I stood in a refrigerated room at Kinnealey Quality Meats, trying my best to appear like a tough chef and refrain from shivering. It was the end of an hour-long tour, and I was chilled to the bone. Still, things were much better than I expected. My experience with commercial meat purveyors had been limited to a traumatic reading of The Jungle, so I was anticipating serious blood and gore. Instead, Kinnealey’s was a clean and, dare I say it, appetizing environment. There were no sides of beef hanging oozing onto the floor (most meat is now butchered into smaller cuts at the slaughterhouse to save on shipping fees). The storage rooms smelled of sanitizer; the only carnal aroma in the entire facility was in the dry aging room. Maybe things would have been different if I visited an actual slaughterhouse, but Kinnealey’s completely contradicted the many accounts I'd read of the food industry’s unsavory side.
We returned to school with fresh meat, waiting for our knives. Our instructor gracefully dismembered a whole lamb, making it look as easy as slicing bread. When it was our turn to clean the lamb and cut it into cubes for stewing, we learned that it wasn’t so simple. With such an expensive product, one wrong cut could be a catastrophe. I nervously sliced into the lamb’s silverskin, wincing as if I were cutting myself. The process was awkward and stressful, but my confidence grew with each cut. It didn’t hurt that I was working with a partner, and I let her take a go at some of the more difficult parts. I left the class eager to cut more meat.