How a 4th-Generation Brooklyn Butcher Makes Her Stuffed Meat-and-Veggie Sausages
Cara Nicoletti grew up in the meat industry and launched Seemore Meats & Veggies last year
Given the nature of their business, most butchers would probably have some beef with the notion of encouraging people to eat less meat.
In many ways, including advocating for a flexitarian approach to food, Cara Nicoletti is not most butchers.
A fourth-generation butcher whose great grandfather Jack Salett first opened his own shop in Boston’s North End in the 1940s, Cara Nicoletti grew up in and around the meat industry but didn’t step behind a chopping block until she started apprenticing at the Meat Hook in Williamsburg in between working shifts at nearby Pies ‘n’ Thighs.
After she was hired to start butchering full-time at the Meat Hook, Nicoletti started to gravitate toward sausage-making but also began to become frustrated with the amount of meat she saw go to waste during the preparation process. To help combat that as well as encourage her regulars to eat meat more sustainably, Nicoletti began making veggie burgers and urging her customers to avoid eating meat for just a single day per week.
“They wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing. So I started sneaking vegetables into the sausages I was making,” Nicoletti tells InsideHook. “This allowed me not only to reduce my customers’ meat consumption slightly, but also to stretch the beautiful whole animals we were using further and offer them to people at a more accessible price point. I started coming up with really interesting flavors and, eventually, I couldn’t keep up with the demand for them.”
Launched last year with her business partner Ariel Hauptman and named after her grandfather Seymour, Seemore Meats & Veggies is a scaled-up version of what Nicoletti started doing at the shop and offers stuffed sausages varieties like chicken parm, la dolce beet-a, broccoli melt and loaded baked potato that contain up to 35 percent fresh vegetables per serving and have already been slow-cooked all the way through before being packaged.
Seymour, who only sold hot, sweet and liver sausages in his shop, was initially apprehensive about Nicoletti’s plan to stuff her sausages with fresh veggies, but has since come around to his granddaughter’s idea.
“He told me that adding fresh vegetables would make for bad sausages and, in theory, he’s not wrong,” she says. “There’s a reason that when you see a spinach-and-feta or tomato-basil sausage in the supermarket all of those vegetables are dried — scientifically it’s really hard to add large amounts of watery vegetables to sausage and still have it taste and feel like a delicious sausage. I spent about 12 years figuring out ways around that science, and Seymour is our biggest fan. He gets a real kick out of our flavor variety. It’s really rare these days to have a family trade that gets passed down across generations, so I feel incredibly lucky to be able to continue my family’s legacy in a new way.”
Part of that family legacy is refusing to use anything but high-quality ingredients that have been sourced responsibly.
“All of our chicken and pork are from farms that are certified humane through GAP (Global Animal Partnership). Our chicken comes from Pittman Farms in California and our pork is all from Heritage Foods,” Nicoletti says. “We use natural casings on our pork sausages and no casing at all on our chicken sausages. Our vegetables are all non-GMO and most are organic and domestically sourced. All of our cheese comes from Wisconsin family farms and is RBST and preservative-free. The goal is to make good meat and good food more accessible to more people, not just people who can afford to care. By cutting the meat in our sausages by almost half, we’re able to get well-raised meat to more people at a price that makes sense and get some vegetables into their mouths too.”
Founding Seemore has also allowed Nicoletti to continue to hear the sausage jokes she’s become well-accustomed to.
“God, I’ve lost count at this point. Years ago when I was still on dating apps, I used a picture of myself with a ton of sausages in front of my face as my profile picture because I was proud of my creations. That was a huge mistake,” she says. “I think I heard every sausage joke in the book in 24 hours because of that. At Seemore we lean into it a lot. I think it would be a huge miss if we didn’t see the humor in being a woman-owned and fully women-led sausage company. The jokes write themselves, really.”
Nicoletti leans into the sausage jokes, but some aspects of being a female business owner in the typically male-owned meat industry don’t sit quite as well with her — not that she’s allowed it to stop Seemore from cooking up business.
“Pretty much my entire adult life has been spent working beside men, so, in some ways, not a whole lot has changed for me. If anything, I’m working with more women than I ever have before because Seemore is a team of eight incredible women. That’s brand new to me, and really wonderful,” she says. “I will say that working with men behind a butcher counter was easier in some ways than the scale-up in the business world has been. When I was cutting, it was very easy to prove quickly that I knew what I was doing to anyone who doubted me, but with business stuff, it’s a little harder. I’m finding such a large and powerful portion of the investing world is made up of men who like to invest in other men and that sometimes feels like an impossible battle. The meat-processing world also skews heavily male and so does the meat-buying world. It can be a little daunting, but we’re learning every day and grateful to be in the ring.”
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