Fresh meat Wall Meat Processing offers fresh meat to school programs and the public
Published on Jan. 18, 2020
Wall, S.D. – A lot of changes have taken place at Wall Meat Processing in the last few years, and more are yet to come. Ken Charfauros and his business partner, Janet Neihaus, purchased the packing plant in 2017 over another plant they were interested in.
“We thought owning a meat plant was the best course for us. We used to process our own game, so we had some experience in this area. We decided on this plant because I liked the flow,” Charfauros says. “It is also located in the heart of beef country.”
Since purchasing the plant, it has become a family business. Charfauros’ son works in the plant, as well as his brother and three nephews. Neihaus works on the accounting side of the business, as well as being a business partner.
Remodeling the plant
Wall Meat Processing was built in 1967 and has had three owners since then, with Charfauros and Neihaus becoming the fourth.
“We took over the business when it was 50 years old. It needed some upgrading in the pen system and animal handling areas where the trailers were unloaded,” he says. “We put in a drive-thru to make it easier for anyone to unload, whether they are a seasoned trailer driver or not.”
They also replaced the existing pens with a new system that could hold up to 11 animals. The old system could only hold five.
The inside of the plant was remodeled with upgraded cutting and wrapping areas to make it more efficient. Charfauros says the existing cooler system was one of the biggest selling points of the plant.
“It worked perfectly for cooling and aging animals. After we purchased the plant, we bought a new smoker system that is internationally certified for cooking,” he says.
The smoker is computerized and moisture and heat controlled. It has a lot of new features the previous electric smoker lacked.
“This one is much more efficient and saves us on smoke and chips. It also reduced the smoking time from 12 hours down to four hours. It used to take us five to seven days to smoke bacon, now we can do it in four hours,” he says. “It gives us more confidence in the cure and speeds up the process.”
Some renovations were also made inside the structure, such as new flooring and adding new wrapping and cutting tables. The grinders and stuffers were relocated so they are more efficient. Charfauros spent 30 years in the Air Force, so he enjoys looking for ways to make the business more efficient.
With all the new upgrades, Charfauros is able to run two shifts at the plant for a total of 16 hours a day. Currently, 18 employees work at Wall Meat Processing.
“Our next round of renovations will involve either expansion of this plant or building a new plant,” Charfauros explains, admitting they are leaning toward building a new plant.
If they build a new plant, plans call for three sections, a ready to eat side, a raw side and an education center.
In the planning mode right now, it is predicted to be at least 17 months before the plant could be built.
The business partners would like to see an education center as part of the new plant to educate consumers about where their food comes from.
“In the meat processing business, we don’t get a lot of opportunities to educate people,” Charfauros explains.
If they can build an education center as part of the plant, it would be an opportunity for beef producers, FFA and 4-H members and the general public to see how meat is processed. They could learn how to grade and visually evaluate animals and blindly taste the animals they chose to see how they taste.
Currently, people would have to travel to South Dakota State University (SDSU) on the eastern side of the state to capture knowledge like that.
“My intent is to bring that educational piece to this side of the state. I want to teach people about beef, pork and possibly other species of animals we process here,” he explains. “I also hope to do some agri-tourism to teach people about where their food comes from.”
He continues, “I want to teach 4-H and FFA students how to grade meat and educate culinary students. There would be a lot of opportunity for academia and teaching in the learning center.”
Wall Meat Processing also provides youth with local beef through the Beef in Schools lunch program in South Dakota. Charfauros says they currently process local beef for seven schools participating in the program.
“We process animals that are either given or bought, and donated to the school lunch program,” he explains. “The cuts they get depend upon what the school requests. Mostly, it is cubed meat or roasts.”
Charfauros has a state inspector at the plant to follow the process from the time the animal is received until the meat is packaged and shipped to the school. Samples are also sent to a lab at SDSU for E.coli testing.
“My company does everything it can to make sure the meat we provide for the schools is free of any bacteria or pathogen,” he explains.
Since Wall is a tourist community, the business partners also own a restaurant where they can utilize some of the product they produce in the plant. Red Rock Restaurant and Lounge is located in downtown Wall and caters mostly to the local community.
“We do farm-to-table, and about 99 percent of the meat we serve at the restaurant is from the meat plant,” he explains. “We work closely with all the associations, as well as a food network chef,” he notes.
Customers can also visit Wall Meat Processing to purchase meat out of their retail case. They offer different cuts of beef and pork, as well as ready to eat products like Walldogs, which is a super-sized hotdog made from beef and pork. They also offer several types of sausage and jerky.
Please visit wallmeatprocessing.com for more information.
Gayle Smith is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.