Meet the Chicago Area’s Most Influential Butcher You Never Heard Of

Kari Underly.
Kari Underly. Photo: courtesy Chicago Business

If you think cutting-edge butchers in our area, you probably think of hot new meat emporia such as The Butcher & Larder or Publican Quality Meats, with the guys at Paulina Meat Market as kind of the Tony Bennett, proving that old school is always cool. But in fact the most influential butcher from our area (defined a little widely) is 1) a woman and 2) somebody you probably never heard of. She’s Kari Underly, famous within the meat industry as the inventor of new cuts such as the Denver cut and the flatiron steak, and Chicago Business introduces her. A third-generation butcher from South Bend, Underly fought her way into the raw meat department against store managers who wanted her slicing Eckrich turkey breast and dishing up potato salad. In 1997 the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hired her to help analyze meat counter profitability, and in time she got back to cutting the bloody red stuff. Her insights for the meat trade are captured in her 2011 James Beard-nominated book The Art of Beef Cutting; see Chicago Business’s video about her below. [Chicago Business]