Ohio is home to a wide array of custom meat processors and meat markets offering vast processing options and opportunities to keep the state’s livestock industry going. Here are highlights from four meat processors showcasing some of the rich diversity of options available to Ohio livestock producers and consumers.
Cotterman Brothers Processing, Glenford
Tucked in the Appalachian foothills of Perry County, Cotterman Brothers Processing is a custom-exempt plant specializing in beef, hog, and lamb. The plant produces quality cuts of meat and delivers timely service at a reasonable price. They custom cut and package, offer smoking and curing for hogs, and have a delicious meatball/burger seasoning mix for ground lamb. Hog roaster rental is another important and unique aspect of this enterprise.
Ted Cotterman has owned the business since 1986.
“At that time, we had a mobile truck and butchered on site at the farm, then we would take the animals back to the Glenford facility to cut up,” Cotterman said, “Ten years later, in ’96, we got a kill floor on the property.”
While owning a small business is a time-consuming, 24/7 job, Cotterman, a farmer who raises club lambs and is co-owner of Genetic Force Show Pigs with Tom Spohn, says the processing business offers him some work flexibility.
“I farrow 60 sows and lamb 125 ewes. I enjoy the flexibility of owning my own business, because it allows me to still get farm work completed. Just this morning, I had three sets of twins and one triplet that I will have to go check on here in a bit. With this business, if I need to come home to lamb, I can,” Cotterman said.
Cotterman is busy enough with his current business that he sees no need to expand beyond his custom-exempt status.
“We are covered up with business with what we are doing now. Over the past five years, we have had to turn customers away during our busiest months of October, November, and December. This year alone, I turned away 120 hogs and 20 beef. People need to book four to five months out in order to have animals processed at that time of the year. Next year’s books are half full for these prime months and it is only mid-winter. We couldn’t process more than we do now, time-wise and facility-wise,” Cotterman said.
This brisk business and the unpredictability of deer harvest led Cotterman to quit processing venison.
“It is more profitable to cut deer, but it is too irregular. I quit cutting deer three years ago because we were turning hog and beef customers away and deer season is so unpredictable. If it rains during gun season, there are no hunters. More guys are bow hunting these days, but you can’t predict when they’ll kill a deer and come in because it’s such a long bow season. You can’t schedule them; with livestock, you can schedule and plan ahead of time,” Cotterman said.
Cotterman attributes several factors to his business’s popularity.
“We have been in business for a long time and folks trust us. We are busy because we are trusted. Also, with the trend of people wanting to know where their meat is coming from, there is more demand for this type of business,” he said. “There is a reason there are not more slaughterhouses popping up. There’s plenty of demand for it, but it takes plenty of time, money, and bottom line, it is work. Machines can only do so much; someone’s got to get on the cutting floor and make things happen.”
Cotterman Brothers Processing is located at 14076 Laurel Hill Rd. in Glenford. The facility can be contacted at 740-787-2922.
Baltic Country Meats, Baltic
In Tuscarawas County, Baltic Country Meats is a state-inspected processor with a market featuring local Amish meats and foods. Owner Susie Raber started working at the business for friends of the family when she was 15 years old. In 2004, she took over the business, and it has since greatly expanded due to customer demand.
“This business has changed a lot. The retail area has more than tripled in size, we added a new kitchen and dining area, and I have more than tripled the cooler and freezer space,” Raber said. “We expanded the processing shop due to the large number of small scale individual farms and stores that want things processed for them for their own retail. We use no MSG in our products and our curing and smoking without nitrates and preservatives has brought a lot of people to us.”
Baltic Country Meats processes and custom packages beef, pork, and lamb, and cuts up 800 to 900 deer seasonally. They offer customers some distinctive processing options and the retail store offers all the fixings for some good down home cooking and eating.
“For pork processing, we have specialty sausage flavors and our pepper bacon, smoked bacon, and garlic bacon are customer favorites. All recipes I blend myself,” Raber said. “On the retail end, we make our own bologna and hot dogs, and our deli case carries over 30 types of lunch meat. Our pork and hamburger is ground fresh daily, and our fresh meats all come from local farms. We sell homemade soups, salads, baked goods and serve ready-to-eat foods that are made on the property. All of the fry pies, breads, cookies, coffee cakes, and cinnamon rolls are made by women in the community and I make the salads and 30 different desserts that rotate throughout the month,” Susie said. “My macaroni salad and graham cracker pudding are very popular.”
Offering a specialty deli, bulk foods, a butcher house, and an adept processing plant, Baltic Country Meats is a family and community affair. Susie’s nephew, Freddy Raber, does most of the cutting and several other nieces and nephews are full time employees at the business. In season, a local produce stand is set up in front of the store, and Susie says that her favorite thing about the business is “the personal relationships with the customers. My logo is that we’re a ‘Mom and Pop’ shop; we do whatever it takes to keep Mom and Pop happy.”
Baltic Country Meats is located at 3457 State Route 93 in Baltic. They can be reached at 330-897-7025.
Bay Food Market and Bay Packing, Lancaster
First opened in 1932, Bay Food Market is Lancaster’s oldest independent grocery. Their slaughterhouse, Bay Packing, a state-inspected facility that specializes in beef, pork, goat, lamb, and old-fashioned skin-on roasting hogs, is located in the rural outskirts of town.
Karen Kraft Crutcher, who co-owns this Fairfield County business with her brother, David Kraft, said that her grandfather, Eldon Pickering, and her father, Charles “Chum” Kraft, worked for the previous owner, Hugh Bay, for many years before her family purchased the enterprise.
“My father Chum and my mother Kathleen purchased the business in 1978. After our parents’ passing, my brothers Daniel (who is now deceased), David, and I inherited the business and continue to operate it today,” Kraft Crutcher said.
The meat case at this neighborhood grocery market offers quality local meats with personalized service.
“We are the only local business that butchers and sells our own meat. As much as possible, we work with several local farmers to obtain farm-raised beef, pork, and lamb. We make our own brats and fresh sausage and cure and smoke hams, bacon, and sausage. The meat in our meat case is never prepackaged. We also offer several varieties of frozen meat boxes and custom-made meat and cheese, fruit, or vegetable party trays,” Kraft Crutcher said.
The storefront benefits from the custom packing plant and the business also provides fresh meat to several local restaurants. These factors have contributed to the business’ stability and success over time.
“Having Bay Packing allows us to sell the freshest beef and pork and allows our retail customers to ‘bulk buy’ if they choose. We can provide custom processing for half or whole hogs and quarters, sides, or whole beef for customers who patronize our market. We can acquire hogs, beef, lamb, or goat for them if they are not farmers or do not know any farmers. Additionally, we are one of the last processing plants in Ohio that offers old fashioned skin-on roasting hogs, which can be ordered half or whole,” Kraft Crutcher. “My brother David also owns Castaways Restaurant here in Lancaster. Obviously, along with our other restaurant customers, you won’t find fresher meat on anyone’s menu. We are fortunate that the diversity of having retail, custom butchering, and some wholesale to local area restaurants has allowed us to survive bad economies over the years.”
Kraft Crutcher attributes their business’ long-standing popularity in the community to individualized attention and her family’s passion for carrying on an important family and small town institution. Bay Food Market was awarded the 2017 Downtown Business of the Year and was awarded the 2016 Small Business of the Year by the Lancaster Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce.
“We strive to meet the individual needs of each customer. We do not pre-package so that smaller and larger families can buy exactly how much they want and need, which eliminates unused leftovers and wasted food dollars. The same applies to our custom butchering. The customer orders the cuts and package weights or pieces that fit their family’s needs. Unique to our retail store is free home delivery within Lancaster City Limits with a $25 or more order. We have several older customers who regularly use this service and, unfortunately, there are instances where we are their only contact with the outside world,” she said. “We would like to thank our loyal customers for allowing us to serve you for 86 years, and look forward to continuing this great tradition.”
Bay Food Market is located at its original and only location at 301 S. Maple Street in Lancaster. Bay Packing is located at 4095 Lancaster-Thornville Road. The businesses can be reached at 740-653-9606; their website is bayfoodmarket.com.
When Dave and Kim Zawacki first opened Zavotski Custom Meats and Deli in Lucas County, they were looking to find a market for Dave’s kielbasa recipe and to escape the world of corporate grocery stores.
“I always had a tremendously good kielbasa recipe that I wanted to try to sell, so we started buying some equipment, opened the Sylvania Avenue store in 2007, and have been building the business since,” said Dave Zawacki. “I was a meat cutter for a large supermarket chain for 28 years and Kim worked at this same chain for 18 years. We set up meat cases for stores that were opening. My wife would set up the processed meats and I would establish the fresh meat cases.”
After 20 years of being a department head in a corporate supermarket and seeing a reality on the ground where butchers and human labor in general were being cycled out, Zawacki looked to a new market and a different kind of patron.
“Big, corporate chain stores have been responsible for putting a lot of Ma and Pa stores out of business and toward the end of my career there, they were trying to cut back on meat cutters. They were really trying to scale back and dial in labor and cut costs. Everything was becoming computerized and it is now getting to a point where many of these grocery chains are having all of their meats prepackaged and shipped out to the stores, effectively doing away with meat cutters all together,” Zawacki said. “I found there was a niche for this type of custom meat business. My customers don’t want the prepackaged stuff. They come in here three or four times a week to buy fresh meat and everything I do here is ‘old school.’ I grind only whole muscle meats, my meats are ground fresh daily, and we make our own lunch meats such as pastrami, roast beef, ham, and kielbasa loaf.”
Interestingly, it is not with the supermarket super chains that Zawacki feels the most competition.
“Society has really changed a lot since I started working in the grocery business. People used to cook more. I sell to people who still cook; however, people who can cook a beef roast are shrinking by the year. My biggest competition is from ready-to-go pizza chains and fast food restaurants where you do not have to do anything or spend any time making the food, and you can have an inexpensive meal already made for them,” Zawacki said.
The deli displays a large selection of excellent lunch meats and cheeses, the meat case is filled with choice beef, and they always offer a variety of specialty items.
“When we first opened, I tried to set the cases up like a chain store meat market, with basic cuts and a lot of red meats. Now, we carry a lot of specialty items. We have eight varieties of gourmet chicken burgers which are really popular. They are outselling our gourmet beef burgers — which are also really good — three to one. In the winter, we offer a lot of stuffed products. We have a kielbasa bread stuffing that we put in our pork chops and roasts that is a customer favorite, as well. We have a small smoker and our smoked sausage is also in high demand,” Dave said.
The Toledo area is home to many Polish people, and this influence is evident at Zavotski.
“We are an American meat market with Polish heritage. We are not a Polish specialty store, but we do carry mainstream American-Polish dishes. We have to make sure that the products that we sell are wanted by customers on a daily basis. We carry Polish items that people want in high volume such as kielbasa and golabki, or cabbage rolls. We also sell several varieties of authentic pierogis homemade by Srodek Deli in Hamtramck, Mich. Kim makes Czarnina, a traditional Polish duck blood soup, that is especially popular around the holidays,” Zawacki said.
Zavotski also caters to everyone from an individual needing a personal meal, to a family wanting freezer meat, to large groups needing party trays of cheeses, meats, veggies, and/or Polish foods and desserts.
“We have a heat-and-eat section that sells a wide array of homemade meals. We cook the meals, put them together, package them up and sell them in individual servings, ready for the microwave. It is amazing how many we sell—mostly to seniors and single people. We do a lot of Polish catering, making Polish Wedding-type dinners. We have found a new niche here, as an older Polish caterer in the community is slowing down and it is allowing us to ramp our business up. We also sell custom packages of frozen beef, offering a variety of sizes and meat cut options,” Zawacki said.
Zawacki’s business affords him the opportunity to work with his family and the fine cuts of meat that he takes pleasure in carving.
“I like to merchandize and set up the meat cases and even though I have been doing it almost 40 years, I still really enjoy cutting meat,” Zawacki said. “I am blessed that I have two daughters, Aubriana and Alyssa, who both work in the business and have been a part of it since they were kids. One works at each store and both have a passion for the business and are hard workers. It really makes it nice for us. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Zavotski Custom Meats and Deli has two locations in the Toledo area: 2600 W. Sylvania Ave. and 4400 Heatherdowns. Their website is zavotski.com and they can be reached by phone at 419-720-5225.
These establishments are prime examples of the strong, independent small businesses in Ohio’s meat industry that offer their customers unparalleled quality products and excellent customer service, while adapting to the changing trends among livestock producers and consumers community-wide. From Appalachia and Amish Country, in small towns and urban centers, the Buckeye state is a unique place to be for meat production, processing, and consumption.