New York City butcher encourages education and shares beef experiences
Fort Collins, Colo. – Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors is a third generation company that provides beef to restaurants all over New York City, N.Y. and a total of 1,500 restaurants nationwide.
“I am Pat LaFrieda III. My great grandfather, Anthony LaFrieda, immigrated into the United States in 1906 with five children. Once he was in America, he had two more children for a total of two girls and five boys. The last one born was my grandfather, born on Saint Patrick’s Day,” explained LaFrieda at the International Livestock Forum in Fort Collins, Colo. on Jan. 9.
The name Patrick has carried through, and LaFrieda’s 11-year-old son is the fourth generation of the same name.
“As meat purveyors, we feel that we don’t get much support or much education, and there are a lot of conflicting data that don’t really help us,” he commented, expressing his opinion about the lack of understanding for beef in the American public.
The family business celebrated its 100th year in 2015. In 1915, LaFrieda’s grandfather opened a retail butcher shop in Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y. before opening for restaurant supply in 1922.
“The labor unions in New York City were very tough, and if anyone wanted meat in the city, it had to go through the 14th Street Market. Trains still brought in the beef supply, and at one time, 30 percent of all meat in NYC was black market,” he described.
LaFrieda began working for the family business when he was young, spending days off from school helping out his father at work. His father wanted him to be more successful and sent him to college, where he gained a finance degree before landing a job on Wall Street.
He quickly found out that he wasn’t where he wanted to be, so he returned to the family business to help with marketing and expansion.
“My father’s sister was his partner, and she was just retiring. She’s the one who convinced my father to let me come into the business,” he said.
One of his initiatives after he was accepted into the business was to build better marketing and a more positive attitude toward the business of being a butcher.
“As a meat purveyor, I always want to tell my consumers the right answer. I want them to be well informed. For that to happen, I need to be well informed,” remarked LaFrieda.
One of the ways that he shares information is through TV programming.
“We are very fortunate to be on a lot of television programs. The Food Network did a reality TV show on us, and we were fortunate in that regard,” he stated, also acknowledging that being followed around by 22 cameramen was very challenging.
Sixteen-hour workdays turned into 22-hour work days, and LaFrieda’s father had to work hard to be appropriate for the family show.
“It was no surprise to me that he was the audience’s most favorite character, and he was the one guy that didn’t want to be on TV,” laughed LaFrieda.
Although speaking with media outlets can be intimidating, they are looking for stories, and they may be more receptive than people realize.
“We all categorize different news networks as left wing, right wing or kind of center of left, but they will listen to both sides. I’ve been on MSNBC before, thinking the worst, and they were some of our biggest fans,” he explained.
“It’s not something to be worried about as long as we get our say and what we say is truthful,” he added.
While speaking to one panel, a group of PETA supporters made harsh claims against the meat purveyor business, but for LaFreida, it was a simple situation to address.
“My heart rate went down because, there were 20 PETA people amongst 200, but I’ve never had more emails than from the other 175 guests thanking me for my response and thanking me for not getting shaken up. I was at peace because I knew what I was talking about, and they didn’t. Education and getting the word out there is just vital,” he said.
LaFrieda also speaks with the chefs at the restaurants he supplies. He works with them to learn about different cuts of meat and how beef can be used in different ways to create quality meals and cut down on costs.
“When I started, we would sell whole primals to restaurants. They had butchers on staff, and they had band saws. There are no butchers or band saws in restaurants anymore,” he noted.
Now, food inventory is portion-controlled when it arrives at the restaurant, and there are very few courses or classes that train butchers.
“Part of my plight is educating chefs at night,” he remarked. “We walk them through and show them the possibilities for different cuts. Helping chefs to understand what they are and where the savings are helps my plight in education.”
LaFrieda is grateful for the opportunities he has had through the family business and working with the beef and restaurant industry.
“This industry has brought me experiences that I would never have had on Wall Street on the best day. It’s something very close to my heart, to my family’s heart and it’s a way of life for us,” he said.
Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.