Country Meat Shop asserts that its best products are its bone-in hams and bacons. They offer 12 different flavors of bratwurst that they constantly finesse to improve.
“Some people are afraid of change in anything, be it product, packaging or process,” Reynolds says. “We love and relish change when we see the potential it has to make our meat items even better. We make about 50 different products and are always experimenting with new ideas or ways to make what we already have just a bit better. We believe in consistency in product and in quality. That’s kind of our mantra here.”
It seems everything the management team undertakes is with plenty of forethought and planning. For example, most small processors sell meat bundles of pre-selected items. Country Meat Shop found that customers liked the quarter beef or half-hog bundles, but wanted to substitute a couple of other meats in their standard bundle offerings.
“We took great pains to portion control individual meat cuts by weight or value and now let our customers pick and choose the line-up for their own bundles,” Reynolds says. “They absolutely love that flexibility of buying what they want in bulk quantities. Maybe you could call it a custom bundle. But we can have it ready for them in a matter of minutes. That means they don’t have to come in or call in and order, but only need to make one stop.”
Hunting season for 2017 resulted in the company processing 800 deer carcasses, up sharply from the 200 a year they did in the beginning. They put out a banner along the four-lane highway that goes past their plant a few weeks prior to the opening of deer season and did processing for hunters from 26 states, about 20 percent of whom were from the St. Louis and Kansas City area. The extra labor needed comes from eight part-time employees for about two weeks.
“Many of our game customers want higher value-added sausage and snack products made from their deer and we feature our award-winning recipes,” he says. “This helps drive the growth of our deer season.”
The family owned and operated business added a 2,800-sq.-ft. expansion, a new ready-to-eat packaging room for a Rollstock machine purchased in 2017, and this year is working on renovating and streamlining its deer carcass line. Next year they hope to move the retail sales area into the new building.
Reynolds says they use boxed beef and pork but grind their burger meat from whole roasts or trim, which results in a four to five day “no browning” inside package on a fresh basis. Customer response to the fresher high-quality product has been great, they report.
They also market smoked bones for pets but are looking at the potential the pet treats arena could hold for them. “We sell top quality bacon in the $7 a lb. range but pet bacon-looking treats sell for about $10 a lb.,” he says. “Maybe there’s some opportunity in pet foods we’ve been overlooking. For example, people care a lot about their animals and might respond to a nitrite-free pet food. Large companies use a lot of undesirable ingredients in their pet foods, but we think pet owners might respond well to products that have a simpler clean label that they see as better for their pets.
“Like I said, we’re always trying to think about what we can do better or in a different way that makes customers realize we’re not just someone peddling product, but a family business that cares what our customers really would like to see,” Reynolds explains.
Country Meat Shop does no sustained advertising, other than Facebook posts and its website, countrymeatshop.com, but it holds to its pledge to customers that all processed meats are made in-house and nothing is brought in except fresh or frozen meats from outside suppliers.
Reynolds attributes much of his new and returning customer base to the company’s success in competition and awards.
“We constantly have customers coming in asking for the award-winning hot dogs, bratwurst, hams and bacon they heard about or saw in the local newspaper press release. Many of these are new customers, but a very common reaction before they leave is a statement that they’ll be back.
“We recently had vegetarians from out-of-state come in with their friends and said they would consider eating meat from here because it looked and smelled so good.” The aroma coming from the shop’s smokehouse (located in the next room) gets the regular question, “What’s that wonderful smell?’”