Chris Cuomo Takes a Stab at Being a Butcher

cuomo butcherAmanda Glick
cuomo butcher

After daring to leap off a tall building, battling for recipe supremacy and finding the most interesting AmeriCAN stories, "Good Morning America" anchor Chris Cuomo has set his sights on uncovering the toughest jobs.

VIDEO: Chris Cuomo looks into the culinary art of butchery.Play

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Chris' first tough job: what it takes to become a butcher.

Most people think of the grocery store meat aisle as a butcher shop, but foodies know the place to get the best cuts of meat are at local, independent butcher shops.

For many independent meat cutters, butchering is a family business. Such is the case for Chris' friend Andrew Buffalino, who comes from a family of butchers and is the chef at The Restaurant at the Inn at Quogue on New York's Long Island.

Buffalino was eager to show Chris just what it takes to be a butcher.

Learning the Language of Meat

Though Chris thought he knew the language of meat, he quickly realized butchers have a vocabulary all their own for everything from chops to chicken.

For example a "tail" in butcher-speak is an extra piece of meat that's usually cut off a porterhouse steak. But it's worth asking for, because it is perfect for stews.

And "cod fat" — it doesn't come from fish. It's soft fat that can be used to make roasts.

To gear up for the job, Chris started at Milton Abeles Wholesale in Port Washington, N.Y. Of course, Chris had to look the part. That meant getting a hair net, hat and requisite white coat.

Richard Abeles, the owner of Milton Abeles Wholesale, is a fourth-generation butcher; he's used to the tough conditions in the meat locker. Chris and Buffalino toured the meat locker, which is kept at a chilly 44 degrees and where he found row upon row of hanging quarters of beef.

The quarters of beef are organized according to thickness and desired marbling, which indicates the amount of fat in the meat.

And of course, Chris couldn't resist mimicking the famous scene from "Rocky" in which Sylvester Stallone's title character beats a hanging side of meat to prepare for a fight.

But butchering is difficult work. Workers begin their days at 3 a.m., working with big electric chainsaws to cut down the beef into workable sections.

A hind quarter alone can weigh up to 200 pounds and it takes a butcher to mine the cuts within.

From Abele's, Chris went to the famous Biancardi's Meats, an Italian butcher shop on the storied Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, New York, see how the quartered cattle become steaks.

Chris Becomes a Butcher

Learning the trade isn't easy. Sal Biancardi, who runs the beef, lamb and pork shop, has had a lifetime of training.

The skill runs in the family: Even the Biancardi matriarch was a butcher.

"Only one woman butcher that I knew and that was my grandmother and she worked in this business until she was 80 years old," Biancardi said.

Even for someone who grew up in a family of butchers, learning the trade isn't easy.

"It could be an 8-to-10-year process," Biancardi said. "It involves a tremendous amount of hand activity. You know people in the industry usually wind up with some sorts of problems with their hands."

The tools of the trade are sharp and dangerous if you don't know how to use them. The repetitive nature of the work can also cause problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.

As Chris learned to cut the meat, he found it was more difficult because he's left-handed. He wasn't able to cut his shell steak on the bone didn't cut as evenly as he had hoped.

"I literally butchered it," he joked.