Cara Nicoletti has been in the meat industry for her entire life. The fourth-generation butcher’s grandfather, Seymour Salett, ran Salett’s butcher shop for 60 years, and Nicoletti herself has worked in shops such as the Meat Hook in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Nicoletti naturally gravitated towards whole-meat butchering. In her time working in butcher shops, she said she noticed that customers were coming back day after day to buy meat, which she found to be unsustainable.
“It didn’t seem like a sustainable way to eat for me,” said Nicoletti. “I tried to make a veggie burger but the customers weren’t into it, so I started sneaking vegetables in the sausages I was making.”
Nicoletti was drawn to making sausages, which she used to hand-make in her store. Sausages were a great option, she said, because they offer options to be more sustainable in terms of affordability and flavor.
“I gravitated to butchery and sausages because it’s the first sustainable-minded food,” said Nicoletti. “I tried to stretch that, make it stretch further, but I couldn’t keep up.”
Nicoletti partnered up with her friend Ariel Hauptman to launch her new venture, Seemore Meats & Veggies, in February 2020. Named after Nicoletti’s grandfather, Seemore Meats & Veggies is one of the first exclusively women-owned-and-operated butcher businesses in the United States.
The company aims to make eating meat more sustainable by packing vegetables into the sausages, creating delicious flavors based on popular meals, all while encouraging customers to lessen their meat consumption. Current flavors include La Dolce Beet-A (made with pork, fresh beets, garlic, and fennel), the Broccoli Melt (made with pork, broccolini, Monterey jack, and pepperoncini), and the Loaded Baked Potato (made with pork, potatoes, cheddar, uncured bacon bits and chives), among other customer-favorites.
“At first I wanted to kind of hide the vegetables. I knew that the customers weren’t keen on lessening meat consumption, so I created flavors that were familiar to them,” Nicoletti said. “One way is to mimic dishes that incorporate both. I almost wanted my sausages to be the gum in ‘Willy Wonka.’ [I wanted to] reduce meat consumption, and make it as accessible and easy as possible while giving them familiar flavors that they love.”
An unconventional grind
Nicoletti recognizes how strange it might sound to be a butcher that is trying to lessen the world’s meat consumption.
“It doesn’t make a ton of logical sense, but I think it’s becoming more mainstream knowledge that eating too much meat is not good for your body and the planet. We can adapt and change,” she said. “I believe in the power of regenerative farming. We have the power to do amazing things in regards to climate change and have to lessen the dependence on meat to get there.”
Seemore Meats & Veggies launched right before much of the city shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicoletti says that one of the hardest parts about starting a business amid the shutdown was that they weren’t able to demo their product in stores.
“Our product is such a demo product, getting people to buy new meat is really hard,” said Nicoletti. “Not being able to be in stores and traveling has been hard. A lot of big stores took a halt on new brands during the pandemic.”
However, she says she’s been able to find the bright side in it, acknowledging that the pandemic has been good for identifying problems in the meat industry itself.
“In some ways, it has been amazing. I think the pandemic shone a light on some really major issues in the meat industry that maybe we weren’t aware of before,” said Nicoletti. “These were problems that I wanted to tackle and why I started. We were fortunate that we could operate outside of that system. It’s been interesting for sure, but if we can survive this year, we can survive anything.”
Seemore Meats & Veggies sausages are available for purchase online and in Whole Foods across New York and New Jersey, as well as other stores in the area. As she continues to grow her business, Nicoletti hopes that more women will get involved in the meat industry, which is traditionally a male-dominated field.
She also hopes to expand Seemore Meats & Veggies with new affordable products and partnerships with local farmers.
“I’m really hoping to expand into more than sausages, like to get into different meat items under the same banner of less meat, not meatless. I want to replace people’s normal meat to reduce consumption,” said Nicoletti. “I’d like to touch more areas of the supermarket and keep growing, and to reduce prices and create things that are more affordable to everybody.”
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.