Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

We've Crowned our Best Butcher

Our butchers are a cut above the rest, and we just crowned the king.

Of some 3,000 meat cutters working in our stores, 300 competed nationally to be the Best Butcher, and just three made it to our 2nd annual Best Butcher Competition, held September 8 at Meatopia in New York.

Our finalists were:

  • John "Kabali" Kalabolas (West Coast champion from our Lafayette, California store in our Northern California Region)
  • Andy "The Animal" Alcorn (Central US champion from our Fort Collins, Colorado store in our  Rocky Mountain Region)
  • Armand "The Arm" Ferrante (East Coast Champion from our Middletown, New Jersey store in our Northeast Region)

The Best Butcher Competition is our way of celebrating our skilled butchers and shines the spotlight on the tradition and craft of butchery — a pursuit that takes a high degree of skill and years of experience to master.

At Meatopia the three finalists were tasked with crafting a turducken (for those of you not familiar with this particular delicacy it’s duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey) and merchandising a whole lamb. These tests were a surprise, so there was no way to practice. For the ultimate challenge, the three gentlemen had to create a new beef item – a steak, chop or roast the world has never seen (or tasted) before.

The butchers performed beautifully, despite the rain, smoke, and hungry crowds. In the end, judges awarded Best Butcher prize to Armand “The Arm” Ferrante.

Congratulations, Armand! Your 40 years as a butcher have clearly paid off, and we are lucky to have you.

You’ve never had beef like this before, and you’ll only find it here.

Armand’s Jersey Boneless Short Rib steak will be available nowhere else but at our stores (US and Canada only) for just $8.99/lb. Butchers at all Whole Foods Market stores will be creating this cut for you to try!

A great value and a versatile cut, the Jersey Boneless Short Rib steak starts with a four-bone short rib. Armand detaches the bones from the still-connected short rib meat to create a steak that’s an excellent choice for shoppers seeking tender beef at a friendly price. Designed with grilling in mind, this is a value cut that Armand says can also be marinated or rubbed, roasted or braised/slow-cooked.

Looking for the best way to season and prep the new Jersey Boneless Short Rib? Try this tasty spice blend courtesy of Chef Tim Byres, owner and chef of Smoke and Chicken Scratch restaurants in Dallas, Texas.



The more you know about our meat, the better™

At Whole Foods Market, our quality standards for meat include no antibiotics – ever, no added hormones* and no animal byproducts in feed. Plus, all of the beef, pork and chicken sold in our meat department, comes from farms and ranches that are certified to Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system.

* Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork, poultry, goat, veal and bison.

And while not everyone is as crazy about butchers, grilling and the pursuit of the perfect steak as the folks at Meatopia, meat standards that improve the quality of our food and animal welfare is worth celebrating. (And celebrate we did – Armand’s entire family came to the competition to cheer him on, along with his fellow Meat Department team members!)

Our expert butchers are ready and waiting for your meatiest questions, because the more you know about our meat, the better.

What’s your favorite way to cook meat? Will you try the new cut?

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Jim says …

This is a great contest , I wish my employer did the samething the hats off to Wholefoods they realize the importance of meat sales to the grocery shopper.

Kevin Rebolledo says …

Great flavor! I have all of those ingredients. My attempt will be a Top Loin Steak. Good job mate!

Sandra L Brock says …

I've always loved short ribs, they're so tender and delicious! Several years ago, Martha Stewart did a show on one of her favorite restaurant....Balthazar (sp?) in New York City and a receipe for short ribs. A year later I met my oldest daughter in NYC and we were able to get into the restaurant by sitting in the bar (around 4:00 pm) since we couldn't make a reservation for dinner. We were there for two and a half hours before they started serving dinner. Of course I ordered the short ribs (only served on Sat. night at that time) and I wish I could have eaten 10 more orders. They were incredible!!!! I guess it's obvious that I can't wait to try this receipe. Thank you for providing such wonderful options in your butcher meat department.

Judi Ahram says …

Congratulations Armand ! We've known for years your meats and you are the BEST ! Thanks for serving us at ElderWatch Plus, such great food. j

Barbara McCarthy says …

While I'm sure these guys are great, I love our meat guy Roger previously from the Calhoun MN store and now the Edina MN store! Go Roger!

Patti says …

Congratulations! You are a great butcher! You have helped me many times and I appreciate you!

William Dykes says …

My daughter and son in law both work for your Nashville Green Hills store-I live 300 miles away in Johnson CIty TN-sure wish we had access to your store-it is a pleasure to shop at them-the Asheville acquisition of Green Life is not the same -trust me!

Marlaine Hogben says …

I LUV Whole Foods here in Vancouver, British Columbia. I shop at the Park Royal store where the staff are most helpful ... it must be that they truly like their work interacting with customers, always a good sign! I just viewed the video on your recently introduced short ribs and have a comment to make. The demonstrator scooped the rub mix with his fingers, rubbed it over the meat, then dipped his fingers back into the rub mix, repeating the process. NO DOUBLE DIPPING! There could be possible contamination for the next time that rub mix is used, unless of course the rest of it was thrown out. I don't know how long bacteria linger but leaving any trace of raw meat in a rub mix is definitely unhealthy. No one should double dip whether cooking at home or doing a demonstration. A scoop/spoon could have been used or simply reminding the audience (the world) to use only enough rub mix in a bowl for that prep and discard what is not used. Sincerely, Marlaine in Canada.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARLAINE - The video was filmed only as a demonstration and the meat was not served to anyone. We appreciate your feedback and I will pass along your thoughts of using a spoon or scoop next time. Thanks!

Rick Spencer says …

How does one go about entering the 2013 Best Butcher Competition?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RICK - This competition is for our team member butchers only. If you are a team member, check with your Team Leader to find out how to enter!