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Buy Local: The Heart & Trotter

The Heart & Trotter is at the forefront of San Diego's emerging butcher culture

By Troy Johnson

The Heart & Trotter
2855 El Cajon Boulevard

Americans eat roughly 270 pounds of meat a year per capita, second to only the Luxembourgeois (301 pounds). To satisfy demand, our industrial meat system has become a modern horror story, with animals crammed into unsanitary, inhumane conditions and fed growth hormones to “increase yield.” No wonder 90 percent of the country’s antibiotics are fed to livestock. Sick things need drugs. And logic would suggest that eating sick animals might also make us sick.

How do you feel about your burger now? (Note: Commodity burgers can have the DNA of up to 600 different steer in each one).

Yet San Diego didn’t have a whole-animal butcher shop dedicated to hormone-free, zero-antibiotic, local-as-possible meat—until March, when former roommates James Holstlag (pictured right) and Trey Nichols (left) opened The Heart & Trotter in North Park.

“It’s a global problem,” says Holstlag, who studied under L.A. butchers Lindy & Grundy. “We should eat better meat, and less of it. It’s not just for you and your body. Factory farming is one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the country.”

At Holtslag and Nichols’ small, white-on-white shop, whole animals are delivered every week from the state’s most sustainable ranchers. Holstlag breaks them down into prime cuts—in full view of customers. Transparency is their business model. Every part of the animal is used. With the offal, chef Lhasa Landry makes liver pâtés, sausages, and headcheese. A walk-in fridge offers duck eggs, beef tallow, bacon, and stocks. Pig skin is dehydrated into dog treats. “We’ve even found a dog food maker who’s interested in the silver skin [a membrane], which almost every butcher throws away,” says Holstlag.

The Heart & Trotter charges a tad more than other butchers. “We have a lot of trust in our customers, that they know our story and why it’s worth it,” says Nichols. So far, sales have exceeded expectations. They’re opening a patio to serve sandwiches, with craft beer and wine, and hope to launch a second location in North County. But North Park was the perfect first home.

“People here get it,” says Holstlag.

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Buy Local: The Heart & Trotter

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