Business Profiles

Better Meat for All: Behind the Mission of Ferndale Butcher Shop Farm Field Table

January 7, 2020

With Farm Field Table, Mike and Matt Romine are on a mission to deliver tastier, more humane meat

By Lisa Howard

You have to really dig in and investigate where products come from,” says Mike Romine. While that advice is sound for just about anything we buy, it’s even more applicable when it comes to food. Romine should know — he grew up on a farm, started working in the restaurant industry when he was 15, went to culinary school, became a chef, ran his own restaurant, and now owns Farm Field Table, a butcher shop in Ferndale whose motto is “Better Meat For Everyone.”

For Mike and his co-owner — and twin brother — Matt, sourcing high-quality meats means buying from local farmers who allow their animals to graze, socialize and generally live the kind of life they’re meant to live. This practice has made Farm Field Table a hit with some of Metro Detroit’s hottest restaurants (customers have included Selden Standard, Chartreuse and Voyager) as well as home cooks. “We’re chefs first, so our foremost goal is to have the best-tasting and best-quality food possible,” says Mike. “It’s a happy coincidence that the best-tasting food also comes from the healthiest, best-raised animals.”

Mike and Matt Romine, owners of Farm Field TableCourtesy of Farm Field Table

The Romine Brothers opened their Ferndale shop in 2016

The Romines, who are 31, opened Farm Field Table in 2016 to fill a need they were experiencing as restaurateurs (at the time, they owned an eatery called The Mulefoot Gastropub — named after a breed of pig — in Imlay City, Michigan). “When we opened our restaurant, you couldn’t buy the kind of proteins we wanted, namely meat from pasture-raised, heritage breeds,” says Mike. “So we decided to do it ourselves. We raised them, did all the processing, and used the entire animal in our restaurant. All of our chef friends started saying, ‘Hey, we want that, too!’ It was a natural extension to open Farm Field Table.”

While there are butchers aplenty in Metro Detroit, the brothers’ shop, which has a long, narrow retail area and a butchering area that’s off-limits to customers, is the only one that focuses exclusively on whole animals that have been raised on pasture — i.e., not in confined, crowded areas like their conventional counterparts. Aside from offering standard and custom cuts of beef, chicken, pork and lamb, they dry-age their own beef and cure and smoke their own bacon. “We come from a family of hunters who were always butchering things,” says Matt. “That’s abnormal for the vast majority of Americans, but it was normal for us.”

Farm Field TableCourtesy of Farm Field Table

The Romine brothers host live butchering workshops at Farm Field Table where participants learn how to break down animals like hogs and lambs.

Because Mike and his fellow butchers work with whole animals, you’ll find far more cuts at Farm Field Table than at a grocery store. For example, you’ll never see spinalis — the cap along the top of the ribeye — in a supermarket, but Mike says it’s “the most decadent piece of beef available.” The Romines even introduce seasoned chefs to new cuts of meat. “They turned us on to using the Denver steak,” a juicy, well-marbled shoulder cut, says Jennifer Jackson, co-chef at Voyager in Ferndale. “Not only do they have some of the highest-quality products,” adds co-chef Justin Tootla, “but we love their story.”

Farm Field TableCourtesy of Farm Field Table

The shop features far more cuts of meat than you’d find at the grocery store. “They turned us on to the Denver steak,” says Jennifer Jackson, co-executive chef of Voyager in Ferndale.

Of course, the majority of any given animal does not consist of prime cuts. On a 1,000-pound steer, premium cuts are limited to about 120 pounds. And the typical steer the Romines get is already smaller than feedlot steer, which are loaded up with hormones, antibiotics and/or starch-heavy processed foods that make them gain weight faster. “The mass market changes the way the animals are treated and raised and the quality of the end product,” says Mike. “We’re here to change the dynamic and put the focus back on quality, animal welfare, sustainable lives for farmers and worker safety.”

Farm Field TableCourtesy of Farm Field Table

The Romines practice what they preach: They bring in about 10,000 pounds of locally farmed products weekly.  “What could be a better investment in your health than the food you need to sustain your life?” says Mike, referring to the anti-inflammatory, omega-3 fats found in grass-fed animal products. “Our steaks cost about 25 percent more than a standard grocery store steak. Eat 25% less, and you’ll pay the same amount for a better product. Besides, it’s so much more flavorful that you don’t need as much of it.” He himself lost about 40 pounds when he switched from eating conventional feedlot-style meats to 100 percent grass-fed products. Adds Matt, “It’s about eating less meat, but eating better meat.”

Farm Field Table is expanding: A new location, which also features sustainable seafood, is opening in Grosse Pointe (as of press time, it was slated for late December). Next up will be Lake Orion, where Mike lives; from there, the brothers hope to expand across southwestern Michigan. “We have a love for these products that goes beyond what most people have,” says Mike, whose paintings of mangalitsa pigs from his own farm adorn the walls of the Ferndale shop. “It’s a higher level of care and commitment to these creatures. They deserve that.” 

Find out more about Farm Field Table’s philosophies, products and workshops at farmfieldtable.com

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