From Vegetarian to Carnivore: Meet Beacon’s Barb the Butcher
Carnivores in Beacon head to Barb’s Butchery for the finest cuts of fresh and smoked meats
Photographs by Teresa Horgan
Barbara Fisher remembers the evening her decade-long commitment to vegetarianism, a lifestyle she embraced throughout the 1990s, ended. An active, yet protein-deprived, runner living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Fisher sat down to dinner at a nice restaurant and somehow succumbed to ordering prime rib. When the waiter asked her if she wanted any vegetables to accompany her steak, she adamantly said no, just wine. “I never looked back,” Fisher recalls.
Instead, she concentrated on the future. Her newly acquired carnivore status sparked a curiosity about what was on her plate and from where it was sourced. After moving to the Hudson Valley a decade ago, she sought out meats from the region, but always wondered why no one had set up a shop devoted to such local specialties. “I grew up in the Midwest where butchers are everywhere,” she says. “Then I went to college in New York and was spoiled by the stores on Bleecker Street near NYU, but there was nothing like that here in Beacon.”
That changed last December when a frustrated Fisher unveiled Barb’s Butchery, her own shrine to fresh and smoked meats. Here, patrons in search of grass-fed beef and locally pastured pork and chicken discover fine cuts from farms such as Meiller in Pine Plains, Meili in Amenia, and Dashing Star in Millerton. Fisher sells more than 20 different cuts of beef; almost as many pork options; at least 10 different lamb cuts; as well as goat, duck, pheasant, and more. The most popular? “Rib-eye. I have a hard time keeping up with that,” she says. In addition, the butchery — which has a few tables — serves up daily lunch specials, which include everything from a roasted pork-belly sandwich served with a side of apple-carrot slaw and mustard vinaigrette to a house-made corned beef Reuben on rye.
Barbara Fisher is making a name for herself in the world of butchery. Her Beacon storefront is a shrine to the best in grass-fed beef and local pork and chicken
Fisher, a married mother of two young children, was a math instructor at SUNY Orange when she “lost the itch to teach” and decided the timing was right to embark on a butchery career. Immersing herself in a proper education, she spent 18 months working with Mark Elia, proprietor of Hudson Sausage Company in Highland, while plotting her own boutique enterprise. “He appreciated the old-school nose-to-tail kind of butchery and taught me so much,” she says.
And does the reformed vegetarian have any trouble at all with all the gory aspects of the job? “Actually, the red that you see isn’t blood. It’s the protein structure that oxidizes. Isn’t that cool? I actually get more queasy when I stab myself. I get really excited about this kind of stuff now. I want to improve my expertise and help the customers understand what is really happening with their meat.”
Butchery remains a business dominated by men, but guided by her love of science and precision — “I’m especially fascinated right now by how different breeds process proteins” — Fisher has successfully joined the ranks of a number of females around the country who are leaving their distinctive imprints on the meat realm. “When I was first learning the different parts of an animal’s musculature, I would chuckle,” she says. “Like mathematics, meat is really just another puzzle.”