Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 4, 2002

Butchering invention goes far back in Howard Lake history

By Lynda Jensen

More than six decades ago, Henry Ittel conceived of an ingenious device for his Howard Lake butcher shop.

The invention was a metal hog de-hairer machine, used by more than 3,000 butcher shops across the nation during the 1940s and 50s, from Alabama to Washington.

Ittel secured a patent in 1948 for the de-hairer, which was eight years after he opened his butcher shop in Howard Lake.Hog De-hairer

Henry's first prototype was situated out the back of the modern day Ittel's Meats, which is now operated by Henry's son, Jim and daughter-in-law, Carolyn.

The device was low priced, and meant for country butchers who handled smaller numbers of animals, since other machines used at the time were built for much larger meat processors, Jim said.

Ittel sold more than 3,000 units, some of which were used across the states and in Europe.

A unique part of the machine was the hay rake spring, which was the main focus of the patent, Jim said. The spring, which was made of metal, outlasted its rubber competition by far, Jim said.

Hogs are usually dehaired in two ways, Jim said. The reason that the hair is removed is because it is not suitable for human consumption, he added.

One method to remove hair is to remove the animals' hide by a skinning operation. The other way is to scald the pig and then scrape the hair off manually.

With the Ittel hog dehairer, the scraping is done automatically in one minute, Jim said.

As a boy, Jim remembers the first-ever hog dehairer model being made of parts from Model As and Ts, since metal was hard to come by because of the war.

Years ago, Tuesday was usually butchering day, with four or five farmers employed to help with the butchering, Jim said.

Local farmers who helped at the shop included Phil Lahr, John Lahr Jr., August Weber, George Weber, Awalt Schuman, Arnold Schultz, Arnold Uecker, Bob Schlee, and Arnold Gruenhagen.

Henry's handymen were Ed Engel and Leonard Bakeberg.

Jim and his brother, Al, also helped in the shop, he said.

They butchered an average of five head of beef a week, Jim said. Jim remembers a time when they butchered as many as 55 pigs in one day around 1948.

"He was a far-ahead thinker," Jim said. Henry installed about 400 rentable meat lockers at his shop before this idea became popular.

The meat locker was built by Fred Westphal, and dug out by teams of horses, Jim said.

In the 1950s, Henry started a sausage route. Every Thursday, Jim would pack the truck full of wieners, bologna, summer sausage, and other items, and delivered goods through the area.

Henry was born in 1904, and grew up near the Young America area during the Great Depression.

Hard times caused Henry and his wife, Eleanor, to turn away from farming. Henry went to meat cutters school in 1939.

Ittel bought a Howard Lake butcher shop from Allen Akins in July 1940.

He made a name for himself in short order. Interesting articles would surface in the Howard Lake Herald such as the following item.

Ittel purchased the Kritzeck champion barrow

The champion Poland China barrow which Leo Kritzeck sold to Armour & Co. after the Junior Livestock show in South St. Paul, has been purchased by Henry Ittel, local butcher. The animal weight 240 pounds dressed. Mr. Ittel will dispose of this home grown prize, blue ribbon pork to his customers.

During his time as a butcher, he served as president of the Meat Locker Association, and the Howard Lake Businessmen Association.

The Ittels list of award winning products include a fermented summer sausage, which was named grand champion in the sausage division at the AAMP competition in 1974 as well as the Tri State (Minnesota, South and North Dakota) convention in 1990 and 1991, and beef jerky, which won the same awards at the national convention in 1986.

Jim also earned a national award for Henry's summer sausage in 1974 from the Convention of the American Association of Meat Processors.

Other winner products are Ittel's smoked, dried beef and smoked turkey, both garnering reserve grand champion awards from the Tri State Association. Ittel also won a reserve grand champion at Tri State in 1991 for his smoked, ready-to-eat hams.

"My dad was always afraid to compete with the big boys," Jim said.

In fact, quality meat is the focal point of Ittel's lifetime success.

A sign is posted on the wall that seems to sum up the Ittel philosophy:

"There is hardly anything in this world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little cheaper. Those people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey."

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