Walking through the doors at T. L. Keller Meats you immediately sense the energy that resonates through the building of this family venture in Medina County.
Ringing phones demand attention from founder, Tom Keller, as he fields questions from clients who have animals being processed. Meanwhile daughter Kayleigh answers a call about what cut of meat will work for a customer. Outside, mom Cathy Keller, directs her Whole Hogg Catering pit crew as they smoke and BBQ a mountain of ribs to be sold later that day outside their Litchfield meat market for the “Racks for Racks” fundraiser, created by the Keller family in support of breast cancer research.
The pace doesn’t slow as you leave the office and head to the cooler and cutting room where the beef, pork, lamb and deer carcasses are inspected and processed. The Keller family works with two local slaughterhouses and then finishes the cutting and packaging at their facility. Every carcass is precisely identified with all information about origin and processing after being examined and stamped by the state inspector, who is at the facility every day.
“Your inspector should be your best friend,” Kayleigh said. “We welcome his feedback, and he’s here every day to make sure that our facility is producing the safest product we can for our customers.”
Local livestock farmers also have the added benefit of learning about ways to improve their feeding and management plans as they work with Kayleigh, who received a degree in animal nutrition from Ohio State University. Her keen eye and understanding of nutrition allows her to evaluate the hanging carcasses and give recommendations to the farmers.
On the farm side of the Keller business, son Kelton, the fifth generation on the family farm, raises crops and hay with cousin Ryan Keller and his father, Tim, to feed the cow-calf operation that also provides product for sale at the Keller meat market in Litchfield. Tom and Cathy’s other daughter Shanna, who works full-time for the Metro Parks, also lends a hand when she can to the family farm and businesses.
One of the most notable changes since establishing the custom meat market in 1999 is that customers want to know much more about where their food comes from and how it is raised. Tom takes pride in being able to speak with each customer about this concern.
“We can be honest with them and tell them where (the meat) came from,” he said. “When we buy from local farmers I can probably even take them to that farm and show them the mother that animal came from.”
A resurgence in the art of smoking and barbecuing has made cuts like the pork butt and brisket some of the most sought after and valued cuts in the Keller shop.
“People are getting excited about making their own food again and it’s heartwarming,” Kayleigh said. “They bring in samples and ask us for opinions all the time.”
Creative customers are also using nontraditional items from the butchering process such as fat for soaps and bones and marrow for protein sources.
The commitment of the Keller family is woven through not only the fabric of the family businesses, but reaches into the community as well. They are supporters of local county fairs and schools, the area food bank and other civic groups. Kayleigh is on the Medina County Farm Bureau board this year and looks forward to continuing the Keller family’s mission of working in the community to promote a better understanding of agriculture.
Experiment with meat on a budget
Why are these in the bargain basket? They are all nontraditional cuts from the carcass that are very thin, not highly marbled and typically considered a lesser cut. Yet when prepared correctly they will still shine as the centerpiece of dinner.
- Hanger Steak: Marinate and put on the grill on high heat for a short amount of time to get a great lean piece of beef that is perfect alongside some grilled vegetables.
- Flank Steak: Broil under high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side and pair with a chimichurri sauce for a Brazilian flare.
- Skirt Steak: Set oven to broil for 4-5 minutes on each side for a piece of meat that’s great for fajitas.
Check out beefitswhatsfordinner.com for more great recipe ideas.
Featured Image: Cathy (left) and Kayleigh Keller.