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Mema’s Meats opens in Berthold

Butcher shop helps fill need in ND

Kim and Phil Newman stand at the retail counter in their shop, Mema’s Meats, Jan. 11. Photo by Jill Schramm/MDN

BERTHOLD – A new butcher shop has been booking quickly since it recently opened in Berthold.

Owners Phil and Kim Newman knew before they entered the business that the demand for meat processing was there, particularly after hearing other butcher shop owners say, “We need help in this industry.”

Located at 28525 86th Ave. NW at Berthold, Mema’s Meats began butchering its first animals Dec. 22.

Phil Newman said the plant should be able to process up to 25 beef a week, plus some pigs. Although interested in processing deer for hunters, whether the plant will take deer this fall will depend on whether it has capacity for that additional work. The shop can be contacted at 453-3401.

Newman said his family has preferred getting their beef and pork from butchers for nearly 18 years.

Jill Schramm/MDN Employees cut beef in the processing area of Mema’s Meats Jan. 11.

“Keeping a freezer full of meat was pretty important to us, and I just found that homegrown beef is way better than the stuff that you get at the store,” he said. “So I tried to take my perspective as a customer and my experiences and incorporate that into how we were going to conduct business here.”

Among consumer-friendly measures include vacuum sealing meat and stamping packages with the customer’s name, date of processing and package weight. The shop also is designed to allow customers to back their vehicles into an indoor area to load their meat from the freezer.

The shop has an observation window to enable people to view their animals on the killing floor. FFA, 4-H or other groups can bring young people for tours to gain an understanding of the butchering process and scout a potential career.

Among his previous endeavors, Phil Newman worked in the copper mining and insurance industries and for a hot tub company in Utah. He worked in the oil and gas industry there, which led to his eventual relocation to the Minot area. He was a manager in an oil-field water and crude oil trucking company, later starting his own oil-field equipment trucking company.

He built a shop for his trucking company at Berthold, moving in during September 2019 in anticipation that 2020 would be one of the biggest years he ever had.

Jill Schramm/MDN Phil Newman demonstrates a cattle chute at Mema’s Meats Jan. 11.

“By the middle of February, it was very apparent that was not going to be the case,” Newman said. “I’m like, ‘Now what am I going to do?'”

During one of his trucking trips, he and an employee began seriously talking about starting a butcher shop.

“I had seven pigs that I raised at my house, and I couldn’t get kill dates on them,” he said. “I had cows, and everybody at that point in time, they were starting to book a year out, and I could see the need in the community to have additional capacity for processing animals.”

He spent about two months traveling to visit other slaughter plants in the state. He also visited plants in Utah during a family trip there.

“I just spent a ton of time trying to do the research on it so I could put this together as efficiently as possible,” Newman said. “I had hired a consultant to help me put together a spreadsheet to find out – ‘Was this going to be financially viable? Could we make it if we were going to do it?’ I figured we could, but I figured we were going to have to go pretty big if we were going to do it.”

Newman has some farm-related experience with butchering, and his son-in-law who works for the business has prior experience with a Kansas packing plant. The Newmans also invited friends from Montana, who retired after successfully operating a butcher shop for many years, to help Mema’s Meats get started. In addition, the meat processing industry in the state is a welcoming group, with butcher shop owners eager to help and encourage the new person, Newman said.

The consultant who helped him develop a business plan asked why he wanted to open a butcher shop.

“Number one,” Newman had replied, “all my kids and my grandkids live in North Dakota now. They’ve all followed me up here from Utah. Over the course of 10 years, this has become home to us.

“We were just looking for something that we could do that would be sustainable here in North Dakota that is a need, to be of service to the community and something that we can carry on through generations that will be, hopefully, building a legacy for my family,” he added.

The business has hired several employees, both family members and nonfamily members from the community. “Mema” comes from the name the grandchildren call Kim Newman.

“We want the butcher shop to have a certain family-oriented feel,” Newman said. “You spend the majority of your time at work. When you are there, I want it to be a welcoming place for my employees as well as my customers. I don’t want to go halfway on everything. I want to create almost an experience when you come in.”

The Newmans created their retail space to feel like North Dakota. Reclaimed oak and tin from a former machine building were used in the furnishings to give it a rustic yet home-like look.

Mema’s Meats is located in Newman’s remodeled and expanded trucking building. The plant has multiple coolers for various stages of the meat preparation and they expect to be adding a smokehouse before long.

The plant is state inspected. Newman explains USDA-inspected plants are able to sell across state lines, but his business plan isn’t to service that large a market area.

“That’s not my niche. I really just want to serve the local community and develop the relationships around here and help give those farmers and ranchers a place that they can get their animals processed,” Newman said. He also wants to build relationships to purchase quality beef directly from ranches to sell through his retail outlet.

“Prior to coming to North Dakota, I used to do Dutch oven cooking contests. So, I enjoy coming up with new recipes and coming up with flavor combinations and trying and testing things. So this fits,” he said.

Part of his vision is to someday offer samples and recipes and maybe even a cookbook. He sources his sausage seasonings from a Greek family-owned business in Utah because of the products’ taste and quality.

“I’ve always enjoyed time in the kitchen and I’m serious about my food. That’s how we like to keep it around here. I want people to have the confidence that when they bring their animals here, they’re going to get back quality products. If they come to shop at a retail store, they know that what they take home is going to be some of the best quality they can get and, hopefully, it’s going to be North Dakota raised,” he said.

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