Talking Local Food in Kansas City with Local Pig Founder Alex Pope
The Local Pig is about eating local. This isn’t a new concept, in fact – it’s something we did in this country as a matter of necessity less than 70 years ago. Put simply, we ate what was produced nearby, likely by farmers whose fields, pastures, and pens we passed by to and from work. Over time, the numbers among us who actually live near where our food is produced has dwindled considerably, but the “charm” of going local with food is at an all time high.
The Local Pig Overview – with Alex Pope
When I hear the phrase “eat local” these days, it comes across as a call to action. “Be more responsible with your food choices, man!” Then there’s the term”Locally Sourced” – wording used by restaurants, specialty food purveyors, and socially conscious folks to let you know they have a vested interest in preserving the “old ways” of food production.
In this BBQ Beat Podcast session, I speak with Alex Pope, founder of The Local Pig butcher shop located in the East Bottoms neighborhood in Kansas City. I think you’ll agree after listening to the podcast session above and reading what I’ve provided below, that The Local Pig should be congratulated for keeping its roots firmly planted in the past while encouraging more of us to eat better both now, and into the future.
What You’ll Hear in this Session with Alex Pope
As you listen to this podcast session, please pay special attention to the way we discuss the term “local.”
Alex explains that we can use it in a broad sense – meaning food that’s produced responsibly in a sustainable manner – rather than only referring to that which is raised or produced right next door. I’m thinking within say, 100 miles or so still fits, which is what The Local Pig uses as a criteria.
The Local Pig and Charcuterie
You’ll hear Alex talking about Charcuterie in the audio session above. I’ve long been fascinated by the art of transforming cuts of meat into cured delights, ever since I read Bill Buford’s book Heat. He’ll give the meaning and some background about the term, in case it’s unfamiliar to you.
Listen also in this video as it speaks about what “transparency” means to how The Local Pig operates. It’s always good to deal with businesses who believe in a “what you see is what you get” philosophy. No tricks. No gimmicks. Nothing cute. Just real food prepared with skill using high quality, locally sourced ingredients.
Think of The Local Pig as a “Meat Candy Store.”
Operationally, you can liken The Local Pig to a 1930s era butcher store. This video gives you a cool glimpse into what these folks are up to. Take a look.
Practicing Vertical Integration and Sustainability
The mindset put forth in this video is cool in that it expresses something I’ve felt for a long time. Namely, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity. High quality meat stays with you. It’s nutrient dense, so you don’t need as much of it as you might when eating lower-grade commodity protein.
I also love the way the business plan for The Local Pig took shape. The initial business model for the Local Pig was to sell to businesses rather than the general public. That being the case, Alex and his business partner didn’t have to focus on location when deciding where to set up shop. You’d never do this if you were relying on foot traffic. Word got out over time, and now people make a point to get to where The Local Pig is situated.
Putting Employees First Translates Into Amazing Customer Experiences
I have a lot of respect for how Alex is running his business at The Local Pig. You’ll notice throughout our talk that he applies the concept of sustainability not only to the butcher shop and sandwich operations, but also to the way in which his employees are treated.
Schedules are set six weeks in advance – so as to give the staff time to achieve a work/life balance. If you know anything about the food service industry, you know that work/life balance is in short supply!
This balance, and access to benefits typically that are increasingly hard to come by in service industry jobs, is why in a world where front and back of the house tenure runs really short – The Local Pig has folks on staff who have been there for years.
Lastly, Alex is gracious enough to share with us some of the lessons he’s learned from times in his career when things didn’t go as planned. So many times, we herald the successes but fail to give credit to what we learn when stuff doesn’t go as we’d hoped. If you’re presently struggling with a business venture related to the food industry, take what Alex shares in this session and see if you can apply it to your situation.
OK. Let’s get to the show notes!
Time Stamped Show Notes
- [1:30] Alex shares his background, is training as a chef, and his road to establishing operations at The Local Pig.
- [2:10] The Local Pig is a butcher shop that provides locally sourced and humanely raised meats with a big focus on producing Charcuterie.
- [2:58] I ask Alex to define for us what Charcuterie is, and he obliges!
- [4:04] I ask if the Local Pig has any of those cool white mold covered meats hanging about in the “old school” curing manner. The answer I receive prompts me to exclaim… “Pesky Health Department! Always getting in the way!”
- [5:32] Alex shares the “mission statement” element for the Local Pig in terms of where they really want their focus to be. Bringing locally sourced meats, raised well, prepared well, to the people of Kansas City 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
- [7:20] We talk a bit about the “farm to table” movement and the dynamic that surrounds it as more and more restaurants take up the label. Here we address the question of whether we’re getting the wool pulled over our eyes at times. Love his response!
- [9:16] People want transparency, they want to know where things come from.
- [10:52] People are getting great products, raised the right way, and prepared with care at a reasonable value.
- [12:20] Alex talks about the formation of the Pigwich Sandwich shop after having been open for a couple of years and what that has meant to the Local Pig as a business overall.
- [13:51] We get some background on the East Bottoms area of Kansas City and why Alex opted to open up the Local Pig there.
- [17:29] Alex talks about the biggest set back he’s experienced and lessons learned from it. Key point – “You only have so many hours in the day, and you gotta figure out the best way to spend them.”
- [20:34] We learn what Alex gets most excited about these days… and his answer is amazing. Like, small business employer of the year material.
- [22:54] “If you can keep your staff happy, and engaged, and productive – they’re going to do great things for you.”
- [26:06 ] I ask Alex if there was any hesitation moving from a stable gig in the restaurant world to being an entrepreneur with the Local Pig.
- [29:05] Alex explains what his current self would share with his younger self about starting the Local Pig as a business.
- [29:57] Hear the best piece of advice Alex received that still serves him well today.
- [30:58] Alex explains the important role that developing systems and best practices has played in the success of the Local Pig. In his words…”Consistency is the best thing we have going for us. Once you have a system in place, and you have a culture where everyone respects the systems, then things can run smoothly.”
- [33:24] Mark Gabrick of Brick’s BBQ here in Florida gets a nod for noticing inconsistencies in the restaurant business while visiting Texas BBQ joints.
- [34:10] I bet it was a sad day when the Local Pig stopped making Lamb Ham. I would so like to try it.
- [34:57] Alex shares his hands down favorite and top recommendation of On Food and Cooking as a book anyone interested in food should read. “I’m a believer that if you understand why something happens when you’re cooking, you can figure out how to improve it. It’ll make you a better cook.”
Final Thoughts and Takeaways from This Session with Alex Pope
I really appreciate the time Alex spent with me for this BBQ Beat podcast session. It’s very clear that he and his staff are intent on being a long-term part of the community there in the East Bottoms area of Kansas City. Even if the day should come that the Local Pig changes venues, I am confident that the business model Alex has established, one where customers and staff members are all treated with respect and given the promise of best quality attention, will ensure continued success.
If you want to learn more about The Local Pig, you can reach out to them directly via the following channels:
- Find The Local Pig on Facebook
- Visit the Local Pig’s Instagram Feed
- Tweet the Local Pig
- Visit The Local Pig’s Website here
- Article Featuring Sarah Breiby of The Local Pig
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