One of the primary reasons that Honest Beef can deliver premium beef with the shortest supply chain possible is because of a third generation meat cutter in small town Nebraska.
However, the yellow brick road to this steed was not well-paved.
In order for us to do what we do, our harvest and cut facility has to be what is called "federally-inspected." This means that someone from the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is required by law to inspect the animals before and after harvest.
There are many plants that are federally-inspected, but most handle daily volumes too large to allow for the kind of transparency that Honest Beef requires.
Let's break this down:
99% of the cattle in the US are harvested by facilities that process over 10,000 head/year, while 1% of cattle are harvested and processed by facilities that process under 10,000/year. The largest of plants process over 6,000/day. Our diamond in the rough processes 500/year, and is extremely careful to keep safety, quality, and transparency in the forefront of all they do.
With requisite criteria in hand, we searched through the USDA database of federally-inspected facilities. After contacting several other establishments, we reached Custom Pack, a family owned beef processor in Hastings, Nebraska.
Without further adieu, meet the men behind your meat:
Dave Dirks and Brian Nollette.
Dave Dirks, Hannah Raudsepp, Brian Nollette, and Honest Beef's Savanna Jabro
Meat cutters are not easy men to get to sit down and conduct an interview. However, we were able to gather Dave for long enough to squeeze some answers out of him. Enjoy!
1. What’s your hometown, and how did you get into the beef cutting business?
My hometown is Hastings, NE. I have a BA in business and political science from Hastings College and an MBA from the University of Nebraska. I'm third generation at Custom Pack, which was founded by my Grandfather, Edward William Dirks, in 1947 at our present and only location. I started working here at age 16.
2. What is your favorite beef cut, and how do you like to cook it?
My favorite beef cut is a grilled ribeye over charcoal.
3. What is the most misunderstood thing about butchering and beef in general?
The most misunderstood thing about beef is that it is not a generic product. There are many degrees of quality in the animals and the way it is handled is just as important as the care and quality of the animal when it is alive. Processing is a huge factor in end quality to the consumer.
4. If there is one thing you would like consumers to know about your trade, what it is?
Not anyone can do it. Anyone can learn the skill but doing it well and being productive is a talent like music or speech. I'm only about 50/50 on the God given talent but intelligent enough to make up for the lacking side of the 50/50 and I know the talent when I see it.
5. What’s your favorite part about what you do?
The favorite part is the entire process of taking a live animal all the way to your dinner plate. A process with a lot of hurdles along the way.
6. What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
The hardest thing is crossing all of the hurdles like personnel, equipment, government, packaging, temperature controls etc. and still having a dime or two left at the end of the day.
7. A lot of people have asked about fresh vs. frozen beef. Any thoughts on that?
I don't think you can tell frozen vs. fresh on the dinner plate. Fresh is always easier to handle but frozen is practical and you just need to handle the frozen aspect ahead of prep and it is all good.