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Richie Vought, Master Butcher at Iowa Meat Farms

Welcome to Lifers, an Eater feature that shares stories from the men and women who have worked in the restaurant and bar industry for the better part of their lives. For The Five Days of Meat, we're featuring Richie Vought, a master butcher who has been in the business of meat in San Diego for 40 years.

How did you get into the butchering business?
My parents were both farm people from Minnesota. While my father was away in World War II, my mother worked as a "butcherette". After the war, they settled in National City and my father was a meat cutter for over 30 years.

We had chickens in our backyard and I've known how to butcher one since I was eight or nine. I've been in the business all my life and have worked here about 15 years.

What sets this market apart?
One of the main things is that we don't handle trendy things. Our beef is all corn and grain fed all out of the Midwest. It's not your Western beef that's usually a little leaner and wet. We're also on a program where our meat is hand selected off the assembly line...we get the high end of the choice meat, what all choice meat used to be years ago; our prime is all Certified Angus Prime. We try to get most of our meat out of one plant in Nebraska, the corn belt. Of course there's arguments over it, but what corn does is that it puts fat in the meat and on the meat. That's where you get your flavor and your tenderness. Our meat is the finest; we age and sometime dry-age our meat. You'll find it a little less expensive at some places but their quality is not what we have. I'll guarantee that.

Do you carry any grass fed beef or local meat?
We handle a little bit of local meat but it's not the same as what we get out of the Midwest. It's usually more watery and the grading system is a little different. No offense to California beef, if that's what people are used to. To me, grass fed beef tastes like a mowed lawn. I love meat, that's what my life is. What I want is richness and flavor.

How is getting meat here different than going to a supermarket?
Their cuts are different, they cut things thinner or put them into max packs. Our hamburger's probably less expensive and better than the supermarket because we don't use imported meat; we use all our own trim. We cut everything on-premise. We can't compete with a supermarket but we've spent our lives doing this; I've been in the business for 40 years and we all have a lot of knowledge about meat and can answer questions.

What do San Diegans buy most? How have you seen tastes and trends change?
The most popular is probably a rib eye, then maybe a New York and a filet. My favorite happen to be a New York steak or a flat iron.

What are some tips to cooking meat?
Our steaks are cut approximately to one-inch, so that would be seven to eight minutes a side for medium rare. And always let your meat rest, especially a roast.

What's a cut of meat that's underrated and should be eaten more?
Our Cattleman cut. When it's done correctly, it's probably one of the tastiest, most tender pieces of meat. I think top sirloin is one of the most underrated pieces of meat there is.
· Iowa Meat Farms [Official Site]

Iowa Meat Farms

6041 Mission Gorge Rd San Diego, CA (619) 281-5766