Being a socially-conscious carnivore in the South is no easy task. It’s naïve at best to expect your local grocery stores and restaurants to direct attention to or even disclose the provenance of their meat. Exceptions like grass-fed cattle purveyors Stonnington Farms notwithstanding, the vast majority of accessible animal flesh in Mississippi comes from grim torture chambers.
Chad and Terri Knight of Laurel’s Knight Butcher are leading the insurgency against sweatshop meat. Sourcing their beef and pork from farms less than 50 miles from their shop in downtown Laurel, the Knights are doing their community a service in the form of ribeyes and pork chops.
“We not only wanted to start a successful business, we also want to contribute something to the town we live in,” Terri Knight said. “We really want to make Laurel a better place.”
In addition to a full complement of standard pork and beef cuts, Knight Butcher also offers house-made sausages, beef tallow and bacons. Yes, bacons, plural. On my visit there were cured pork bellies smoked over three different hardwoods, along with a smoked, uncured, sugar-free paleo bacon.
Also on the shelves are homemade fudge and the most popular jerky in Laurel and the surrounding five counties.
“People tell us it is the best jerky they have ever had in their life,” Terri said. “They buy it by the pound and eat it until their mouth hurts.”
A good jerky is more than worth a little jaw soreness, in my opinion, and apparently the Knight Butcher’s clientele agrees. The Knights were surprised by the demand for their jerky, but they’re doing their best to keep up, with hopes of distributing to other local retailers.
Future plans include the expansion of their plate lunch program (currently Mondays only), and classes on butchery and charcuterie.
“We want to educate the consumer on all the classic traditions of butchering, not just offer a pre-cut, pre-packaged, vacuum-sealed, from-who-knows-where piece of meat,” Terri said.
Putting some thought into where your food comes from can inspire a fair amount of anxious hand-wringing, especially in places where grocery options are limited. Thanks to the folks at the Knight Butcher, South Mississippians have a homegrown source for meat they can feel good about eating.