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Quality Cuts

The Butcher Shop's customers no longer have to go whole hog.

After 25 years of cutting and wrapping livestock that patrons purchased directly from nearby ranchers, the Eagle Point butchers are selling locally raised beef, pork and lamb by the piece. Whether its steak, bacon or lamb chops, the meat often costs less than grocery-store counterparts, says co-owner Cameron Callahan.

"We've made it so affordable for people to buy good, wholesome, local meat," Callahan says. "We can sell better quality."

The only stop between rancher and retailer is a Roseburg-area slaughtering facility certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lacking a government-approved slaughterhouse, the Rogue Valley also is missing a major component of truly local meat production, says Wendy Siporen, executive director of THRIVE, a nonprofit advocacy group for Rogue Valley food producers. The organization has been working for three years to bypass that barrier, Siporen says.

"It's really difficult for people to truck their animals to Roseburg."

So last week, Siporen and Callahan toured a White City warehouse that formerly housed a USDA-approved slaughtering facility to determine if it could be resurrected for that purpose. Callahan says it would likely take more than a year to open, roughly the same time line he and Siporen cite for putting a government-certified mobile slaughter truck in service, provided they could obtain about $185,000 in funds. Although The Butcher Shop underwent extensive renovations to gain approval for retail sales, Callahan says he can't operate a kill floor because the business is located within city limits.

Despite the miles on Callahan's meat, it fills an increasing demand for locally produced beef, pork and lamb in the smaller quantities typically available at supermarkets, Siporen says. The Butcher Shop obtained retailer certification several months ago and sold its first fresh meat for Easter.

"Buying meat by the cut is something we're used to," Siporen says.

To meet retail customers' demand, The Butcher Shop keeps at least a dozen carcasses on hand, plus about a dozen more purchased by the whole, half or quarter, Callahan says. Lamb is one of the most valuable local resources because most that's sold in stores was shipped frozen from New Zealand, he adds.

"Any lamb we carry is all local."

The Butcher Shop caters to other customer preferences, whether for grass-fed or grain-finished meats. Callahan says he pays ranchers 10 cents per pound above market price. To ensure a consistent retail supply, he also purchases some meat from wholesalers such as International Beef Processors and even Western Buffalo Co., which deals in ranch-raised bison and elk.

"We sell quite a bit of elk," Callahan says.

Long specializing in cutting and wrapping game, the business is seeing no decreased demand for larger orders of domesticated meat. DeAnna Hall, 39, of Medford, says she tasted The Butcher Shop's products during a trade show at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and decided to buy half a beef.

"We'd been shopping around ... (it is) by far the best price for the quality," she says. "You know that it's locally grown; it's a mile and a half down the road."

Located at 1532 S. Shasta Ave. in Eagle Point, The Butcher Shop is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Call 830-3369 or see the Web site www.butchershopinc.com.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.

The Butcher Shop co-owner Cameron Callahan keeps at least a dozen whole beef, pork and lamb on hand since his business started selling individual cuts of meat last month. - Bob Pennell