Meet the South Philly butcher sourcing the best meat in Philadelphia

Heather Thomason of Primal Supply will join chef Trevor Budny for a Billy Penn cooking demo.

Heather Thomason (center) walks with a farmer and her business partner, Cecilie May

Heather Thomason (center) walks with a farmer and her business partner, Cecilie May

James Collier Photography

It’s been just under two months since Heather Thomason opened the doors to her East Passyunk butcher shop, but she launched the wholesale side of Primal Supply Meats more than two years ago. Over the course of that time, she’s noticed something about the goods produced by the local animal farmers she works with:

The meat has gotten better. Noticeably better. Often, it’s more flavorful, has better texture, and is easier to handle.

These improvements to products that were already top-quality — which you can taste at a cooking demo with chef Trevor Budny on Tuesday, June 19 — are in large part due to feedback provided by Thomason, which she gleans from her own experience, plus that of staff and customers.

“We give them feedback, both positive and negative,” Thomason said, explaining that playing a larger role in the local food economy was one goal that spurred her to leave Fishtown’s Kensington Quarters and start her own butchery.

“The farmers don’t think of the animals as meat — and that’s great,” she continued. “I want the farmers to be focused on farming.”

Primal’s philosophy goes beyond just building deep relationships with the families who care for the herds. All of the meat Thomason offers:

  • is locally sourced
  • is pasture-raised and grass-fed
  • originates from a whole animal
  • is fresh, not frozen

It’s not just marketing fluff — sustainably raised meat is considered tastier and more nutrient rich than that from factory farm animals. So there’s good reason you see these buzzwords on every farm-to-table restaurant menu these days.

However, Thomason noted, it’s not often a chef gets to check off all of those boxes when sourcing meat.

“Few purveyors do it all,” she said. “Each piece is doable on its own, but getting all of it is challenging. Especially using the whole animals. We have very minimal waste. We use everything.”

Staying true to the “all sustainable, errythang” practice has allowed Thomason to quickly grow her customer base. Around 30 local chefs have regular standing orders with Primal Supply — including Budny, who will use nothing else for the meals he makes at Guerilla Nutrition.

“I only use Primal Supply,” Budny said proudly. “One of the reasons I switched into this business is because I found a good source.”

Before Budny found Thomason (back when she was still at Kensington Quarters), he was trying to launch a healthy juice business. It was something he got into after he realized years cooking behind restaurant lines led to him becoming “fat and depressed” and drinking too much. But juicing wasn’t really his style.

Enter Thomason and her sustainable proteins. Budny switched to being a private chef for high-performance athletes — “professionals, semi-professionals, weekend warriors” — who rely on his meals to stay at the top of their game.

So does the meat actually qualify as “healthy”? According to the hours and hours of research Budny puts in monthly on the topic, yes.

“You could make the argument that meat has a bad rep,” he said, “which really comes from Big Ag — feeding these animals GMO corn, and not raising them on natural diets, and keeping them in pens.”

Primal Supply’s meats, on the other hand, are packed full of micronutrients, he explained, so are a great source of protein — and fat.

Avoiding the use of outside fat like vegetable oil or butter is even easier when cooking over the grill, Budny explained. “We like to call it sauteeing, but it’s really frying in oil,” he said. “Plus, grilling is a primal way of cooking. There’s something special about it.”

Ok, so Budny and Thomason can talk the talk. Can they walk the walk?

If you want to see these two sustainable meat masters put their money where their mouths are, join Billy Penn at our next healthy cooking demo on Tuesday, June 19, at Independence Live in Center City.

Budny will grill up some great dishes using Primal Supply products, and will discuss how best to handle the meat. You’ll taste samples and leave with a printed recipe to take home. Tickets are just $15, all-inclusive. See you there.

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