Butcher Betties gets to the meat of why local startups need mentoring and funding

Most people wouldn't think pin-up girls, rockabilly and butchery go together, but that trio is a winning combination for Butcher Betties.
When Allison Hines lost her job as a corporate chef, she decided to pursue her interest in butchery.
“I wanted to learn butchery but there was no school to go to,” she says. “They don't teach whole animal butchery in culinary school any more.”
After getting a scholarship through Grrls Meat Camp and attending their workshop in Northern Kentucky, Hines approached Avril Bleh & Sons Meat Market on Court Street about becoming an apprentice.
“I walked in and offered to work for free so I could learn the craft of butchery, and they took me in like their family,” Hines says. “I want to be able to create a scholarship or a paid internship so someone can come to my shop or I can send them to the first ever butchery school opening in September in Chicago. I think it’s important to give back and pay it forward.”
That idea led Hines to apply to ArtWorks’ Big Pitch mentorship program. She was selected as one of eight finalists and will compete Aug. 27 for $20,000 in cash and services.
Hines had planned on an 18-month apprenticeship with Avril Bleh, but when presented with the opportunity to open her own shop at the Friendly Market in Florence she grabbed the chance. Combining her pin-up girl style with her new trade, she created Butcher Betties.
“Women in my family, going back to World War II, have served in the Navy, including myself,” Hines says. “We've embodied strength and femininity. I want other women to know that they can be strong and still be feminine and attractive, and that's what a pin-up girl represents. When you come in to Butcher Betties, you will see me carrying out half a hog and I could be wearing a skirt.”
In addition to a unique brand, Hines also differentiates Butcher Betties from a typical meat counter in her methods and service.
“One of the things that sets us apart is that we’re working with our farmers and producers on finishing off beef with non-GMO grain,” she says. “No one else in town is doing that.”
As much as possible, Hines locally sources all her products, buying whole animals and processing them on-site.
“We make everything in house,” she says. “Salads, goetta, bourbon bacon, bacon burger (bacon ground in with the hamburger meat) and a lot of seasoned burgers like KY Wildcat and Black & Blue burgers.”
Hines is also passionate about educating her customers.
“I use my chef’s background to assist customers with how to cook things and how to use the whole animal,” she says. “I want to teach people that they don’t need to be squeamish. I bring customers back behind the counter to explain the parts of the animal so they can be comfortable with it and learn to cook from the whole animal, to use things like the trotters because they’re beautiful, wonderful pieces that people are just not familiar with.
“If you want good clean food, you have to do it honor and justice by using the whole animal, not just getting steaks and chops. Only one tenderloin comes out of the whole cow.”
Butcher Betties has big plans over the next couple of months, including an expansion into Ohio; raising two hogs for Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic with friend and collaborator Tricia Houston, The Farm Girl Chef; and completing the ArtWorks Big Pitch program.
“I have a team of mentors helping me,” Hines says. “I meet with them weekly and they’re helping me keep things focused and moving toward the future while helping me prioritize. Our product line is part of the focus for the Big Pitch. We want to be able to brand some of the things we do — the rubs, sauces, the Bombshell Bacon Marmalade — and it’s been a great journey so far.”
In case you need additional incentive to attend the Aug. 27 ArtWorks pitch night, Hines offers this enticement: “The Big Pitch will be large and spectacular and exciting because that’s me and that’s what I do. I don’t do anything small or quietly.”

Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the 2015 ArtWorks Big Pitch, a 10-week mentorship program that offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes and professional services. The program concludes Aug. 27 with the finalists giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and an audience; tickets are on sale now.

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.