Growing up, John Stephan had the best of city and country life. While living on the North Shore of Chicago, he frequently helped on his grandparents’ dairy and produce farm. His grandmother, who was of German and Dutch decent, would often send Stephan to the neighborhood butcher to pick up items. “I grew up with something that a lot of people haven’t,” says Stephan. “(Butchery) is one of the trades we see less and less of.” It is, in part, the respect for the craft of butchery that led the Stapleton resident to open The Juniper Pig, a culinary butchery and charcuterie in the Stanley Marketplace.
All of The Juniper Pig’s animal products are sourced from producers whose animals are pasture-raised, and are antibiotic and hormone-free. Almost all are Colorado companies. “When we look for the producers, we look at the animal husbandry—how humane their practices are in the raising of their livestock, where those animals are slaughtered, what’s the level of the certification—so we try to honor that all the way through the process,” says Stephan.
“When you make a conscious decision to avoid supplementing feed with antibiotics and other hormones to increase those weight gains, that market weight is less—you’re going to get less for that animal. So the cost-per-pound to raise that animal is significantly higher than your average factory farm,” Stephan says. That cost gets passed to the consumer, but Stephan and his team feel the flavor, quality, health factors and respect for the animal make it worth it for the consumer.
Stephan’s appreciation for and understanding of animals started on his family’s farm. That time also influenced his career choice to become a veterinarian, specializing in surgery, a job he continues to do full-time. “All vets are trained in public health with animals and epidemiology, which I see as an extension of the respect for the animal I learned in my youth,” Stephan says. As a veterinarian, he is very conscious that his patient group of dogs and cats doesn’t have the ability to reason or fully understand their illness. “I view that as a greater challenge as a diagnostician than working with people who do have the ability to reason, talk to you and explain,” he says.
While some may find it ironic that a veterinary surgeon owns a butcher shop, Stephan disagrees. “Over the millennia, mankind has utilized animals for food products. I think veterinarians, as a group, have an extremely high level of understanding of the use of animals and the respect of them. So what better person to help act as a filter to find the producers out there that are trying to do the right thing, trying to bring their product to the family dinner table and doing it in the right way.”
The Juniper Pig offers whole-animal butchery, dry-aged meats, house-made deli meats and sausages and rotisserie items including whole chickens, pork porchetta and roasted vegetables. Sandwiches, salads and rotisserie items are available to-go and all items can be pre-ordered, packaged and ready to pick up for people on-the-go. While Stephan works primarily behind the scenes, The Juniper Pig team has three on-site staffers who all have culinary training as well as butchery expertise and can offer ideas and tips for preparation.
Stephan and his team want to become the neighborhood butcher, getting to know customers and their tastes and needs. They also plan to offer classes and demonstrations in sausage-making and butchery, not only to help customers, but to pass on his appreciation of old-world techniques.
“I truly look at butchery as a craft,” says Stephan. “It has been taught that way in other countries with a high level of respect and precision like the Germans, Italians and French. It’s truly a craft and we’re trying to honor that.”
Contact The Juniper Pig at 720.328.8930.