Butcher Laura Posiak-Trider at the Steamboat Springs farmers market in June 2020, with a Barcelona-style meat cone. Inside: hand carved jamon, chorizo, manchego cheese and a pickle stick. (Dustin Posiak-Trider, Special to The Denver Post)

Throughout her 20s, Laura Posiak-Trider wrestled with concerns about the industrial meat industry, opting to eat a mostly vegetarian diet when she could. She felt she had to choose between two stark options: Eat meat and feel bad about it, or remove it from her diet entirely.

Now, she’s adopted a lifestyle that falls somewhere in the middle, and she’s spreading the word about how to be a more ethical meat-eater through her Steamboat Springs businesses.

At Meatbar — an intimate, European-style, reservation-only charcuterie restaurant with just six tables — Posiak-Trider serves as the restaurant’s hostess, chef, server and bartender. She also runs Laura the Butcher, a charcuterie catering company and private butchery, as well as Meatskool, an educational venture offering classes and workshops for kids and teens.

If you go

Meatbar, 2860 Downhill Plaza 505, Steamboat Springs, laurathebutcher.com, 970-846-6443; open by reservation only, 4-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

“What I was feeling in my 20s, and what I think a lot of meat-eaters feel, is either ‘I can eat meat and just feel guilty about it and ignore that industry and just not think about it,’ or, ‘If I feel like I have to take a stand, my only option is vegetarianism,’ ” said Posiak-Trider, 33. “And the reality is, that’s truly just not the case. There is a world of ethical meat-eating that starts with your local farmer or just small farms in general.”

Just reading her businesses’ names (her license plate even says “MMMEAT”), you might initially get the impression that Posiak-Trider is an outspoken meat advocate, striving to get more and more beef, pork, chicken and lamb into people’s refrigerators.

But in reality, she’s advocating for a much more nuanced approach, one that supports humane farmers and ranchers, zero-waste butchery, thoughtful cooking practices and greater respect for animals.

Her philosophy is an alternative to vegetarianism/veganism or shopping Big Meat, which has come under fire for treating animals inhumanely, harming the environment and maintaining poor working conditions for employees.

Butcher Laura Posiak-Trider serves customers at her shop and charcuterie bar, Meatbar, in Steamboat Springs. The restaurant was created out of a garage. (Dustin Posiak-Trider, Special to The Denver Post)

In Colorado, where eating — or not eating — meat often becomes a sharply divided political issue, Posiak-Trider is proposing a compromise.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think anybody wants to eat tortured meat — and in reality, you don’t have to,” she said.

Posiak-Trider has always loved working with and learning about food, inside and outside of the kitchen. After attending culinary school and cheffing in San Francisco restaurants, she traveled around the world to work on various organic vegetable farms.

In 2010, she moved to Italy and got a job at a small bed and breakfast, where she first encountered nose-to-tail butchery.

“This family had just raised two pigs and that was their pork for the year,” she said. “A small-town butcher would come and stay at their house for four days and turn these pigs into the most beautiful charcuterie I’ve ever seen. By the end of the process, we’d used everything. There was such minimal waste, and that was something I’d never seen before. That moment was definitely a turning point.”

Posiak-Trider returned to the United States with a new outlook. She started curing meats at home and took jobs at a whole-animal butcher shop and a deli to learn as much as she could about locally farmed meats. While teaching butchery at a culinary school in Maine, Posiak-Trider also discovered her passion for education.

A few of the dishes at Meatbar in Steamboat Springs, including a plate of hand-carved jamon Iberico de bellota, a 4-year aged Spanish ham leg from Iberian pigs that grew up on acorn pasture. (Dustin Posiak-Trider, Special to The Denver Post)

With an eye toward opening their own businesses, Posiak-Trider and her husband, Dustin (who’s a photographer and gallery owner), began searching for a new place to call home. They’d heard about Steamboat Springs and decided, somewhat on a whim, to move to the small mountain community on Colorado’s Western Slope.

In October 2019, Posiak-Trider began creating custom, upscale meat, cheese and fruit boards for home delivery. She forged relationships with real estate agents, hotel concierges and residents who wanted something special to give as a gift or for dining at home. (Posiak-Trider said the business is based on a flower-shop model, but instead of flowers, her customers order and send charcuterie boards.)

A year later, in November 2020, the couple moved into a live-work building near the Steamboat Springs airport north of downtown, and Posiak-Trider launched her brick-and-mortar restaurant, Meatbar.

Butcher Laura Posiak-Trider teaches a Meatskool class to kids and teens at the Steamboat Springs Boys and Girls Club in March. (Meghan Barrett, provided by Laura Posiak)

By day, Meatbar is a commercial kitchen where Posiak-Trider prepares her charcuterie boards and does private whole-animal breakdowns. By night, the space transforms into a sophisticated-yet-cozy bistro where friends meet for wine, cheese, cured meats, house-whipped butters and other small plates.

Though opening during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, Meatbar quickly became one of the hottest restaurants in town when indoor dining resumed — and has remained that way.

“It’s just me in there, and I have that one-on-one experience with all my tables. I love that, and people love that as well,” Posiak-Trider said. “I get to excite them about food and make sure they’re trying at least one thing they’ve never had before or maybe something that reminds them of a trip to Europe. And (Meatbar) is just a little out there. It’s away from downtown, it’s tucked away. I’ve gotten comments that people feel like they’re in my house, in my kitchen.”

A couple enjoys a meat and cheese board from the restaurant menu at Meatbar in Steamboat Springs. Meatbar opens as a restaurant on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and also serves wine, fresh breads and more. (Dustin Posial-Trider, Special to The Denver Post)

Though the pandemic has made hosting in-person classes and workshops more difficult, Posiak-Trider hopes to ramp up her Meatskool offerings for kids and parents this summer. She uses activities like making cheese or breaking down a whole chicken as fun, hands-on ways to start teaching kids more about where their food comes from, how it’s made and how to prepare it in a way that honors the animal.

“Giving an animal a life worth living and a painless death is an ethical way to purchase your meat, and that starts with knowing your farmer,” she said. “The other half is: What do you do with that meat when you get home so you’re not throwing half of it in the garbage? How are we valuing that animal so it can be worth it? Was it worth this animal’s life to make this meal?”

Throughout all of her endeavors, Posiak-Trider hopes to more clearly link the burger or pork chop on someone’s plate with the animal it used to be. And since local meat isn’t affordable or accessible to everyone, she recommends making incremental changes where possible, such as looking for organic or free-range options at the grocery store, wasting as little as possible, or even just pausing to think about the animal while cooking or eating.

“Having that connection to the animal, right until the very end of your meal, is a really positive thing,” she said. “You don’t have to be a butcher, you don’t have to be a chef. All you have to do is educate yourself a little bit. If we can be OK with the idea of an animal living to be killed for meat, then continuing to think of that animal as we’re eating it becomes less and less morbid and more and more special and respectful.”

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