Son of a Butcher
Eighth Generation Meat Master at the Top of His Game
Dario Cecchini is convinced that when he passes away he will be reborn as a cow. That possibility, however, doesn’t bother him as much as the thought of “returning” as a slab of frozen beef at a fast-food restaurant.
As an eighth generation butcher—whose family has been in the business for more than 250 years in a small Tuscan village—the art of butchery is in this native Italian’s blood. Cecchini had no intentions, in fact, of delving into the family business until a tragedy struck, taking his parents away when he was 21. With no other means of support, he reluctantly found himself dropping out of a veterinary science program at college and taking over the reins at the family business.
The dreaded “cage,” as he labeled the shop, felt like a prison to him, but he was determined to turn his new profession into a positive experience.
“The entire tradition of my family was on my shoulders,” Cecchini recalled. “My great luck and what I was found to be good at was that I was able to transform this ‘cage’ into my own sort of liberty, my own sort of freedom. I found that as soon as I discovered what to be, I was also able to incorporate honoring my family in my job.”
He sought to not only be one of the best butchers, but also one of the most visible so that he could pass on the traditions to the next generation.
“I found that in becoming more well-known than your average butcher, I was able to give hope to all the other butchers who were really feeling the squeeze the competition from supermarkets,” he explained. “I was able to help them find dignity in their artisan butchery work. And I found that I was able to explain to others the responsibility of being a carnivore.”
Part of that responsibility as carnivores, he said, is to guarantee the animals a good life, a compassionate death as much as possible and to insure that every cut of the animal is used well.
Three solid years of veterinary science training and 40 years in the trenches have helped Cecchini achieve international recognition, yet he remains humble, especially when discussing the animals. More than anything, he stresses to younger butchers the importance of honoring the animals first and foremost.
“If you can manage to use every single part of the animal well, what you are doing then is honoring the animal,” he continued. “It certainly makes economic sense, but more than anything you can then afford to help the animals lead a good life. And you kill fewer animals. Hopefully, if things go well, you’re killing an animal that’s had a good, long life with a compassionate death that’s as painless as possible.”
“If you can manage to use every single part of the animal well, what you are doing then is honoring the animal.”
– Dario Cecchini