You may have been wondering why you haven’t seen Chris and Diana Thomson, the faces of Thomson’s Custom Meats, behind the meat counter at the Methow Valley Thriftway lately.
Ever the investigative journalist and inspired by the curiosity of inquisitive carnivorous neighbors, I set out to get to the bottom of this meaty mystery. Like a dog with a bone, I was determined to bring home the bacon, informationally speaking. (I was also, of course, interested in the possibility of bringing home actual bacon, should the opportunity arise. Who wouldn’t be? That’s crazy talk.)
My nose for animal protein was unerring as it led me directly to where Thomson’s Custom Meats’ butcher shop and retail counter were located for so many years, and where the meat cutting operation is still in full swing. There, as Chris hand-twisted sausages with a deftness that can only come from decades of muscle memory, I learned why the Thomsons have seemingly disappeared from public view. It’s because they are busy preparing the artisan sausages, jerky, hams, brats (the bratwurst kind, not the ill-mannered child kind) and other meats that are sold at the Thriftway.
Chris and Diana sold Thomson’s Custom Meats to Thriftway in the spring of 2018, and closed their retail counter in Twisp shortly thereafter. But all that meat that then showed up in the Thriftway meat counter didn’t just cut, grind, stuff and smoke itself. It needed — and still needs — to be made in a meat-processing shop with ample space and adequate equipment, which is why the Thomsons spend their days preparing the products sold by Thriftway under the Thomson’s Custom Meats label.
The Thomsons’ priorities with their artisan meat products are still quality, customer service and cleanliness. “We’re only going to sell the customer high-quality meat,” Chris tells me, as he slices up a hefty slab of meat destined for the sausage grinder, removing fragments of bone, glands and other pork parts that should not be ground up into the savory links. It’s why Chris remains with Thriftway as an employee, even after selling the business he and Diana started; he’s committed to the integrity of the products that bear his name.
Watching the pre-grinding sausage operation might turn some people into vegetarians. Certainly not me though! And certainly not anyone who can recall the flavor and texture of a succulent fresh Spanish Chorizo sausage from Thomson’s Custom Meats. Even the sight of a pig gland — the knowledge of existence of which I must surely have suspected, but which, like any other human carnivore, I selectively choose to repress — did not sway me over to the vegetarian side.
Not only did I not become a vegetarian (been there, done that), as I chatted with the Thomsons as they worked, I developed even more of a hankering for a tasty sausage than I had when I walked in the door. It was reassuring to know that all those brats were headed straight to a nearby retail operation that would provide me access to a reliable supply of 4-ounce links of spiced, ground porky goodness, handled with attention and care by Chris and Diana Thomson.