by Ryan Donovan, Head Butcher


A collection of books can speak strongly of a person’s habits and inclinations. The care or lack thereof with which the books are piled and stacked can be an admittance of a secret passion or an overbearing censure of guilt. The names of authors branded onto the spines are left gasping in plain view, waiting to be judged: their font, their colour, their lineage. Books are the single most beautiful contribution that humanity has offered the planet: they are the playground of words, the dating network for single ideas seeking an appropriate partner and they are the kiln inside of which our better and worse doctrines are cured.


The following is a glimpse into The Healthy Butcher Library; the oldest piece of equipment we have at the shop. Like the meat, it has grown organically over time and it is utilized just as much as our cleavers and scimitars. The pages of these books are opened to illustrate to customers how a dish can be plated after they have invested their weekend braising lamb shanks.  The spines are cracked in search of cooking techniques and oven temperatures that will yield the supplest slow roasted pork belly. And sometimes, these books are rummaged through in desperation: “What will I do with all these pigs’ ears? We never get the ears. Oh no! Oh, look at this. A Cold Salad of Slow Smoked Pigs Ears, just what Torontonians have been waiting for.”


The following books are ones I have chosen for their inspiration and information alike. They have helped me to learn and they have helped me to teach. It is because of them that I find being lost in a bookstore as much fun as being lost in a kitchen.

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Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award






We are honoured to be recognized as an innovator in the
grocery and organic food industry by such a prestigious award.

Ultimately, the recognition is not just for us, but for the people we are connecting - on one end, all of our valued customers who have supported and encouraged us from the beginning; and on the other end, all of our valued local organic farmers who struggle day-in and day-out because of their passion and belief in local, organic farming.
Our Mission Statement remains the same from Day 1:
To ensure your food is produced the way nature intended.
The Healthy Butcher is merely a link between you and the farmers...
and our goal - not just Tara & Mario's, but all of our butchers, chefs and counter staff - is to make the link between you and your farmer informative, efficient, and above all, sustainable.
Our journey together has just begun.

To learn more about the award, click here.





We'll be serving up our famous dripping pulled pork and sausages on a bun grilled over our special blend of apple and hickory wood. 

As well, this Saturday the farmers market will feature live entertainment, activities for kids and adults, and more.  Visit this new and exciting farmer's market, and come hungry!

For more information, click here.





Live to Eat Seminar

Wednesday, September 19



Do you think smoking meat, fish and vegetables is complicated and out of your backyard skill set?  Not anymore!  We are proud to bring you Team BBQ Effect, the multiple medal-winners at the Canadian BBQ Championships, teaching you about Brining, Injecting, Rubs, and (of course), their secrets to Smoking Like a Champion


For details of the class including registration, click here.



continued from above


by Ryan Donovan, Head Butcher


Cooking By Hand,
Paul Bertolli
(Clarkson Potter, New York. 2003)

Cooking By Hand - Cover
The most Italian cookbook without the word Italian in the title, Cooking By Hand is a highly organized and well structured combination of investigation and instruction into the simplest aspects of Italian cooking: fresh pasta, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and cured pork. An encouraging and thoughtful welcome to the recipes reads, “Food that is both delicious and interesting is always a reflection of an active response to the raw ingredients – one that often turns on its head information found in recipes”. Equally musing memoir and robust recipe immersion, this book could pass a winter’s day like Robinson Crusoe.

The original chef to Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, Bertolli’s approach to food has defined the local and organic movements for over ten years. Having moved on to open his own restaurant Oliveto, he now focuses his creative and philosophic strength on artisan old world Salumi. And those recipes have inspired our own Sopressata, Genoa and Mortadella. I learned to make our salami through the gentle instruction of Cooking By Hand.

The most valuable practical aspect of this book is the patient discussion of making pasta dough with different varieties of flour. Homemade pasta is one of the most rewarding dinners for the family cook to accomplish, and with Bertolli’s paternal hand it is impossible not to love the process more than the pasta itself. The small essay entitled “Ripeness” is written with the profundity and candour of Cicero.




The Whole Beast,
Fergus Henderson
(Harper Collins, New York. 2004)

The Whole Beast - Cover

The most significant hurdle facing sustainable agriculture in Ontario is the disparity in consumption between primary cuts of meat and tertiary cuts of meat. Intensive broiler barns containing complexes of chicken cages will always exist if skinless and boneless chicken breast continues to dominate our collective consumption habits. And they are just habits. This problem is better addressed by British writers, and Fergus Henderson has made a career, and many a menu, out of balancing the scales by promoting the tertiary cuts and offal meats of each and every domesticated animal we consume. At first mention, Henderson writes, “it would seem disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast: there is a set of delights, textural and flavorsome, which lie beyond the fillet.”

In fact they are usually packaged near the stomach, directly under the fillet… or right beside the throat. Fergus Henderson is the mastermind behind St. John, the international culinary destination for the most dedicated offalophiles, where bread is served with marrow butter and thymus gland is delicately dredged and flash fried.

The Whole Beast is an ethical and culinary call to arms that, without asking, illustrates to each omnivorous foodie the textural variety and myriad of flavour that is available with each slaughtered hog. While this book “honours the past at least as much as it points the way to a brave new future,” it truly and fundamentally is “a book about simple, good things”. And if indulging in Henderson’s recipes does not help us mitigate the damage of negligent consumption in Ontario, it is certainly a way for us to put our best foot forward.



Jennifer McLagan
(William Morrow, New York. 2005)

Bones - Cover

The most valiant culinary effort of recent years, Bones is a triumphant publication that encourages all cooks to refurnish their meals with the humility and flavour of ill forgotten bones. McLagan’s argument is two fold: first, bones provide all cooked meats with more flavour and moisture, making for a tastier and more satisfying meal; second, we pay for the bones whether we use them or not, so better to reap the benefits than be wasteful about such a valuable commodity. Pricing our meat at The Healthy Butcher, I can tell you this latter point is true. The cost of all the bone we discard in the organic bins is built into the cost of boneless steaks. This is true of all butcher shops. The best way to reduce the cost of meat for all of us is to use the animal more holistically. In her introduction she confesses that writing the books was done in effort “to solve the problem”.

The two recipes I like most are Pork Cooked with Spiced Honey and Lamb Ribs with Beans and Spinach. The first time I met Jennifer, she asked me for lamb ribs and I said, “What ribs?” as though lambs didn’t have ribs.


We spoke at length about this recipe which I then displayed for our customers to see, accompanied of course, with freshly cut lamb ribs. I gathered all the butchers around one table and illustrated to them why we would no longer be trimming the meat from the ribs for sausages. Now, lamb ribs have a dedicated following at The Healthy Butcher and our lambs are thankfully consumed more holistically.




On Food and Cooking,
Harold McGee
(Scribner, New York. 1984)

On Food and Cooking - Cover

Unlike any other book to be found in the Cooking section, Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking is a canonical reference for the chemistry, biology, anthropology and etymology of foodstuffs and cooking techniques. There are no recipes here, but it elucidates a soufflé better than Rummy knows the known knowns and unknown knowns. “No cookbook,” he writes, “can foresee and forestall all the emergencies and mistaken turns that an ingenious amateur can invent.” Understanding the molecular happenings of dry aging beef helps to ensure that the process is followed to the best benefits. Armed with knowledge, all mistakes become lessons and students become teachers in good order.

While this book can be technically challenging, I find that rereading specific passages with embarrassing frequency is analogous to perfecting cooking techniques or challenging dishes. It takes more than one pass to understand the entirety of certain sections, but the reward, like perfecting that Bouillabaisse is a lifetime of sustenance.


Lest you fear that understanding your food so carnally will spoil your love for it, let me assure you that your eating experiences will only be enriched when you understand how food is fuel and some fuels are more efficient than others, and that some cooking methods rob those foods of their fuel. In a time of fad diets and a well spring of monkey hatched nutritional advice; On Food and Cooking is an island of true science and factual information that will improve each and every one of your eating experiences. There are no recipes in this book and it was designed to be a companion piece to other cookbooks.




The River Cottage Meat Book,
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
(Hodder and Stoughton, London. 2004)


This book is the most indispensable resource I have. It is the first thing I give to young apprentices and when it was given to me, it changed the way I lived my life entirely. Humourous, candid, passionate, and active, this book reads like a Harry Potter fantasy: full of villainous meat processors, corrupt farmers, heroic young growers and prideful heritage breeds of pork. This book is non stop ride through the most important aspects of our agro-political network. Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is the Voltaire of food writing. He is intent of making the world more like the world he likes and everything he likes is agreeable and true. “Any useful moral discussion about eating meat has to focus on the choices we have as individuals today,” he writes, and then proceeds to describe the agricultural history that brought us to these choices and the political and welfare implications of choices we have moving forward.


A farmer, a food writer, and an all around champion of strong community living, Hugh runs The River Cottage enterprise in the rural farming regions in England. A hybrid space of farming, cooking, butchering, and problem solving: The River Cottage is a culinary think tank and their meat manifesto addresses all the talking points in Toronto food circles today.


Hugh’s writing is impassioned in a rare way. “The cheapening of meat, in both the literal and metaphorical sense, has engendered laziness in its use that is disingenuous and insulting to the animals from which it comes.” The goal of the book, like others on this list, is to reverse that trend and to have people cook and purchase meat more holistically. The recipes and explanations encourage that sort of behaviour. Armed with this book, there is no cut of meat left inaccessible.

Embarrassingly, I have no more room to rave about the recipes; but suffice to say they are crucial if you like to eat. Go by this book and immediately make the Feijoada on page 487. Your life will be that much richer.


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