Bits 'n' Pieces: Prepare to meet your meat maker

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photoPeter Kurfurst, manager of Butcher Boys.

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If you ever want to sink your teeth into iguana, alligator, rattlesnake or emu, just ask Peter Kurfurst.

Kurfurst's parents Jim and Barbara opened Vancouver's Butcher Boys in 1969. Kurfurst is now the popular meat market's manager, running the show at a time of growth.

"(My dad) had worked in Portland in a meat market. That's what he knew and wanted to do," Kurfurst said.

He said his father moved to Vancouver and found no butcher shops, so he decided to start his own.

Kurfurst has spent more than 20 years learning the art of butchery, constantly picking up new processes and production methods. Butcher Boys has undergone its own evolution, recently buying a new building on Fourth Plain Boulevard. And because business has been booming in recent years, Kurfurst wants to add even more space.

He has seen a resurgence in the art of butchering.

"We're busier now than 10 years ago. People are liking the fact that they can talk to someone about the product, that they can do special orders and get exactly what they want," Kurfurst said.

There is no typical Butcher Boys customer, he said.

"In the 1970s, 1980s, it was mainly women who shopped in here," he said. But ever since cooking channels became popular on television, Kurfurst said more men in their early 30s and 40s are coming in to buy barbecue and smoking staples. "Guys are buying for the weekend," he said.

Some new customers can be intimidated by the store's 70-foot display case of meat, cut fresh every day. There is also a similar-sized frozen meat case.

"Everything we make in here is our own recipe, any of our marinades we mix them fresh," Kurfurst said. "Ninety percent (of the recipes are) my dad's. Why knock success? We've tweaked recipes, and tried stuff;I encourage the guys to experiment."

The homemade pepperoni and three flavors of bacon -- maple, hickory smoked and pepper -- are the big sellers. But Kurfurst can also acquire more exotic fare to satisfy even the most adventurous palate, including alligator and iguana.

And if you want to learn the art of butchery yourself? "We have taught most of the people who work in here," he said. "Clark College has a class on it, but really, this would be the best place to learn, where you're hands-on with whole hogs or carcasses of cattle."

The education isn't limited to his employees, Kurfurst said. He has learned to be a butcher in an industry that has become high-tech.

"The smoke houses, we run from my laptop at home," Kurfurst said. That's along with automated injectors and vacuum tumblers for marinated meats that crunch a 24-hour process down to 30 minutes.

"We have to stay on top of all that. Our plant is small but we're going to have all the same equipment that a big company has," Kurfurst said.

However, sticking to tradition, all the meat is still cut by hand.

Butcher Boys, 4710 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

— Ashley Swanson

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.