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Flatbread with Link Lab Artisan Meats Jalapeno Sausage, served at Hook & Plow Restaurant in Seattle’s Waterfront Marriott.

Link Lab is just under a year old, but Pearlstein’s passion for sausage has lasted for the past twelve years. After moving to Seattle in 1994, he, “almost immediately got the cooking bug.” He began taking classes at places like Le Gourmand Restaurant in Ballard, absorbing as much knowledge as possible about sourcing from local food growers and the seasonality of flavors. In 1998, he watched fresh sausage being made for the first time and says, “That night, I went home, stayed up late, and made my first batch of sausage. For the next ten years, I experimented with all the elements that make sausage unique and great.” Eventually, he realized it was a hobby with great potential as a business.David Pearlstein doesn’t come from a family of butchers or chefs—or even pork-eaters—but his artisan sausage business feels very much like a family business. His emphasis on natural ingredients and local distribution, plus the fact that his USDA-approved facility is in his basement, make Link Lab Artisan Meats very homey, indeed.

A former librarian for Microsoft turned stay-at-home dad, Pearlstein decided it was time to embark on his next adventure. He researched what it would take to gain USDA approval. “There were a lot of rules to be aware of, but none of them seemed terribly difficult or expensive to follow,” he explains. Pearlstein took the plunge, converted his garage and received approval from the USDA for his Grant of Federal Inspection to process meat in February 2011. Link Lab was officially open for business.

Committed to local ingredients, Pearlstein built relationships with food growers throughout the Northwest. He explains, “Whether it’s a pig farmer from Lynden, Washington re-introducing a forgotten but wonderful heirloom breed of pig, or a lamb rancher in Concrete, Washington who keeps the most immaculate farm I’ve ever seen and who cares for her animals as though they were family… each of the farmers I work with has a unique story and a passion for their work.”

In the beginning, Pearlstein was making 20-30 pounds of sausage a week; now he makes up to 325 pounds a week….everything from Chorizo and Fremont Beer Brats to Chipotle-Tequila or Juniper-Garlic sausages. You can find his meats at restaurants like Sand Point Grill, Stanza’s Café and Elemental Next Door. Link Lab Sausage is also available at Sunset Hill Green Market, Full Circle Farms, BB Ranch Butcher Shop and other small retailers throughout the Seattle area. The company has been featured in Seattle Magazine, Mint Life and an upcoming issue of Sunset Magazine. In short, it’s been a successful year.

When asked what his favorite part about starting this business has been, Pearlstein responded, “I’ve created a life where I get to be creative, and a lot of people like eating what I make. I want to be a link between responsible carnivores and the local farmers who are doing such great work to responsibly raise their animals. I’m a ‘link’… Link Lab. It’s not just the shape of the sausages.”  It’s a link we’re excited to follow.

Meat lovers across the Pacific Northwest are not alone. From Southern Oregon to Seattle, the next generation of butchers are tapping local sustainably-raised meats for their products. Read all about them here:

Photo: Chef Thomas Horner

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