Homegrown butchery business goes viral, works to expand

As Farmstead Meatsmith gains worldwide attention online, the Vashon-based mobile slaughter and butchery business is working to expand its offerings on the Island as well.

As Farmstead Meatsmith gains worldwide attention online, the Vashon-based mobile slaughter and butchery business is working to expand its offerings on the Island as well.

Brandon and Lauren Sheard, a young couple who began Farmstead Meatsmith a year and a half ago, recently saw a significant goal come within reach when they broke ground on a butcher shop outside their new family home near Tahlequah.

When the building, a full-service shop complete with a walk-in cooler, is finished in about a year, the Sheards will be able to more efficiently butcher animals and host butchery classes, things they’ve been doing either on-site at farms or in a makeshift butcher shop in their garage, said Brandon Sheard.

The new space will also allow them to process beef, a task that has been too large for their small shop.

“Moving to the new house really is kind of a big step,” Sheard said. “That makes it feel like it’s taking off because now we can expand. We can actually create the kind of environment we need, and do what we’re already doing but do it in a more sane manner.”

The business is riding on the success of two educational videos it has released online. The first, an instructional video on the basics of pork butchery, has gained more than 26,000 views in a couple of months. A second video about using the whole animal to make products such as blood sausage, liver and headcheese, is gaining 200 to 400 views a day after just two weeks online.

People from all over the country have used the videos to try their own hands at home butchery, Sheard said. And the web series has also helped the Sheards’ unique business, which offers mobile slaughter as well as hands-on classes, make a name for itself in the world of small-scale farming and meat processing.

The couple is now fielding media inquiries from all over the globe, Sheard said.

“I think our notoriety is taking off. … Most of the stuff we don’t even know how to wade through,” he said.

The videos were created in collaboration with Andrew Plotsky, an Islander who produces videos documenting the agrarian movement in the Pacific Northwest, and funded with money raised last year though a successful campaign on Kickstarter.com. Farmstead Meatsmith doesn’t directly profit from the video series, Sheard said, but the endeavor has brought them some added business. For instance, Brandon will soon travel to New Hampshire to help a pig farmer who saw the videos set up his own butchery operation.

But more importantly, he said, the Sheards are simply passionate about educating people about the agrarian movement, which emphasizes using the whole animal and consuming local products.

“It’s definitely a labor of love,” Sheard said. “We like to get that kind of knowledge out there and get people inspired by it, which seems to be happening, and that’s exciting.”

As the Sheards continue to split their time between slaughtering and butchering animals for customers around the Puget Sound and holding classes that consistently fill, they’re also looking to the future.

Much of the family’s spare time will be spent building the new butcher shop, Sheard said, and a third video to complete the web series is in the works. There’s been talk of writing a book or creating instructional pamphlets, and the couple is especially excited at the prospect of eventually getting their new butcher shop certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If the shop becomes USDA-certified, Sheard said, farmers could legally sell the meat they butcher. This would fill what Sheard called a big need on Vashon and open up more business for the couple.

“We want to be a major resource to the Island,” Sheard said. “Now that we have the space to be that, I’m definitely considering what it would take to be a USDA facility.”


To see Farmstead Meatsmith’s instructional videos, visit www.farmsteadmeatsmith.com. For information about classes and services, see the website or call 463-MEAT. Registration is open now for  classes in May.