The Local Pig wins over food lovers who crave locally produced meats.
Alex Pope isn’t a big believer in “mystery meat.”
At the Local Pig, a charcuterie and butcher shop in Kansas City’s East Bottoms, Pope and his team sell beef, pork, chicken, lamb and other meats that were produced within 110 miles of the city—or closer, in a lot of cases.
A chalkboard on the shop’s wall lists which farms originated that day’s offerings. And the store’s butchers work in clear view of customers as they order.
“I like to say we sell transparency and trust,” said Pope, who opened the Local Pig in 2012.
As a chef who previously worked at R Bar and the American Restaurant, Pope had long had an interest in butchering. And the time just seemed right for something like the Local Pig. There was a growing consumer demand for locally grown meats, but nobody was really meeting that need.
“It just made sense to start doing what I like to do,” he said.
None of the Local Pig’s meats are produced in confinement operations, and Pope believes that’s better for both the animals and the taste of the meat.
“They get to move around and develop a lot more muscle,” he said.
Local sourcing is a key differentiator for the Local Pig, but it took Pope a long time to find the right suppliers. He drove out to each farm to meet the owners and to inspect their operations. During the store’s first nine months, it wasn’t uncommon for him to devote half of his week to lining up suppliers.
“Now we have a really good supply chain in place,” he said. “I only have to spend a couple of hours a week on it.”
Originally, Pope thought most of the Local Pig’s business would be wholesale-based, but the shop has won a loyal following with retail customers. It’s only about a five-minute drive from downtown, and while they’re picking up their sausage order (sausage is the Local Pig’s top seller) a lot of people will grab a sandwich at Pigwich, the Local Pig’s food trailer.
Pigwich is actually less of a food truck and more of an outdoor restaurant, as it’s tied into the water and sewer lines and so never goes anywhere, Pope said.
Add in the Local Pig’s catering business and classes on butchering, and Pope and his staff are kept busy as they try to keep pace with the company’s growth.
The business has been more active than he expected, but customers’ devotion to great food isn’t too surprising, if you think about it. Nobody will give $50 for a head of lettuce, but they’ll spend good money on meat, wine and other things they crave.
“We’re taking the commodity out of it,” Pope said. “It’s not a race to the bottom.”