2024 Local Hero Awardee: Sutter Meats

Terry Ragasa and CISA Board Member German Alvarado. Steph Craig photo

Terry and Susan Ragasa opened Sutter Meats, a whole-animal butcher shop located in Northampton, 10 years ago. They both had unrelated careers in New York before Terry started developing his interest in the culinary world and found himself wowed by what local farms were producing. After apprenticing and working in various butcher shops, the couple decided to start their own business, and they looked around for a place that had lots of excellent local farms and a customer base that cared enough about local farms and quality food to support the butcher shop they envisioned. They chose the Valley (a true compliment!).

It sounds simple – Sutter Meats buys whole animals from local farms, their expert butchers process them, and customers come and buy the meat – win for the farms and the customers they serve! But whole animal butchery is kind of a puzzle, and it requires a lot of careful planning, and an ongoing commitment to education and good communication with customers. Here’s an example: one cow has 2 tenderloins, 16 strip steaks, 1 hanger steak (which their neighbor at Ernie’s garage has dibs on), and 200 pounds of ground beef. Or another: chickens usually only have 2 wings – that makes it hard for them to capitalize on Super Bowl weekend.

But these challenges aren’t a deficit — they’re what make Sutter Meats what it is, and all of it results in a lot of delicious creativity: coming up with recipes for unique hamburger patties, skewers, sausages, deli meats, turning offal into dog treats, rendering fat, making bone broth, selling truly delicious daily sandwiches and, most importantly, showing customers other equally tasty options and cuts of meat that they may not be familiar with. They recently started offering a butcher club, a monthly box featuring a variety of cuts along with information about the meat and recipes.

Talking with Terry, the thing that comes through is excitement about sharing everything behind the meat with their customers: the story of the farms they source from, how the animals are cared for there, the many wonderful cuts of meat and preparations that are not as well-known, how all of this contributes to keeping farm systems intact and in place. They’re bursting with new ideas and possibilities, and completely dedicated to the daily work of making high-quality, carefully raised local meat available to their community – so for that, CISA is pleased to present Sutter Meats with a 2024 Local Hero Award.

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