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Heymatt:

Supposedly, butchers are supposed to retire after a set amount of years (10, 15, 20?) because they’re otherwise highly prone to mental problems, i.e. they go crazy. I’ve snooped around a little but have not found anything to support the idea.

— Jeremy, Manhattan, NY, via email

This is only true if gang members — who suicidally chug soda and eat Pop Rocks — also kill you when you flash your lights at them as you’re driving to the hospital because someone removed one of your kidneys and left you in an ice bath.

You see what I did there? I’m a regular mythbuster!

But, seriously, butchery is a perfectly respectable profession that’s becoming somewhat hip in the post–Food Network era of gastrosensible, locavore foodies. Here in San Diego we have independent butcher shops that somehow weathered years of stiff competition from supermarkets and have emerged downright triumphant, especially when holidays come around and everyone and his sister wants a turducken.

Recent archaeological finds have suggested that butchery in its most basic form goes back to long before the time of modern humans, perhaps as much as 3.5 million years! Fossilized animal bones from the time of Australopithecus have been found that indicate the primitive proto-men used stone tools to remove flesh from the bones of dead animals — nearly a million years before we thought the conventional Stone Age began. People joke about “the world’s oldest profession,” but the correct answer might be “butcher.”

In slightly more recent history, a British butcher shop owned by the Balson family has been open since 1535; an astonishing 477 years ago! Since they’ve never closed, they’re officially the oldest business in the UK. After 25 generations in the same business, that one family has been cutting meat more than twice as long as the United States has been a country.

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