Zeph Shepard

The Conscious Butcher


Photography by Kris Koivisto

Owner of Proletariat Butchery

Zeph Shepard is a man on a mission to bring people closer to the food they eat. As the owner and head butcher of Proletariat Butchery in Portland, OR, Zeph sources his meat from local family farms committed to sustainable agriculture. The driving force behind his old-world butchery practices is to remove the layers of consumerism that has become our food purchasing habits and bring back a focus to the time, energy and sacrifice of the things we put in our body.


A large part of Zeph’s time is put into education and teaching people about the parts of animals that we consume and why we do. His classes are literally hands-on as he guides you in sawing through a pork rib cage and teaching you how to use a knife to make the cuts of beef that you love. Whether it’s making your own bacon or actually learning how the sausage is made, Zeph believes with a little guidance, all people can develop a greater appreciation for and enjoyment of the food they prepare and eat.


Follow Zeph on Instagram for meaty goodness in your feed.


Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

My relationship with Filson stuff goes back to my early teen years. I have my brother in law, Rob, to thank for turning me onto them. The concept of heirloom, solid functional clothing is really appealing on a lot of levels. My first pair of single tin pants from Filson was when I was 16.  I am a huge Filson fan and have put their products through the paces, and they never disappoint.

Some people have trepidation around my pants or vest because there is fat and blood soaked into them, but that is my life and that is what my Filson gear is built for. I find it funny and perplexing when hip urbanites wear their Filson clothing out on the town all nice and clean because it’s just not using it for its purpose built background.

Buy Now$140+


Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

My love for neckwear also has its inception from my younger years. I grew up outside of Boston and also have a bit of an eccentric fashion sense. I like to do things mildly different, but still subtle. Bowties, especially for my line of work, have a proper balance between function and form which is something i strive for… they don’t get in the way like a normal tie (I love those too) and it’s a nice fashionable accent point. Men have much less for fashion accessories so you have to use all you can get 😀.

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

Buy Now$8+

tobacco pipe

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

The tobacco pipe was my father’s that he gave me when i was 18. I have memories of being on vacation, where I would often smell this distinct scent and I’d ask my parents what it was.  It was the scent of a tobacco pipe being smoked…and i loved it! So when i turned 18 as a step into “manhood” we went out and smoked a pipe together.  It has been an enjoyable leisure activity ever since.

It also got me through my long night drives back to Portland during my butchering apprenticeship on Vashon Island! There is something to be said for “hot boxing” your car to keep you up and also having something to play with in your mouth and keep you busy! It’s a very intentional act that takes time and forces you to focus and just slow down. I appreciate this mentality and gravitate toward it often, and my pipe helps me get there sometimes.

Shop Now$$20

whiskey and glassware

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

Why do i have whiskey on my list? Whiskey tastes good. Why do I like the glassware? It’s dainty and ornate. The glass and whisky are good friends and they also promote good friendships. Friendships are a worthy endeavor to pursue.

Shop Vintage Glasses$14+

Tree trunk butcher block

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

This particular piece of equipment in my shop came out of frugality and radness. I needed a somewhat large end grain block to do cleaver work on and the commercial options available to me just didn’t fit my needs, both aesthetically or functionally. They were also WAY out of my price range so off I went into the woods to find a tree trunk! I cut it up, planed it, chiseled it, sanded it and then welded up a nice sturdy base. Now I have the dopest end grain butcher block that you can’t find anywhere else! It embodies much of my philosophical values around society and the earth.

Make Your Own$DIY

Carbon steel Knives

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

These knives are all antiques that have been given to me and get quite a bit of use considering my career. They date back to pre 1960 and are high carbon steel which makes these babies sharper than most knives (if you maintain them) and they have some, how shall we say, “character” with some bumps and bruises. My main carving knife was from my grandfather, who wasn’t a butcher at all, but back in the day those types of knives were a staple in the kitchen. They also very much fit within my ethos of consuming less and using what is around us and already made instead of buying new, which has a higher impact on our already taxed resources.

Shop Now$18+

FInex cast iron

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

As you may have noticed most of my things on this list I have had a long time but this cast iron diverges from that path and is relatively new to me but regardless I absolutely love it. It embodies a near perfect union of function and form. It’s been thrown into numerous fires for cooking everything from eggs, to searing big old pieces of beef on it, to then being shown off at my shop all cleaned up and polished and it always impresses. It is and will continue to be my go-to cooking pan as it takes whatever I throw at it which is absolutely essential for my lifestyle.

Buy Now$270

The art of the Commonplace

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

Books steep us with thoughts and an intellect which is far more valuable than any tangible material good. Books have cultivated my mind and heart which make them far and away the most interesting and important possessions. My material stuff that I own can come and go, get lost, stolen, broken, it will all deteriorate eventually. But the ideas, philosophies, and values that have been imparted are invaluable and cannot be taken away. That is why my books, a few in particular, and one of them that I chose for this, are the backbone for why I own and use most of my possessions.

If you read this book you will get a fairly accurate understanding of my life’s posture and my life’s push in the world.  For an elevator pitch of my thoughts I’d say it’s Kierkegaard meets Wendell Berry meets Rage Against the Machine. Thoughtful and intentional scofflaw to challenge contemporary unexamined notions of what is good and prudent.

Buy Now$13

Custom Boots

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

These boots are made by a cobbler named George. People ask me sometimes what brand they are and they aren’t really a brand. Needless to say they are pretty unique. Not so much in how they immediately appear but how they are made to my feet and also how they function in a more direct monetary economy. I much prefer to have possessions that last. These boots do that and make them quite unique in a society that is substantially filled with planned obsolescence. So when people’s computers or phones or cheap plastic things are dying, my boots will still be kicking it and serving me well!

Find a Cobbler$CUSTOM

Range Rover LWB

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto

This is my truck, it’s the first luxury SUV and it also boasts an african dictator style back seat with an immense amount of comfy leg room because it’s the Long Wheel Base model.  It also has a turbodiesel with a manual gearbox that only came in these vehicles in the UK. It took me 6 months to find this truck and then another few months to put the turbodiesel in it. I don’t ever plan on getting rid of this vehicle! I love it! I can go overlanding, haul a trailer to events where I’m roasting animals and it just looks really fucking rad!  Super bold square shape that is simple and understated. Land Rover did it right on this vehicle and that is why I love it and consider it fairly unique in both its looks and functionality.

Buy Now$30,000+

Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto
Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto
Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto
Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto
Zeph Shepard: Butcher Photos / Kris Koivisto


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