Feb. 2, 2017
Under new ownership since 2015, North Country Smokehouse preserves its artisanal approach to bacon processing as demand continues.
It was the winter of 2013-14, and Mike Satzow had a decision to make. His company, North Country Smokehouse, was experiencing tremendous year-after-year growth. The artisan quality bacon, sausage and hams for which the company was famous had the 16,000-sq.-ft. plant in Claremont, New Hampshire, bursting at the seams. Product lines that begged for growth were limited by production capabilities. Something had to give.
“Growing at 20 percent per year for the last seven years, we were very concerned – because of the size of our plant and the constraints it has,” Satzow reflects. “We needed better resources, a larger company, and a younger team to manage the growth of the company. I made the decision to sell.”
Finding a buyer didn’t take long – duBreton, a premium pork processor in neighboring Quebec, had supplied North Country with premium pork bellies for 20 years. In March 2015, the sale of the North Country Smokehouse business to duBreton’s Les Prodal company was completed.
“Frankly, I didn’t look for a buyer. The duBreton family were the type of people I felt should own this company, and do great things with it. I just made one phone call.”
It all started in 1912, when Abraham Satzow emigrated from Russia and settled in Claremont, New Hampshire. From his slaughterhouse he would deliver smoked meats to his customers in his horse drawn cart.
Mike Satzow is the third generation to lead the business, following his father and grandfather. The plant built by his grandfather has been the home of North Country since 1939. For years the company was a beef harvest and breaking business, with customers throughout New England.
Joining the company full time after finishing college in 1970, Satzow sought to change the commodity approach of the business and focus on high end smoked meats. In the late 1970s, North Country installed its first German smokehouse and started developing unique, high quality processes.
Mike Satzow represents the third generation of his family to lead North Country Smokehouse.
Built on Quality
When talking with Satzow about the family business, the words “quality,” “passion” and “respect” crop up repeatedly. “We learned early that we had to differentiate our product from everybody else’s in order to entice people to pay a premium for our product.
“We try to act like an artisan company, which is a different mindset from a production company. There are people who do an excellent job making bacon for the bottom line, making products efficiently and effectively. Then there are another group of people like myself who have a great passion for creating, where you spend a great deal of time and resources to develop procedures that guarantee the chef is going to get the product they want and need to create their own signature items.
“That led us to develop very high quality bacon, sausage, and hams. In the late 80s, most of our competition was using liquid smoke; they kind of lost the passion to make the high quality bacon. We had the passion, and we purchased German smokehouses,” he says.
It’s not uncommon for a plant to take fresh bellies in the morning and ship them out as bacon in the evening. At North Country Smokehouse, the process is not rushed. It can take a week from the time fresh bellies are received, trimmed to exacting specifications, injected, vacuum tumbled, cured with maple syrup, and smoked in the smokehouse for many hours. Finally, the bacon is chilled, sliced, packaged and shipped. This incredible attention to detail and patience is the hallmark of NCS’s success. “Every pound is the most important pound we make,” Satzow emphasizes.