A Cut Above

By Kezia Setyawan

“We are like children around our meat,” said Jonathan Tepperman, founder of the Eugene Meat Collective. This collective is a place where locals can buy animals directly from farmers and learn how to break them down into meat themselves.

Before starting the collective, Tepperman was a vegetarian. He felt if he ate meat, he would be supporting the mistreatment of animals. This all changed during a stay with a family in Israel. Tepperman started eating meat again because he didn’t want to infringe upon anyone else’s diet. However, he looked to alternative ways to consume meat that didn’t involve the inhumane treatment of animals upon his return to the United States.

Through gardening in his own backyard, then taking wilderness survival classes, Tepperman learned how to be self-sufficient back in the United States. He now invests in helping people reconnect to how humanity has created food for most of human history.

In the Eugene Meat Collective classes he facilitates, Tepperman provides students with connections to local meat and instructors from the community.

“The Eugene Meat Collective has bought chickens from our cooperative for their butchering class,” Fair Valley Farm vendor Jenni Timms said.

Tepperman appreciates the relationships built between students and vendors through his classes, like when students purchased piglets from the farm that provided meats used in class. He finds  that people who take the classes are hungry for knowledge and want to get connected to resources on how to process animals with care. He wants people’s first experience of slaughter to be as positive as possible and meet them where they are comfortable. When Tepperman returns from hunting, he breaks down the animal in the kitchen and integrates the butchering process into everyday life, a vast contrast to his first experience of slaughter.

“I was traumatized the first time I hunted for meat,” Tepperman said. “It was a squirrel and after I processed it I let it sit in the freezer for months to come to terms with it.”

Tepperman aims to educate his children and be transparent about the meat in their food. If they are eating cookies with deer tallow, Tepperman will tell them what it is and why it tastes so good.

Through the Eugene Meat Collective, Tepperman hopes to establish a meat culture that creates infrastructures in Eugene for people to buy higher quality cuts and be more connected to what they are consuming.

Soon, Tepperman hopes to have a podcast called ReEvolution up and running with contributors from all walks of life. He wants listeners can feel that they can also create a meaningful and sustainable lifestyle.

“This has been my journey of growing in self-knowledge and sharing it with others,”Tepperman said. “The Eugene Meat Collective is a great vehicle to spread what I’m passionate about.”