Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Win A Trip to Meet Our Best Butchers at Meatopia

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, July 16, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

Their talent is rare; their job is well done. For the last few months, butchers from our stores across the nation have competed to see who will make the cut and become Whole Foods Market’s 2nd annual Best Butcher.

This Saturday, 11 regional champions will converge on Denver, Portland and Washington, D.C. for national semifinals events. The Best Butcher contest is a fierce battle of craft, yield and merchandising. Only the top finisher in each semifinal competition will be rewarded with victory…and a trip to the national Best Butcher finals, September 8 at Meatopia in New York City!

Our butchers aren’t the only winners; we’ve teamed up with Thrillist to reward a lucky, meat lover with a trip for two to Meatopia (air travel, hotel, VIP treatment – you’ll be top dog). Click here or read on to find out how to enter to win.

With the national title of “Best Butcher” at stake, the three butchers that make it to the finals at Meatopia will not only will have to efficiently and accurately cut and merchandise the meat from various primals, but they’ll also have to create a new cut – a steak, chop or roast the world has never seen before. (The winner’s new cut will be on sale exclusively at Whole Foods Market starting September 15.)


Butchery is an art, and the Whole Foods Market® meat teams genuinely respect the traditions of the trade. We invest in our butchers and have trained butchers in every single store, which really sets us apart. In addition to regular training for the meat department, we offer an apprenticeship program to help new meat cutters learn the ins and outs of butchery. This competition both celebrates these highly regarded in-house butchers and puts the spotlight on butchery — a pursuit that takes a high degree of skill and years of experience to master.

We see this event as a great way to place an emphasis on where our meat comes from. It’s often easy to forget that the burger, steak or drumstick on your plate was once an animal. How was that animal raised? How was it treated? Where did it come from? What about added hormones and antibiotics? Was its growth artificially accelerated to get to market sooner and reduce feed cost? How can we use all of the animal rather than having parts go to waste? We know some people choose not to eat meat and that’s fine. But if you do, we think that the more you know about our meat, the better.

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


Love beef? Passionate about pork? Thrillistthe free daily email that sifts through the junk to find the best of what’s new in your ‘hood – and Whole Foods Market are sending a few lucky winners to New York’s Meatopia on September 8 to cheer on our top butchers at the finals, enjoy live music and dine on meat prepared by great chefs including Michael White (Marea), Michael Psilakis (Kefi), Aaron Franklin (Franklin’s BBQ) and Naomi Pomeroy (Beast). Enter to win on the Thrillist site.

No matter how you cut it; these 11 US regional champions are some of the most skilled butchers in the business. We honor these Whole Foods Market butchers, whose skills are as sharp as their blades:




Rocky Mountain: Andy “The Animal” Alcorn

30 years as a butcher, nine of them with Whole Foods Market.

Favorite cut: Sirloin flap steak  




Northern California: John “Kabali” Kalabolas

10 years as a butcher, five of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: ribeye steak  




Florida: Robert “Da Bull” Duran

25 years as a butcher, five months with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: Ribeye




South: Soua "The Master Blaster" Yang

Seven years as a butcher, six of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: Ribeye




North Atlantic: Joey "Meat Hooks" Malito

36 years as a butcher

Favorite cut: Porterhouse




Northeast: Armand "The Arm" Ferrante

40 years as a butcher, one of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: New York Strip



Pacific Northwest: Nate "Nate Dog" Hornbeak

17 years as a butcher, eight of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: Bone-in Ribeye




Southern Pacific: Rafa "The Legend" Rodriguez

37 years as a butcher, 27 of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: Ribeye




Midwest: Frank "The Tank" Danielczyk

42 years as a butcher, five of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: New York Strip




Southwest: Tim “Big Hands” Hagele

8 years as a butcher, two of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: Ribeye




Mid Atlantic: Larry "Big Man" Mola

20 years as a butcher, 10 of them with Whole Foods Market

Favorite cut: Ribeye



If you’re in the Denver, Portland and Washington, D.C. area this Saturday, join us and cheer on your favorite store butcher. Reach out to your local store for event details.

Make sure to visit Thrillist for a chance to win a trip to the finals at Meatopia in September! This is trip will be a cut above the rest.

Is your local butcher headed to the heated semifinals this weekend? If so, send him your best wishes in the comments section below.  

Category: Contests, Meat




Tracey M. says ...
My husband Kirk loves his filet mignon with a Thai curry sauce. I like a petite cut thick with horseradish suce. I also like lamb chops too with mint jelly.Thick cut pork chops crusted with Hazelnut and a side of baked apples . I can think of sooooooo many meat recipes but these are the favorites
07/18/2012 8:41:42 PM CDT
Michael Feldman says ...
Do you know how many vegetarians and vegans shop at Whole Foods? Maybe you should think twice before promoting something so down right disgusting and offensive to people who don't eat meat and who fight for the abolition of animal suffering. I'm sorry but this whole contest and promotion is perverse and is making me think twice about shopping at your supermarkets anymore.
07/18/2012 10:00:06 PM CDT
karen seligman says ...
I am totally disgusted. I'm surprised and disappointed in you, Whole Foods. As a vegan and a compassionate soul I find your contest to be highly insensitive to your vegan customers. I will no shop at your store any longer...and I will share this with my vegan/vegetarian friends as well.
07/18/2012 10:32:49 PM CDT
Anthony says ...
I'm not shopping there anymore either, as vegatarians or vegans, we do not need many places for shopping for food. Not coming there anymore, take care.
07/18/2012 10:35:12 PM CDT
Phyllis says ...
I shop at Whole Foods.....I am vegan, I find this contest very offensive. I'm sure any vegetarian or vegan shopping at Whole Foods would feel the same. Promoting the "art" of butchering slaughtered animals is disturbing. I'm very surprised at Whole Foods.
07/18/2012 10:47:20 PM CDT
Devin McCormick says ...
What a horrible thing to promote. Promoting the killing of animals is not an ethical contest that should be encouraged. Just because its legal to kill animals for humans taste for blood doesn't mean you should promote such a vile act. Why doesn't Whole Foods promote a contest of your chefs to create a vegan meal?
07/19/2012 12:22:11 AM CDT
Linda McCracken says ...
Dear Sirs, I believe it's time for us to stop supporting Whole Foods Market.This would include my family, my friends, my friend's friends and everyone we can reach on the web. The animals to be slaughterd & butchered that you are promoting have been raised on the grain that could feed so many hungry people. Please move forward by not promoting the slaughter of animals for food. Please start discouraging it by encouraging and providing quality grains & vegetation for us humans to eat. If you truly care about whole and wholesome food you need to get the bloody body fluids from animals out of our mouths & system. Regards, Linda McCracken
07/19/2012 12:54:41 AM CDT
Camilla Allegret says ...
This is just bloody disgusting! There is nothing good to be said about killing animals. I hope that one day you will get rid of the bacon that must be clogging your eyes and brains and see the truth.
07/19/2012 2:45:36 AM CDT
07/19/2012 6:26:39 AM CDT
Jeanne K. says ...
Always the friendliest employees in 'my' Whole Foods! Willing to suggest cuts and tips on how to cook them! You're the best!
07/19/2012 7:22:51 AM CDT
mary says ...
What a horrific display, to celebrate dismembering an animal's body. No matter how these sentient beings are raised, slaughter and butchering their dead bodies are acts of violence.
07/19/2012 8:33:43 AM CDT
Tina S. (PA) says ...
This is just SICK !!Whole Foods, you have been going in the wrong direction for years now.....this proves it !! My friends & family rarely shop at your stores because you don't care anymore about customers. Guess you made your $$ & now, so what! Very sad.....& disappointing.
07/19/2012 8:47:36 AM CDT
Chris says ...
There are those who are vegetarians and vegans for religious or ethical reasons, which is fine, but is vitriol going to encourage others to become vegetarians/vegans? For those who do not wish to embrace this lifestyle, how the animals are cared for and how meat is respectfully handled is important. Is this a forum for vegetarian/vegan vs omnivore? I have found the Whole Foods people are just as passionate about making life better for all, encouraging fair trade, sustainable products, etc as well as being informed and making suggestions when asked to.
07/19/2012 1:22:14 PM CDT
Danielle says ...
I love the quality of the meat at whole foods, as well as the freshness. I also greatly appreciate the fact that animals that the meat come from is grown without hormones or pesticides. I also think that it is great that you are taking the time to celebrate the people who work hard to make sure that the quality of meat at whole foods remains the best that it can. I think that every company should celebrate there workers and show them that they are appreciated for the job that they do. That is compassion and humane(ity).
07/19/2012 2:05:05 PM CDT
Jessica Schlueter says ...
This is so deeply upsetting. I've been watching Whole Foods ramp up their promotion of eating dead animals and their bodily fluids over the past year and find it incredibly disheartening. While my Whole Foods in Venice, CA is one of the most vegan-friendly I've seen, it still nauseates me to have to walk through the morgue section on my way to pick out wine. I can only hope that vegan grocery stores like Viva La Vegan continue to pop up, so I can move away from shopping at Whole Foods until they stop selling toxic products like meat, dairy & eggs. Very disappointed, Whole Foods.
07/19/2012 3:04:02 PM CDT
Jo Lombardi says ...
This contest is disgusting..I can't even get through reading the whole ad without feeling a rage!!! As a compassionate vegan reading about this contest, I now see Whole Foods as contributing to the demise of sentient beings...and calling it an "art". Seriously??????? No more Whole Foods for me and every vegan I can tell about this atrocity!!!
07/19/2012 6:02:34 PM CDT
Mary Davis says ...
That's some fantastic skills! Properly butchering....THANKS, guys!
07/19/2012 7:20:38 PM CDT
Alan Smithee says ...
Whole Foods, don't listen to these vegan/vegetarians. I, for one, support the care you all put into the meats you sell. This contest is a great way to meet those who help make it happen.
07/19/2012 8:24:09 PM CDT
Dee C says ...
As a former customer of your West Hartford & Glastonbury, CT stores, I have to say this has finally done it for me. Though I appreciate your wanting to provide quality meat to your meat eating customers, you have been steadily becoming a disappointment to many of your vegetarian and vegan customers. Displaying the dismemberment of an animal and making a contest of it is very distasteful. You promote the care of the animals while alive and seem to believe that the constant breeding of animals for food is ok, even though it still effects our planet no matter how nice they are cared for or fed. They also go to the same slaughter houses as a cow that was given antibiotics et, fed animal by-products, and will be sent through the same line, killed the same way. Good Bye Whole Foods, Dee C & family of 12
07/19/2012 10:52:09 PM CDT
Madchen says ...
As a long time Whole Foods customer and animal lover, I find it very distasteful and disappointing of you, to hold a butcher contest and support & encourage the dismantling of another being. I can understand why your store still sells animal products to those people less enlightened or that don't care about their health, but for us who are aware & conscious, your promotion is a slap in the face! Besides, there's really nothing healthy about eating animal products, as you should be aware of, since your stores sell educational material from Dr.Campbell, Prof.Dr.Esselstyn and alike, that talk about the degrading health effects of animal products on humans. I would sincerely appreciate the withdrawal of this outrageous contest, and an apology to us vegetarian/vegans. Thank you!
07/20/2012 1:39:06 PM CDT
Maddy says ...
This is downright disgusting and disturbing! I was a regular shopper at Whole Foods. Never ever gonna shop at Whole Foods from now on. Instead of increasing the floor space of your veggie section, WF is promoting these kind of contests? Shame on you WF!
07/20/2012 2:08:09 PM CDT
Joshua says ...
07/20/2012 5:31:36 PM CDT
Blair says ...
Conventional supermarkets are rapidly expanding their vegan offerings w/ multiple designated aisles, and Whole Foods sees fit to turn its back on all that which it postures to advance? Run a cost/benefit analysis on partaking this sick event.
07/20/2012 5:37:59 PM CDT
Rick West says ...
FREAKING WOW !!!! I had only heard of WF in passing. They only need 1 thing now me in there Mt. Dpt. ! 20years exp. !
07/22/2012 7:32:24 AM CDT
Vee Fiore says ...
This is very disappointing to say the least. I have a large circle of friends and contacts. I was planning to feature Whole Foods as a location where to shop. This will only happen if you don't pull this contest. There is no pride in killing animals, it's an unfortunate left over cultural habit from many years which has now become a tremendous market. This is all about money instead of caring for the health of our fellow human beings, the billions of animals that are slaughtered for food, clothes and more, and our environment that suffers greatly due to animal farming. I'm glad that I have Trader Joe's, Sprouts and others to promote. Even though both carry animal products (for now) they at least don't go out of their way promoting it like your Coroporation. Should you pull this contest, I will consider promoting you on my newly launched site which is spreading across the country (and world) like wildfire. For now, that will not happen. Victoria from Naked Core
07/22/2012 1:45:03 PM CDT