4 new protein purveyors in the Madison area

Three new butcher shops and a fish market are operating under a modern set of standards with a focus on sustainability, mindful sourcing and ethical practices.
meat case at Branch and Daughter
Photo by Clear and Quiet
Branch + Daughter

A fresh wave of boutique-style butcheries has hit Madison, and these protein purveyors are operating under a modern set of standards with a focus on sustainability, mindful sourcing and ethical practices. Display cases these days are offering better cuts of meat with more information about how those steaks, shellfish and deli products go from farm to table. Let’s meat — oops, meet — the new class of recently opened operations in town.

Branch + Daughter
Judson and Monique Branch opened the doors of their part-butchery, part-eatery, part-specialty grocer in July 2021. The couple met while working in hospitality and fine dining in Arizona, and after several stops, they settled in Wisconsin near the Dells so Judson could be close to his job at Kalahari Resorts. When a building they’d had their eye on in Windsor went up for sale in 2020, Judson decided to use his 20 years of professional cooking experience to start his own venture. Branch + Daughter (in honor of their daughter, Vada) boasts a deli case filled with fresh products. Specialty smoked and marinated items are featured daily alongside curated local products and cuts of meat. The butcher case is filled with beef, pork, poultry and lamb from area farms. Then there’s the eatery, which serves carefully crafted pizzas like the Salted Pig — a pie dressed with bacon, port wine candied onions, marinated figs, greens, pecorino Romano and pistachio pesto. 6601 Traveler Trail, Windsor, 842-0139, branchanddaughter.com

Meat People Butcher

Pip Freeman holding a huge cut of meat

Photo by Jenny Griep

Jenny Griep and Pip Freeman are the Meat People, but you may have seen the couple’s faces elsewhere around town in the past ­— Freeman at Mint Mark and Griep at Osteria Papavero. Freeman, who was vegan for about eight years before he worked various fine dining positions in New York, became interested in butchery while working in restaurants. He started working at The Meat Hook in Brooklyn through a friend who also worked there. When Griep and Freeman were looking for something to open of their own, the idea of opening a butchery came to mind after Underground Butcher, a small-scale, east-side butcher shop, closed its doors in 2019. Recognizing the need for an area supplier of fresh, nonfrozen meat and honoring their own interests, they opened Meat People in May 2021. Functioning as a whole-animal butcher shop, Freeman and Griep buy entire animals from producers instead of specific cuts, which reduces waste. “These farms raise such beautiful animals, and it’s the best when it’s fresh, so we really wanted to fill that gap,” says Griep of supplying nonfrozen product. “Besides chickens, which we can’t always get fresh, the pork and the beef all come fresh and never frozen.” 4106 Monona Drive, 298-7167, meatpeoplebutcher.com

Bucky’s Varsity Meats

meat in cases at Bucky's Varsity Meats

Photo by Michael P. King/UW-Madison CALS

An affiliation with the University of Wisconsin–Madison explains the full-fledged education system wrapped around the services of the revamped Bucky’s Varsity Meats. A team of mostly students runs the full-service meat shop. “To me, it’s really about being able to procure, produce or cut what anybody needs,” says Mitch Monson, the retail operations manager, a full-time staff member who is not a student. The retail storefront, part of the new Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery Building on the UW–Madison campus, sells everything from pork to lamb and seafood to a variety of pantry items. Animals are generally raised on university farms about 20 miles north of Madison. Behind every cut of meat at this USDA-certified facility is heavy instruction and research that’s intended to support animal and agricultural science. Customer education is also a large focus, says Monson, since transparency about meat and farming practices in general are on the rise. 1933 Observatory Drive, 262-7801, varsitymeats.cals.wisc.edu

Berke and Benham

exterior of Berke and Benham

Photo courtesy of Berke and Benham

Many life experiences fuel Jim Berke’s passion for seafood and sustainability, including fishing trips as a child, his father’s years as a small business owner and a strong desire to supply fresh, accessible seafood. Berke owns Berke and Benham, a seafood market that opened on Monroe Street in June. A year before opening, in June 2020, Berke started delivering seafood to research and test the demand in the Madison area. “Doing this delivery service allowed me to see that people were well educated around seafood here, had an appetite for it and definitely had a desire to have more access and more variety,” Berke says. Bringing his experience in Chicago as a fishmonger at Eataly and a wholesaler with Wabash Seafood to the table, Berke set out with the goal of supplying Madison with world-class, sustainably sourced seafood. Berke follows programs like Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, which guides consumers and businesses through sustainable choices. Upon entering, customers will see display cases stocked with a variety of fresh fish and shellfish, both freshwater and saltwater options. 1925 Monroe St., 286-1000, berkeandbenham.com

Hannah Twietmeyer is a contributor to Madison Magazine.