The Herbivorous Butcher: a meat-free paradox
Forgoing an educational degree, BSM alum Kale Walch has followed his passion and, along with his sister, opened the first vegan butcher shop in America.
April 16, 2015
At a butcher shop, one might expect to find meat, fish, and other carnivorous options. Kale Walch, BSM ‘12 alum, has a different idea for what a butcher should sell. He has started the Herbivorous Butcher, the first ever vegan butcher shop in America, to offer meats and cheeses to people who opt to live the vegan style of life and refrain from eating animal byproducts.
The Herbivorous Butcher Shop, opened in June 2014, is intended to substitute regular meats and cheeses for vegan options for people not complying with a meat-based diet. “At its most basic level, we at the Herbivorous Butcher make the finest Meat-Free-Meats, and Cheese-Free-Cheeses in the world––all vegan, of course,” Walch said.
In addition to wanting to allow vegans another option for healthy food, the Herbivorous Butcher also aims to do good things for the environment and respect rights of animals that their carnivorous counterparts put into harm. “We are working to make a huge impact on the environment, on the health of the people of the world, and on the lives and rights of the animals that are being devastated by the meat and dairy industry,” Walch said.
The shop, which has been growing rapidly since it opened, will move from its temporary locations at different venues to open their own permanent shop, located in Northeast Minneapolis and will be open six days a week. “Due to the rapid rise in demand for our product, we are slated to break ground on our first storefront in a few weeks,” Walch said.
Walch did not always think he would open up a butcher shop. After considering a career in the medical field and later going to a bible college for a year to train to become a pastor, Walch found a passion for making vegan foods that continued to improve in quality. “I had been making vegan meats for myself since I went vegan, and after countless failed experiments, they started to get good––exceptionally so in fact. We wrote a business plan, hired a graphic designer, and with my leftover tip money from my serving job, launched The Herbivorous Butcher on June 7, 2014,” Walch said.
Walch started the shop because he is a committed vegan but also likes the meaty flavors that he enjoyed when he was younger. “I was a hungry vegan that missed the meaty flavors of my youth,” Walch said. “After realizing that I could make a real impact on the world through these “meats,” it morphed from a passion into a career faster than I could have imagined.”
He is not alone in running the shop. He has created a collaborative team with his sister that uses their unique skills to make sure the operation runs smoothly. “My sister and I started the shop ourselves, and have done all the cooking ourselves since day one. Our division of labor suits us well; I develop all the recipes, do most of the cooking, and sell the products face-to-face every weekend. My sister is more skilled on the business end,” Walch said.
The job of running the joint is not easy. It is not boring either, as they have something new to try every week and are always adding items to the menu. “My favorite thing about the shop is that every day is different; we try to introduce a new product every week which is always an adventure,” Walch said. “If I have any spare time after I get home from the Shop or my serving job, I work on developing and writing new recipes at home.”
While Walch does believe that BSM helped him transition from school to the work force, he also has learned things through his experience that a classroom setting cannot teach. “Owning and growing a small business requires many skills that have to be acquired through failure and practice, skills that they can’t teach you in any school,” Walch said.
He adds that there definitely are downsides to not pursuing an educational degree after high school, but he also could not imagine passing up this opportunity. “The prospect of doing something truly extraordinary was too much for me to resist – I had to take it,” Walch said.
As far as the food is concerned, they have been selling out on all of their products weekly, which range from vegan meats to cheeses that are unique to today’s food market. “Since day one, we’ve had five regular products: Italian Sausage, Smoky House BBQ Ribs, Teriyaki Jerky, Pepperoni, and Bologna,” Walch said. “Recently, we’ve started to offer Vegan Cheese which is leagues better than anything on the market.”
Walch and his team of workers want to accomplish far more than just one shop in Minneapolis, eventually expanding to other parts of the country and the world. “After we open up the storefront here, we plan on using a hub-and-spoke model around the country. For example, we hope to open up another shop in Portland next year that will be able to service the West Coast,” Walch said.
The rarity of a vegan butcher shop, being the first ever in America, will help with its spread and publicity around the world. In addition, being mentioned on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has also attracted an unbelievable amount of attention to their shop. “We got 7,000 Facebook likes within a month I think, and we’ve had lines out the door ever since, so Jimmy’s joke kinda backfired on him,” Walch said.