Ask the butcher

Ron Savenor, Co-Owner

Savenor’s Market and Meat Wholesaler
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Savenor’s has supplied prime meats to Boston-area restaurants and residents for 65 years, including its most famous patron, Julia Child. These days, Ron Savenor runs the retail and wholesale operations, selling to some of the top toques in New England. Here’s what he has to say about buying pork.

What pork products are your customers purchasing?
I sell to fine-dining restaurants like Radius and No. 9 Park in Boston. They are buying pork loins, butts and shoulders 20 times more often than legs and other parts. And bellies continue to grow in popularity.

How can operators get the most bang for their buck when buying pork?
Kitchens that know how to utilize every part of the pig will make the most money from menuing pork. Recently, I custom-cut a pork leg for a customer and the chef created a signature dish featuring the shank and the hock. It became a crowd favorite.

How can an operator judge quality?
Unlike beef, pork is not graded as prime and choice, but the marbling in the meat is a sure indicator of quality. The more streaks of fat you see, the more tender and flavorful the pork will be. Pork that comes from certain breeds is always well-marbled, like the Kurobuta and certified Berkshire pork.

What do you think of specialty breeds and pigs raised without antibiotics?
Restaurateurs all want something special to differentiate the menu, but there’s no substitute for quality meat. Some of the specialty pork is good and some is not so good. And some is just not cost-effective for an operation. I was carrying a well-known brand of all-natural pork for a while but it was double the price of my locally raised pork and it wasn’t really better.

How can foodservice buyers work most effectively with their meat supplier?
It’s important to develop a personal relationship with your purveyor. I limit myself to about 50 accounts, and each one gets a lot of attention. For example, when beef became unusually expensive this year, I steered my customers toward the more “bargain priced” pork. I also prepare special orders for regulars, making substitutions to assure the fairest weekly prices.


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