A boutique butcher is a butcher who cuts his or her meat on site, rather than purchasing it packaged from a distributor. Typically, he or she also makes specialty foods such as sausage and smoked meats. In addition, some butchers will offer butchering services to hunters and farmers who bring in animals to be butchered. Although the number of these butchers is declining, due to the increased centralization of food supply in many parts of the world, some medium sized communities have at least one, and many cities have several, primarily serving high end restaurants.
The most important distinguishing feature of a boutique butcher as opposed to a meat counter is the butcher's cold storage abilities. If the butcher buys from a distributor, he or she purchases whole animals rather than cuts of meat. Many do not buy from distributors, but instead source their meats from local farms which are inspected for safety by government agencies. A boutique butcher may have several animals in cold storage waiting to be butchered, and often offers dry aged meats in addition to wet aged and fresh.
Because a boutique butcher works with whole animals, more unusual cuts of meat and body parts are available to clients. Kidneys, liver, tripe, and other organs which are not available through commercial distributors are available at a boutique butcher. He or she can also offer unusual cuts of steaks and roasts that require more artistry than a meat distributor can provide, and also tends to be more knowledgeable about meat. Customers who want more information about where the meat comes from and how to cook it often prefer going to a boutique butcher for this reason.
Some boutique butchers are also talented chefs, and provide a deli case full of specially seasoned ground meats, marinated roasts, a wide variety of sausages, cured meats, and other meat related foods. In addition, most offer poultry and various poultry cuts. Although not all offer fresh fish, many offer smoked or marinated fish as part of their services. In some cases, they will also carry a limited selection of other products like wine and cooking tools.
Another important aspect of this type of business is the ability to handle non-commercial meats. In some cases, a boutique butcher will travel to a farm to slaughter and butcher animals for private consumption. In others, members of the community can bring slaughtered animals such as deer, pigs, poultry, and cattle to the butcher for him or her to butcher and package. These animals are also intended for private consumption, because they cannot legally be sold since they have not been inspected. However, taking them to a professional butcher ensures that the best cuts of meat are obtained with minimal wastage.