True craftsmanship is what comes to mind when visiting Flannery Beef, a family-owned and operated purveyor of prime, dry-aged beef, based in San Rafael, California.
Bryan Flannery, together with his daughter, Katie, specialize in an increasingly rare combination of Prime beef and an old-fashioned method of naturally dry aging. Both have a butcher’s eye for selecting the best meat, a skill they inherited from Bryan Flannery Sr. who founded Bryan’s Quality Meats in San Francisco in 1963, after starting his career at Grant Market, a San Francisco legend in the days before supermarkets.
Having grown up working in his father’s much-reputed butcher shop, with his brothers, sisters, and mother, Bryan Jr. offered, “That’s just what you did as a working-class family when your father started a business. The difference between my entryway into the meat business and my daughter’s is that Katie had a choice!”
A former art major in college, Katie became partner in Flannery Beef with her father in 2013. An immediate natural talent in the field, Katie is taking the industry by storm. Passionate about being the third generation in her family to rise to the helm of the business, Katie is naturally intuitive about the craft of dry aging and streamlining Flannery Beef’s USDA-certified facility.
“You really get satisfaction, knowing that what you’re sending out the door is the very best.” Katie shared. “Once somebody tries it, they absolutely love it. The feedback really solidifies it for me. That’s how I knew this is what I want to be doing.”
“Part of keeping true to our traditions has to do with our European style and methodology of cutting,” offered Bryan. “You’re dealing with muscles. So, you’re not using a saw unless you have to. Everything is hand-cut, which is really a lot different than most production situations.”
Flannery Prime Beef is unusual for a meat processing facility in terms of the butchers they hire. “We prefer to find somebody who has very little experience. We want to train them from the ground up.” Bryan shared. “We have very specific ways that we want things done and very high expectations for quality.”
Bryan’s big question for butcher applicants is simple, “Are you willing to bring your brain with you when you walk in? That’s all I ask,” Bryan shared with a grin. “I always say, If you’re thinking about the task that you’re doing, you’re gonna figure ways to do it better. That’s just human nature.”
Unusual in the meat industry, Flannery Beef sources Holstein cattle for their USDA Prime Beef selection. “The first thing we love about Holstein is that they are superior in both presentation and quality compared to other breeds,” Katie shared.
Holsteins first bred in Southern California, are a slightly different physiological animal than Angus or Wagyu. “Being a bit smaller, the diameter of the meat and marbling pattern of Holstein cattle is more distinctive,” Katie commented.
In terms of selection of their Prime Beef, Flannery’s is among the most discerning out there. “If we cannot make a piece of meat even better, we won’t touch it,” offered Katie.
With an impressive reputation and list of lasting loyalty among the culinary community that includes over twenty Michelin-starred restaurants and high profile chefs in the US, Europe, and Asia, Flannery Beef has become a word of mouth sensation.
“My pitch to chefs is always, I don’t want to be your entire supplier, I just want to be your top shelf, just like the top shelf liquor, etc.,” Flannery shared. “We are more expensive, but our product is better. It’s the best.” Bryan contributed.
Having managed to ride the tsunami of COVID challenges these past 9 months, Flannery Beef looks to have continued growing success with Katie Flannery now leading the charge. Bryan added, “She’s my exit strategy. But to be totally honest it’s been a real adventure partnering together because we put together a dinosaur and a hipster. I don’t always understand the things that she understands and I do things that make her scratch her head, but it’s been great. I couldn’t be happier. It’s much more exciting for me to continue growing the business because I know Katie’s got to take it and run with it.” Bryan closes, “A young, intelligent, good look woman in this misogynist meat business, who knows more than most men about what we’re doing, you better believe the sky’s the limit.”