Chase Meeks, meat processing team leader at The Local Butcher, opened a tall metal door to display a room full of beef and pork carcasses in preparation for processing. Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Program recently toured The Local Butcher, where its staff were hard at work custom-cutting steaks, vacuum-sealing packages, stuffing tubes for bulk ground meat, and making sausage patties.
Chase explained that following slaughter, the hot carcasses must be cooled down quickly to a recommended temperature. This is essential for a safe, quality product for the consumer. In addition, during the tour the staff prepared retail meat for sale at the shop in front of the facility, where Office Manager Rhonda Meeks spends most of her day.
A former teacher, Rhonda grew restless after retirement and joined her daughter, Jenna, and Shawn Donahue in starting a business. On top of day-to-day operations, Kenny Meeks, Jenna’s father, is currently working on installing a smoker so that they can offer cured meats in the near future.
Originally operating a butcher shop in Gallipolis, Jenna and Shawn moved north to be closer to their home and to provide a much-needed butchering facility in the Athens-Meigs area — acquiring the shop in Athens County in January 2021.
First used for meat-processing in 1976 by the Pratt Family, the building where The Local Butcher operates came back online after over a year of restoration. Between the initial purchase of the property and investment in necessary equipment, Jenna and Shawn have put over $700,000 into The Local Butcher.
These funds have been sourced from a combination of personal finances and a grant from the American Association of Meat Processors. Enterprises like The Local Butcher play an important role for livestock producers in southeast Ohio.
“Processors like The Local Butcher are huge assets to small producers like us,” said Molly Sowash, co-owner of MoSo Farm in Athens County. “We’re encouraged to see a new butcher open so close to our farm. This will really help us keep up with customer demand for local grass-fed beef.”
For more information, visit The Local Butcher’s Facebook page, or call (740) 541-9995.