Farm Horizons, Sept. 2003

Old-fashioned butcher shops are keeping up with the times

By Lynda Jensen

Few people know that the difference between a butcher and meat processor is a matter of life and death.

That is, butcher shops generally offer slaughtering services, where meat processors take care of meat after the fact.

And the old-fashioned butcher shops that used to dot each town are perhaps less common nowadays, but those still left are doing just fine fitting into the modern marketplace.

These meat markets keep afloat by offering products from home made recipes and custom cuts to faithful customers who usually travel several miles to patronize them.

Some markets also offer award-winning meats to boot.

About half of the specialty meat markets in the area continue to offer slaughtering services as it used to be.

Schroeder's Meats in New Germany, the French Lake Butcher Shop near Cokato, Petty Brothers in Annandale, Taylor Meats in Watertown, Jerabek's Meats in Silver Lake, and Mackenthun and Wischnack of Norwood Young America still offer slaughtering services to their customers.

Schroeder's will butcher on the farm, with use of their trailer if this is needed, owner Doug Schroeder said.

Jerabek's Meats also offers on-the-farm slaughtering, said owner Dale Jerabek.

White Front Locker of Cokato offers slaughtering, but directly to specific customers who have contracts with them, owner Dennis Johnson said. He does not sell retail meat, although he is licensed to do so, Johnson said.

Others that offer old-fashioned meat market services without slaughtering are Ittel's Meats in Howard Lake, Tuvey's Meat and Music in Watertown, Uncle Ron's Smokehouse of Mayer, and the soon-to-be opened Garbers' Meats in Lester Prairie.

Garbers' Meats will eventually offer this service, owner Mark Garbers said.

Three of these shops have earned awards for their meat products; French Lake, Ittel's, and Tuvey's Meats and Music.

Ittel's is federally inspected and certified, which means it must undergo frequent inspections by the US Department of Agriculture, owner Jim Ittel said.

All shops are inspected by the state Department of Health, which allows them to sell within Minnesota only.

Since Ittel is federally inspected, he may resell his meat outside the state.

French Lake and Ittel's are both recognized by the Minnesota Meat Processors for their bacon and sausage, among other products.

French Lake has been awarded for its jerky, snack sticks, hams, dried beef, Hungarian bacon, and ring bologna, owner Randy Werner said.

The Ittels' list of award-winning products include summer sausage, beef jerky, smoked and dried beef and smoked turkey, and smoked, ready-to-eat hams.

Tuvey's earned a blue ribbon at the State Fair this year for its bacon, among other awards.

Most of these meat markets resell their meat products to other retail shops, such as grocery stores, convenience stores or other establishments.

Growing up in meat markets

There is a common thread in nearly all of the area meat markets ­ the owners learned the trade at a young age with their family members as guides.

Jim Ittel's father, the late Henry Ittel, started the meat shop in Howard Lake in the same place it is located now, in the 1940s.

He remembers slaughtering his first cow by himself as an eighth grader, Jim Ittel said.

Henry died in 1968, and slaughtering services ended soon after for the meat shop, Jim said.

Henry invented a hog de-hairing machine that was used by butcher shops for several decades around the 1950s, Jim said.

Nels Tuvey of Tuvey's Meat and Music remembers starting at the age of 12, he said.

He learned the ropes from his father, Elliott Tuvey.

Elliott Tuvey started the shop, called City Meat Market at the time, after World War II in Watertown, Nels said.

Nels took over, and has operated the meat market since 1977, called Tuvey's Meat and Music, but with an interesting twist ­ he offers guitars and other musical-related products in the front area of his shop, with the meat portion in the back.

Why? Because it was easier for him to operate both a music business and meat business in one place, Nels said.

Randy Werner of the French Lake Butcher Shop remembers learning to butcher at the age of 16.

He uses several special recipes, and is especially proud of his sausage, venison, and smoked products, along with blackberry glazed hams, Werner said.

Werner has several children that will likely carry on the shop after he reaches retirement with his wife, Kim Werner.

Doug Schroeder learned butcher practices when he was 10 years old from his grandpa, the late Reuben Noerenberg, and uncle, Jim Noerenberg.

"That's where I got my first taste of it," Schroeder said. Schroeder also has a son interested in the business, Ben.

Schroeder has been cutting meat since 1978, and has owned the New Germany meat shop since 1991.

Jamie Taylor of Taylor Meats in Watertown also learned the meat trade at the age of 12, from his father, Lee. He's spent about 27 years in the business now, Jamie said.

In fact, Lee Taylor still works in the butcher business, Jamie said.

Uncle Ron's Smokehouse in Mayer features an interesting connection: the shop is operated by the daughters ­ not nieces ­ of the late butcher Ron Stieve.

"We both learned when we were teenagers," commented owner Tice McPadden of her younger sister Shelly Kahl and herself.

The shop opened in 2000, following Stieve's death in 1999.

Stieve used to have a shop on main street since 1976, McPadden said.

Uncle Ron's sells plenty of jerky, beef and snack sticks, she said.

"I sell a lot of home style wieners and brats," she added.

The shop offered seasoned hamburger patties at the 4-H stand during the Carver County Fair, McPadden said.

Many people have encouraged the sisters to submit items for awards, McPadden commented.

For Mackenthun and Wischnack of Norwood Young America, John Mackenthun Jr. is the owner who learned early, commented Milan Wischnack.

John learned the business from his father, John senior, when he was young.

The business has grown well since then, Wischnack said.

Micky and Jim Petty of Petty Brothers also learned the business as teenagers from the Knaus family in Kimball, Micky said.

Petty Brothers has been operated since 1980, Micky said.

They are proud of their barbecue ribs, jerky, and potato sausage, he added.

Not all the area meat market fit the old-fashioned mold, since two owners are self starters, Mark Garbers and Dale Jerabek.

Both men are experienced in the grocery business, and decided to chart a different course in the meat market area.

Jerabek started in 1988 with a grocery store and switched over to the meat market business, he said.

Now he goes through 10 tons of sausage a year, he said.

Garbers will be jumping in, starting his own meat market, in the next few months.

He attended community college for meat processing and will open the doors of Garbers Meats for the first time in the fall.

Previously, Garbers worked for about 10 years at the Jack and Jill in Lester Prairie.

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