A Brief Story About Willow Creek Meats – I find it fascinating what it takes to be a successful cattle or pork producer. I always thought that once a day, the producer walked out and threw a bucket of corn and some hay to the cows. I started learning the science that behind cattle production. The roles of genetics, feeding programs, protein ratios and hormones. It’s fascinating to me.
The idea of aging beef was not something I knew much of at the time. My dad aged beef 10 – 14 days max. The idea of letting the beef hang for another 7 days before being processed intrigued me. I studied the concept a great deal. I visited with many people that were experienced in the area of dry aging beef. The University of NE, Kansas State University and many people helped me. This is one of the main areas our business is different from others. Aging of meat is more than just letting it hang. There are many variables that have to be addressed or the meat will just rot. Temperature, humidity, pH, fat content all have to be figured in to determine the length of time a beef or pork can be aged. Bacteria is also a huge factor. All this contributes to the flavor and tenderness of the meat. This is another area that fascinates me. The idea of custom processing is ages old. Buying straight from the producer used to be more common than buying retail packages. In fact, this was a dying business concept. People loved the convenience of buying a package of meat at the grocery store.
In the last 10 years, people have taken more of an interest of what is in their food, where it was raised, what it was fed. We are even seeing an interest of how humanely the animal was raised as well as harvested. Given the fact that few of those areas can be addressed in the grocery store, people are coming back to the idea of buying straight from the producer. Be it beef or pork. People then know all about what they are eating.
How people eat has also changed. Eating used to be just about survival. After people started buying their food rather than raising their own, value became a consideration. We have now entered a time when eating is considered an “experience” rather than a basic need. Most gatherings of people, revolve around what is being served to eat. The lunch or dinner is usually the focus of the event. Point is, people are now wanting their food to be of higher quality and grade when they are serving other people versus what they eat when no one is watching. This consumer trend is the reason why we focus on the high end. People come to us when it has to be good. I love this concept too. It’s pretty cool to know that people want your product to impress their family or friends.
Our relationship with the cattle and pork producers is key to this business. I need them to be successful at what they do or I don’t have a business. They need us or they can’t sell their product. Nobody wants a live cow I have made many friendships with the producers.