirt steak. Conversely, maybe you really want to make a four-inch Kansas City Strip to impress your guests. You get exactly what you want, not something prepackaged.

A huge chalkboard on the side of the counter lets you know the price per pound of everything they have to offer. One of the few places in the Kansas City metro that offers certified Halal chicken, North Oak is the place for chicken wings – they cut 800 last week alone.

And if you’re a hunter, this is a great butcher to take your game after your next trip to the woods. North Oak Quality Meat Market has a special facility off-site that will butcher your game such as deer, turkey, or boar. They’ll pack it, and get it ready for pickup — all you have to do is get it ready for the smoker.

Rules and regulations vary from state to state, but in general, game meat must be kept separate from commercial meat, preventing pathogens from crossing over.

Bichelmeyer Meats

A variety of meat products----including pig trotters----in the display case at Bichelmeyer Meats.
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
Bichelmeyer Meats, which supplies many competitors for the American Royal, began in the 1890s, with the first storefront in 1946.

Walking into Bichelmeyer Meats in Kansas City, Kansas, is like walking into Shangri-La. Their counter is around 50 feet long, and butchers race behind it to handle every order — you almost expect to see it in a movie.

Bichelmeyer family members began in the meat business in the 1890s, and opened their storefront in 1946. They had to rebuild after a flood in 1951 and a fire in 1995, but the Bichelmeyer family still operates the butchery, and their passion shows.

The selection is expansive — with everything from quality sausage, pork, chicken, and beef — but also other hard-to-find products such as oxtail, souse, beef tongue, and even “mountain oysters.”

There is a reason why Bichelmeyer Meats supplies many of the barbecue competitors for the American Royal.

You’ll also want to pick up some of their amazing Dad’s Comeback Sauce, their official barbecue sauce, which reminds customers to “come back” to Bichelmeyer Meats.

Designed to go with any type of cut, it has a sweet undertone with just the right amount of spice – perfect to slather on ribs while they smoke or as a side sauce for dipping.

Bichelmeyer offers game processing as well. If you hunt it, they’ll process it. You’ll get no jagged cuts, but rather the marks of a true artisan as they carve up your next meal.

Fareway Meat Market

Steaks on display at Fareway Meat Market
Shannon Carpenter
KCUR 89.3
Fareway Meat Market, which took over the long running McGonigle's shop on Ward Parkway, can source just about any request.

Many may remember this Ward Parkway butcher’s shop by the name of McGonigle’s. It has a long history in Kansas City, and it’s well-known as one of the best places to get your Thanksgiving turkey.

In 2020, McGonigle’s sold to Fareway Meat Market — a Midwest chain with 130 stores throughout the region, including in Olathe — but it’s just as reliable as ever, Thanksgiving meal and all.

Fareway took over McGonigle’s meat counter and continued the BBQ side of the business. Whether for home or catering, they carry a full menu of barbecues with favorites like ribs, brisket, and Italian sausage rolls.

Keep your eyes out for Fareway’s weekly sales ad, offering meat specials and deals, and you can find original recipes on theirYouTube channel to help you cook what you buy, like a skillet lasagna or peach jalapeno bison burgers (a mouthful to say but an even better mouthful to eat).

Like other great butcher shops, Fareway excels in fulfilling custom orders, and they know how to source requests from their local farmers and fisheries. I recently challenged them to see if they could get octopus, and it wasn’t even a challenge — the manager told me they did that the other day.

How about alligator? “Easy. We get a lot of gator when the Chiefs play the Jacksonville Jaguars,” the manager replied.

So I asked for something even harder: puffer fish, a rare find that if cooked wrong could actually harm you. They told me that they could have it tomorrow, and asked what time I wanted to show up. Now that is a butcher shop.

Corrected: September 17, 2023 at 8:03 AM CDT
This story has been updated to correct the location for the American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
Shannon Carpenter is the author of The Ultimate Stay-at-Home, and is a nationally known contributor on fatherhood, parenting and at-home parenting.
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