Adding Retail Boosts Beef Operation


Deborah Jeanne Sergeant, Lancaster Farming (PA)

Apr 12, 2019


ROMULUS, N.Y. — Necessity is the mother of invention. In one case, it birthed a butcher shop in N.Y.


“I’ve always had beef, since ‘forever,’” said butcher shop owner Keith Schrader recently.


Keith and his wife, Sue, had long struggled to find a USDA-inspected facility to process their meat — a growing problem across upstate New York. The diminutive size of the nearest place, 35 miles away, made it difficult to process the quantity of animals the Schraders raised.


To solve this problem, 10 years ago, the couple began butchering and retailing beef from their site. That effort eventually grew into the Schrader Farms Meat Market.


“Keith is a visionary,” Sue said. “He didn’t start this business until he was 50, which is often a time of life when people start thinking of slowing down.”


“It’s my mid-life crisis,” Keith said.


The couple raises 100 beef cattle on their 800 acres in Romulus, in the New York Finger Lakes region.


“We found (there was) demand for smaller quantities, other than the half or quarter,” Keith said. “It was at a time when beef (pricing) was going up. I don’t think people had the money or storage for a big quantity.”


A friend with a meat shop mentored Keith in butchering and cutting. The Schraders designed their building and began the process to obtain a USDA number. They broke ground for the market in March 2012. By August of that year, the operation performed its first USDA kill.


The Schraders self-financed some of the project and obtained loans for the rest.


Their product line includes fresh beef cuts — from hamburger to steaks to roasts — as well as four flavors of sausage, pork chops, smoked bacon, smoked ham, brats, snack sticks, pastrami, kielbasa, turkey, smoked turkey, bologna and other deli meats.


“If it comes from a beef cow, we sell it,” Sue said. “What sets us apart is (that) we can do special cuts. We sell steaks that are like a Denver steak. We do trendier things. That’s our focus. People can come shop at our store to buy fresh and what we don’t sell fresh, we freeze.”


They also provide catering, focusing on a barbecue-themed menu, and sell wholesale to local restaurants. Upon request, they can provide other types of catered meals.


While Keith is full-time at the meat operation, Sue teaches sixth grade at Romulus Central School. Ten full-timers work at the meat shop, along with a few part-timers.


All the beef at the market comes from their herd. The Schraders buy feeder cattle and keep a few brood cows on the farm, because Keith likes to have a few calves born in the spring.


“I believe that beef quality is what you feed them,” Keith said. “I have anything from Angus to Herefords and Charolais.”


His cattle take 14 to 18 months from start to finish, and are offered free access to pasture mix with clover.


“We feed for weight gain and good-quality, tender meat,” Keith said.


At about 800 pounds, he changes their feed to...


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