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Local butcher shop’s mobile services helping it thrive during COVID-19

Business & Money

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Graze and Grind, a butcher shop at 122 South Main Street in Firth, can process 20 animals a week. See how it works in the video player above. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

FIRTH – More than a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic there’s been a major shift in the way people think and behave, including the way they shop.

Nationwide, people are buying more products and services online and having it delivered to their home. People are eating out less and cooking more at home. A recent report from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association shows “consumers are choosing beef more often as they adapt to cooking more at home.”

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These trends have allowed a local butcher shop to thrive over the last year. Graze and Grind opened in August 2019 at 122 South Main Street in Firth. It processes meat from cattle, pigs and sheep and has a mobile butcher unit that butchers animals on the customer’s property. Many of those customers are in eastern Idaho, but it also serves people in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Oregon.

Layne Felsted, one of four partners in the business, tells EastIdahoNews.com an influx of people moving in over the last year has made the mobile unit an increasingly popular service.

“A lot of people are moving into the area who are buying one to five acre lots. They put a cow on it and … they don’t have the equipment or trailers to bring them in. There’s a couple (mobile shops) around — one clear up at the top of the valley and one in the lower valley. But in the middle, there’s a pretty big void. So there’s a need for that in our area,” Felsted says.

Each animal is slaughtered, gutted and stripped of its hide on-site. It arrives at the shop dead. The carcass is removed from the truck and weighed before its placed in a cooler anywhere from three to 10 days.

“We try and get them down to 40 degrees within the first 24 hours. Our coolers are at a constant 34 degrees,” says Felsted. “There’s an aging process to beef. As soon as you kill it, you introduce bacteria into the system. That’s a natural process. As you hang it in the cooler, bacteria (continues to) grow at a controlled rate. The temperature helps control that.”

Felsted says the aging process also helps maximize the shrink of the carcass by eliminating water and moisture from the meat.

Once the meat is cut and processed, it’s packaged in a vacuum-sealed bag and placed in the freezer. It’s boxed up and loaded in the customer’s car when they come to pick it up. See how it works in the video player above.

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One type of beef that’s gaining momentum throughout the country is Wagyu. Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cattle known for it’s finely marbled beef. Stephen Woolf, one of the other partners in the business, raises a small herd in Shelley, which he sells for market at Graze and Grind.

Graze and Grind’s biggest Wagyu customer is d’Railed, a restaurant in Idaho Falls.

“More people … want Wagyu for their tables. It’s definitely something most of us wouldn’t have as a staple in our diets because (it’s) a more expensive cut of meat,” Felsted says. “It’s the top marbling breed in the world. It’s very rich, flavorful, very robust. It’s very tender. It will ruin you.”

The highest grade of Wagyu has been known to sell for $200 a pound, according to BusinessInsider.com.

Twelve is the highest grade of Wagyu on the Japanese grading scale. Felsted says all the Wagyu they sell is ranked at a 10.

“That’s an anomaly,” Felsted says. “Less than 1% of all Wagyu in Japan are graded at 12.”

The high fat content in Wagyu is partly due to genetics, Felsted says. The other part of it is diet. A lot of scientific research went into feeding Woolf’s herd. A nutritionist helps determine the exact ration of each cow from calf to adulthood. Woolf is working to eventually produce top-grade beef.

The other partners in the business are David and Kevin Christensen. Going forward, Felsted and his team are hoping to continue to grow their business in retail stores while continuing to provide a high-quality product for customers.

“Our meat cutters have quite a bit of experience. They have a retail background. Most custom shops don’t have that,” he says. “We consider ourselves an artisan butcher shop and because (of that) we have a quality expectation. We aren’t the least expensive shop out there, but I truly believe we are the most valued shop out there.”

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