Hertzog Meat Co. in Butler, Mo., does not lack in business opportunity when it comes to ground beef. In fact, when its partner US Foods, Rosemont, Ill., ran into a bind with a customer, Hertzog stepped up and filled the order with its premium, whole muscle blend hamburger patties.
A burger restaurant in the Kansas City area was not going to get an order from its supplier, so US Foods called Hertzog and asked a favor.
“We’re a valued partner with them [US Foods],” said Todd Hertzog, owner and manager of the plant. “So, if they have someone get in trouble like that, I’ll step up and help out in anyway I can.”
The company supplied the restaurant with 625 cases of patties, the equivalent of 12,000 lbs. Hertzog Meat Co. completed the order and shipped it in two days.
Because Butler is just about an hour away from Kansas City, it gives Hertzog an advantage in serving the area with premium, locally grown and processed meat. The company supplies ground beef and patties to numerous restaurants in the Kansas City area regularly.
“That’s what gives us a little bit of a leg up,” Todd said. “We’re local, an hour down the road from a major metropolitan area, Kansas City, so we can step up to the plate and take care of it.
“After these carcasses meet our standards, they’re in a package in the back of the room ready for delivery or pickup as soon as possible. They don’t sit in a combo and lose shelf life for a week or two.”
Hertzog Meat Co. also provides its market a real flexibility when it comes to ground beef.
“Most of your chefs and restaurant owners around KC want a different blend,” said Mike Quick, partner and leader of the company’s sales, logistics and marketing. “Some want 73/27 lean to fat. Some want 81/19. Some want a 4 oz (patty) some want a 6½ oz. Some want an 8 oz, either way our goal is to deliver a superior quality product exactly how our customer wants it every time. Working with the right partners and having a consistent superior product has allowed us a lot of new opportunities in the last few months.”
Ground Beef Build
Starting in 2019, Todd Hertzog traveled throughout the United States visiting new processing plants and learning about technology and innovation before building Hertzog Meat Co. on land connected to his family’s cattle farm. The travel and visits paid off with an award-winning beef processing plant that opened doing custom processing in May of 2021 and went to federal inspection in June 2021.
Todd Hertzog acted as the general contractor on the build and construction was finished in seven months. He accounted for every detail on the build and hand-picked every sub-contractor. The attention paid off with an award-winning design and facility.
“The contractors we hired and the way we wanted it built, we didn’t know we were building a state-of-the-art facility, but we did,” said Jim Hertzog, owner of Hertzog Farms, the family cattle company, and Todd’s father. “We just did it the way we wanted to based off what we learned from the best. That was our plan.”
Through its partnership with US Foods, Hertzog Meat Co. serves the foodservice segment almost exclusively for now. When the company first opened, it custom processed a lot of other peoples’ cattle, but once restaurants started calling, foodservice became the priority.
“We got busy all at the same time with restaurants, folks reaching out for custom processing, and trying to get our online shop built that we decided to stop doing custom and focus on foodservice until we could get the online business up and running,” Quick said. “The fact that we are an hour south of Kansas City makes it hard for folks to drive down here during normal business hours. So, everybody wants us to ship to them, which we’re doing, but it’s been mainly handled over the phone. Now that the website is up and rolling our customers can get exactly what they want, when they want it.”
Ground Beef Business
Hertzog went the traditional retail route in a few stores early, but the partnership with US Foods and the foodservice model made more sense. US Foods provided Hertzog the ability to get product in more places while the traditional retail business was more up and down with orders fluctuating significantly in size. The distributor partnership also provides opportunities like the 12,000-lb order to the burger restaurant in Kansas City.
“It just keeps the line moving, allowing our premium steaks and cuts to be purchased in store or online, and keeps our chefs and restaurant owners stocked up at places like Big Cedar Lodge, 3rd Street Social, Red Door, and many others,” Quick said. “We’re in conversations with some of the top restaurants across Missouri and Kansas. So, a lot of ground beef is moved to the restaurants, a lot of the steaks are going direct to the customer and steakhouses, so it’s working out really well at this point.”
Todd added, “You’ve got to have a partner like US Foods. They value us for what we can do for them, and we value them for what they do for us. It’s a perfect local partnership. We can show off our product to these local restaurants and I can establish relationships with these people. They can come down here to tour, come down to see what we’re doing.”
What the team at Hertzog Meat Co. doesn’t want to do is get too far ahead of itself with the online, direct-to-customer business. The company is smart and playing the long game. Quick and the team at Hertzog want the direct-to-customer business to grow organically. While the website is up and customers can order, there hasn’t been a big marketing push to acquire customers on the largest scale.
“So today when somebody places an order, we get an email, it prints out here, we grab it, we fill it, FedEx will come pick it up, and it’s out the door,” Quick said. “But little things like the boxes, the speed in which we ship the order and the welcome letter, and those types of details, that stuff matters. So, we’re just dialing all that in.”
Hertzog’s business continues to grow in every way and shows no signs of drying up anytime soon, whether foodservice or direct to customer. Hertzog beef is dry aged at least 14 days and you can taste the difference.
“There is a big demand for beef like this,” Todd said. “The beef is better. There is a huge demand for it and we’re seeing it.”