Red Barn Meats Inc is a meat processing business owned by Jordan and Rachel Brandt. In August 2009, they started their business, which was known at that time as Brandt’s Custom Meat. In 2013, the couple took their business to the next grade and became a USDA Facility in the small town of Croghan, NY. This month we had the opportunity to chat with the Brandts about their family business that has grown beyond their expectations and what is next in their entrepreneurial journey.
Ever wonder why barns are usually red in color? Well red is (or, perhaps, was) a popular color for barns not because of its shade but for its usefulness back in the day.
As we know many years ago, choices for paints, sealers and other building materials were not what they are today, and farmers had to be resourceful in finding or making a paint that would protect and seal the wood on their barns. Thus, many farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant. To this oil, they would add a variety of things, most often milk and lime, but they would also add ferrous oxide, or rust. Rust was plentiful on farms and because it killed fungi and mosses that might grow on barns, it was very effective as a sealant, but it would turn the mixture red in color.
When paint became more available, many people chose red paint for their barns in honor of tradition. The reason we bring this up is Red Barn Meats is a booming family business that honors tradition and red just happens to be the favorite color of Jordan, one of its owners.
There is a growing interest amongst today’s consumers to know more about the food that they are eating especially their meats. They want to know how meat is produced, how animals are raised and slaughtered, and the diet fed to livestock. Well, this might be new to some consumers it has always been a part of Jordan and Rachel Brandt’s business model and their vision for Red Barn Meats Inc, which is a USDA and custom slaughtering facility located in Croghan on the Briot Road in Lewis County, New York.
Jordan’s interested in the meat processing business started early. “Back when I was 14 or a little bit younger than that, I started going with Rachel’s uncle when he used to go on the farms to slaughter and process a few animals. I did it because I liked being outdoors and going with him, I didn’t have to be at home. So, I went with him quite a few times. I enjoyed the whole process of it. It was a lot of work, but I wasn’t afraid of hard work, and I like being outside. I like being around animals. So as a young kid, I think it just stuck from there,” said Jordan.
Jumping forward after working several years at a USDA slaughter facility in Vermont, Jordan was able to learn a lot of skills and got very interested in the USDA and how they operated. Jordan goes on to say, “While working there, I went to the farms and harvested animals and would end up processing them in my dad’s garage. Rachel and I had been doing that for a long time, so we decided to set up little shop there. We really loved what we did, cutting meat was a passion of ours, we spent a lot of late nights and weekends working in there. While working at the plant, I thought to myself, if I can cut this much meat for someone else, why not do it for myself and my family. I could see some numbers and dollar signs and we decided to pursue starting our own family business.
So, moving ahead a few years the Brandts ended up in Carthage, New York, set up a small shop with Rachel doing most of the work while looking after their oldest son, who was two at that time plus the couple had another child on the way. As Jordan says, “Rachel and I worked as a team. I still did all the on-farm slaughtering and brought the animals back to the shop to process. Rachel did all the meat wrapping, the scheduling, billing, order taking and all the phone calls, plus took care of the house and the kids. We usually started around 4am in the morning and would work until close to midnight everyday.”
Business was growing, and neither Jordan nor Rachel had time for anything other than work, so they ventured out into the world of employees to keep up with the demand for their services. Moving ahead, quite a few more steps they outgrew their building and in 2012 the Brandt’s transitioned the facility to where it is now located in Croghan. Jordan says, “We were shocked at how much more room we had to work, we could now slaughter inside out of the elements. There was room to hang animals in a cooler.” Now they had a great facility that allowed them to offer additional services and process more product, but they also had a major problem, that being that they didn’t have that much work. Jordan explains, “When we transitioned from Carthage to Croghan, we ended up losing a lot of our up north customers, just because we weren’t going to the farm slaughtering them anymore.”
Moving ahead again with the Brandt’s journey, they decided to go USDA certified which opened up another door for more work and it did come but slowly. Jordan says, “Nobody knew who we were really at that time and nor did they know our work. Plus, USDA clients are very particular with how they want things done. So not knowing who we were it took a little time getting customers, but we were able to get our name out in the industry and business started to pick up.”
With growing demand for their services, the Brandts were able to go from three casual employees up to eight full time employees and quickly up to 20 full time staff. As any entrepreneur knows with business growth comes a little pain and that pain for the Brandts was in operation management. As Jordan says, “I wanted to be a meat cutter and not a manager, and business declined a little as I struggled to find my new position.” Changes were made and business started moving ahead again and they continue to grow to the point that they are looking to expand their workforce and their facility.
When we asked if that meant another move for the business Jordan responded, “We are going to stay where we are now, thankfully as part of the growth plan we ended up purchasing a piece of property right next to our current shop and that should give us enough room to do what we want to do now and the ability to scale as large as we want to go after this.”
Red Barn Meats currently has twenty-one full time employees and seven part time employees. Working for Red Barn Meats or any other meat processing plant can have its ups and downs and the day-to-day operations can be mundane or monotonous. In saying that it can also be very rewarding, and their employees take pride in the fact that their products are in stores and restaurants and that they can tell their friends and families that their meat is from Red Barn Meats, and that they helped in the process of getting that meat to the table to feed their friends and family.
Speaking of friends and family, that is the culture that Jordan and Rachel want for the business. It started as a family business and they strive to keep it that way. Jordan and Rachel add, “Our employees are an extension of our family, and we truly care about each person. Are we going to have disagreements? Well of course, but that it going to happen, we have six children, we know very well about disagreements, and we know how to work through them with understanding. We also understand that that our team has families of their own, they have kids, they have sports, and they want to do stuff outside of work and we encourage that also. So, we try to keep that all in mind as we continue to grow the business, for sure.”
In our conversation with Jordan and Rachel, we asked what the Red Barn Meat Brand represents? How is it different from other similar plants in the state? Their answer was upfront and honest, “Hopefully our brand stands out and represents quality meats that are sourced locally, at a reasonable price. It’s very hard to do all three of those. I mean, there’s a lot of other meat counters that are out there that buy their product from many different places, they take it out of a box, cut it and put it in their case to sell. We know where our actual animals are from because, we harvest them, we cut them, and we stock our cases that way. And because they’re local, you end up paying a little bit more. So, we’re trying to compete with pricewise, but it’s hard.”
We are confident that with the Red Barn Meats brand that customers are getting quality, that they know where their meat is coming from, and even if they are paying a little bit more or even a lot more than what they are paying in the store that they are getting a great local product at a reasonable price. Jordan and Rachel along with their team take pride in what they do. Their journey has brought them to where they are today. So, when people hear Red Barn Meats, they know that they have a product that they can trust and a team behind the brand that will do its best to take care of each customer.
Red Barn Meats has a diverse mixture of customers that range from those who raised their own animals for themselves, ones who raise and sell and distribute and then they have their commercial customers like stores and restaurants that use and sell their products. With their expansion, they will be targeting more customers with their own larger product line.
In talking about their expansion, Jordan and Rachel explain the amount of planning that’s going into the design and businesses strategy saying, “We have a lot going on, I mean, we’re starting again from the ground up for the third time. So, we’re actually doing the expansion so we can get some more room to operate more efficiently, planning different packaging for some of the other people we’d like to sell to. The new plant will be designed not only to be more productive, but to help manufacture a variety of products that we hope to distribute ourselves. So instead of continuing to work for 100 different people, we’re hoping that we can put some more of our stuff out there and be competitive on that level and are hoping to not just have our products in the state of New York, but also the surrounding states as well.”
It is safe to say that the Brandt family and their team at Red Barn Meat has a lot on their plate in the coming months, so you and your family have great things on yours. So, make sure to check out their website and social media to see the many great products they have and if they might be coming to a location near you soon. And if you are in Lewis County, New York drop in and say hello, they would love to meat you and we promise they will not steer you wrong!
By Ryan Myson