Ben Runkle recently purchased two Dorper lambs from Twin County Dorpers in Harper, a small town west of Fredericksburg. This is perhaps an unusual purchase for most shoppers, but Runkle is a butcher and founder of Salt & Time, which offers locally sourced, freshly butchered meats and artisanal salumi. After Runkle’s handiwork, a lucky few customers received the lamb as chops in their Butcher’s Box, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program-style offering created by Runkle and his business partner and master butcher Bryan Butler.
Butcher’s Box subscribers pay up front for a monthly array of meaty delicacies such as summer-herb breakfast sausage, jamon de paleta-wrapped Richardson Farms pork tenderloin, pancetta-wrapped Texas quail and brined and stuffed Dewberry Hills Farms chicken. A six-month subscription costs $500, and each box contains at least $100 worth of meat. Subscribers pick up their boxes—which also include information on the farms represented, as well as cooking suggestions and recipes—at Salt & Time’s booth at either the Barton Creek Farmers Market or the HOPE Farmers Market.
Having enthusiastic subscribers pay in advance allows Runkle and Butler to purchase meats that are normally too expensive or risky for their small business, such as the Dorper lambs. “We got the lamb fresh from the processor and butchered it on the Friday before the boxes came out,” Runkle explains. “This lamb had never been frozen, so we were able to give our customers some of the best, freshest lamb chops they will ever have. It wouldn’t be feasible for us to take forty or even twenty fresh lamb chops out to the farmers markets and hope they sell. But by sourcing specifically for the boxes, we were able to do it.”
Although the inaugural 20 subscription slots sold out quickly, the Salt & Time duo plans to add additional slots when they open their brick-and-mortar deli later this year on Austin’s east side—an exciting development for the young company. “We will have a full butcher shop with a major emphasis on bringing in whole animals and butchering them on-site,” Runkle says. They’ll also offer sausages, salami, bacon and a variety of sandwiches and other ready-to-eat items.
For now, future subscribers can lick their own chops in anticipation of the ever-changing array of meaty morsels awaiting them—like the upcoming goat meat. “Windy Hill raises some of the best goat I’ve ever had,” Runkle says. “I think our subscribers are pretty well versed in meat, but I hope we give them some things they haven’t had before.” —Cari Marshall