Meat candy

by Bernard Shire
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Stoltzfus Meats bacon box
Stoltzfus Meats specializes in sweet and savory bacon.
 
“All bacon is good,” says Myron Stoltzfus, owner and operator of Stoltzfus Meats, a small – but not too small – meat processor and bacon producer in Intercourse, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and New Castle, Delaware. “But some bacon is better than others.”

A great example is Stoltzfus’ bacon products, which customers rave about – not only in Lancaster County, where this wonderful product is made, but throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC.

When Stoltzfus describes his bacon as “sweet and savory,” he’s not kidding – it is.

Stoltzfus Meats is the home of a lot of fresh and smoked meat products, including ham, pork, beef and turkey, as well as a wide variety of deli meats. But there’s no doubt that the bacon he makes is distinctive – when you taste it, you know you’re not eating supermarket bacon.

Myron and Sally Stoltzfus
Myron and Sally Stoltzfus
 

What about the current rage for bacon? Stoltzfus just shakes his head.

“When I look back at my time in this meat business, I can remember when people were trying to peddle bacon, along with pig’s feet and neck bones,” he says. The business dates back to 1954, when Myron’s parents, Amos and Mary Stoltzfus, were taking Lancaster County products to a retail stand at a farmer’s market in New Castle, Delaware. Myron, who’s 58, got in the business in 1980 – “almost 40 years I’ve been at this,” the current president of the 150-employee company says. “And even when bacon became a more important product, it was still a sideline, one of many products – meat that you’d eat in the morning with your eggs. Boy, has that changed,” he laughs.

Because what’s happened, of course, is that bacon is in a class by itself. “I think over the past 15 years, bacon has become its own food group,” Stoltzfus says, laughing again. “Think about it. It’s put on chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, pizza, all kinds of sandwiches. Fifteen years ago, you could see bacon becoming the norm in fast food. Now it’s served everywhere, including quick service restaurants as well.”

Stoltzfus makes several types of bacon, and his bacon lineup is rapidly expanding. His “original” bacon, the product with the sweet, savory taste, is dry-cured. “When I tell people who’ve never had this bacon, that it has a sweet and savory taste, they don’t always believe me, because we don’t think of meat as having a sweet taste. But once they taste it, they understand what I’m saying, and they describe it that way themselves.”

Bacon curing at Stoltzfus Meats
Myron Stoltzfus pays special attention to the fat composition of pork bellies.
 

He believes the dry-cured is a better product than what you’ll find among a lot of grocery bacons. “We trim it, tumble it and dry it. It’s not as wet as a lot of bacon is. I think it’s important to sacrifice yield (of the meat) for a superior product.” There is also a long smoke process. We smoke our bacon a lot longer than most people do. In my small part of the world, it’s what my customers want. They think it’s the best bacon that they’ve ever eaten.”

Like a lot of products made in the industry, the final meat product is dependent on two factors: the source of the raw materials and the processing. Stoltzfus has several criteria he uses to select the bellies for processing. He pays special attention to the fat composition of his bellies. “The specific fat composition (of the pigs) varies because of what they’re fed,” he says. “The bellies we use – these are the bellies we really want – they are wider and longer than what we really want. So, for our bacon, we hand-trim the bellies to our specifications. I’m also looking for a specific fat composition in the belly, and that can be dependent on the pigs’ diet. For that reason, I buy from a limited number of suppliers, he says.

Stoltzfus also makes a maple applewood smoked bacon. “We buy apple chips and we use 100 percent applewood. This bacon has sweetness due to the maple and the apple flavoring.
A third variety is what Stoltzfus calls his “premium bacon.” “In this style of my bacon, the moisture content is a little higher,” he says.

Bacon shingles at Stoltzfus Meats
Stoltzfus makes maple applewood smoked bacon, pepper bacon and what Myron calls his “premium bacon.”
 

Stoltzfus also makes a pepper bacon, and does some private-labeling bacon manufacturing for some companies in the Midwest. They include English-style “cottage” bacon, where the meat comes from the shoulder rather than from bellies. He’s looking at other areas to expand his bacon business, as well. “We do sell some turkey bacon, but it’s not our own. We’re looking into the possibility of making our own turkey and chicken bacon.”

But he doesn’t have a great desire for a vast expansion of his business. “My feeling is a lot of things in the meat industry are done better on a smaller scale. I certainly think that’s true of my bacons.”

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