May is Beef Month in Nebraska.
It's a time to recognize and appreciate the beef industry of our great cattle producing state, a state that produces some of the best beef in the world.
Savoring beef is one way to celebrate Beef Month, the beginning of grilling season. Most people enjoy preparing, cooking and consuming a nice steak or hamburger.
Selling beef is yet another way to observe beef month. Beef is sold at market through the year, with beef month usually seeing an uptick of increased demand - grilling season.
Prior to selling beef at market and savoring beef on the table, it must be processed and packaged.
Twin City Pack specializes in preparing and bundling beef. The business is owned and operated by Scott Delcamp, of Bridgeport.
“I bought this business in 2003, 17 years ago,” Delcamp said. “I have a farm and ranch background, always interested in meat. I walked into a little packing house one day and said, ‘Teach me how to cut meat.’ Then a few years later a guy really taught me how to cut meat, do it right, making a nice finished product.”
Twin City Pack not a retail meat market, but a custom meat processor.
“We don’t sell things by the piece like retail stores,” Delcamp said. “Either a producer brings his animal to be processed or someone gets a beef from a producer to be processed. This is a true farm-to-table business. ”
This custom meat-processing business business keeps extremely busy, booked out to a year – the norm even before COVID-19.
“Consumer demand was high before COVID. We’re busy because we’re busy,” Delcamp said. “There’s never a time we wonder what we will do next month or the month after. It’s typical to be booked up to a year out, so a lot of customers plan ahead and book the next year when picking up their meat.”
Cody Creech, of rural Mitchell, is a repeat customer who plans and schedules his meat processing well in advance.
“I’ve been coming here for a number of years, and I learned early on to plan ahead because most processors are six to eight months out,” Creech said. “It’s not something you can just go buy an animal and hope to get it processed the next day. It takes planning, get on a schedule and get lined out to make everything work.”
Many customers use Twin City Pack because the business delivers good work, outstanding meat processing and customer service.
“Customers expect good work and good product … we deliver that,” Delcamp said. “We’ve done this for many years.”
Delcamp’s meat processing experience and commitment to customer service has a large following.
“We have a large customer base from Montana to Texas,” Delcamp said. “Most customers are repeat customers, year after year.”
Good service begins with good product.
“People need to know that local producers produce a good product, skilled and efficient in what they raise,” Delcamp said. “I see quality animals every day, the quality is exceptional.”
Good beef, good meat processing practices and skill, and good employees make Twin City Pack a long-running, successful business.
“I have good workers who care about what they do, take ownership of their work,” Delcamp said. “Alfredo Gamino has been here sixteen years; he’s salt of the earth. A. J. Little Hoop is the best meat wrapper I’ve seen in thirty-five years. Jacob Pedersen handles the animals when they first come in with great care. Ryan War Bonnet and Josh Shaske are irreplaceable as well. And my son-in-law, Cody Barge, is new, seven months. These guys take pride in their work, handling the product professionally at every stage. And customers see the same faces. We don’t turn over employees.”
The work of custom meat processing involves several stages.
“After the animal is humanely butchered, its carcass is quick-chilled in a cooler for one week,” Delcamp said. “Then the carcass moves up to a dry aging cooler for three-four weeks. Proper aging is important to assure tenderness and taste. After the cooling rotation, the carcass is processed and packaged.
"Everything is done in the same building. The animal never leaves this building until it’s ready for the table, live to table processing.”
Custom meat processors age meat, whereas large, commercial meat packing plants typically bypass the important aging process.
“When meat is killed at a big plant, it’s typically boxed the next day with no aging,” Delcamp said. “Unaged beef tastes different than aged beef, which is why beef bought at a retail store does not have the same flavor as beef processed locally. Some retail stores now have some aged beef, but they don’t age the beef near as long as local packers.”
Whether beef in Nebraska is aged or not or processed locally or commercially, it is subject to USDA inspection. Large commercial beef packing plants have onsite inspectors, whereas custom packers are subject to both random and scheduled checks.
“We are subject to USDA inspection, but fall under Custom Exemption, which means there is no inspector on-site,” Delcamp said. “However, the inspector comes on a regular basis, and unannounced. He can show up at any time, and does. We are inspected for many things, like sanitation, the process, labeling, water testing (water cannot have bacteria in it), and other things relating to safe meat.”
Delcamp loves all aspects of the custom meat packing business – the work itself, his workers, his customers, even the inspectors. He especially enjoys the relationships built in the industry of agriculture – relationships built on trust.
“I understand people in agriculture, relate to them and enjoy the relationships,” Delcamp said. “People in agriculture are trustworthy. I take only cash or check, and I’ve never had a bad check in all the years. I trust them.”
When Delcamp can step away from the busy business of custom meat packing, he enjoys spending time traveling.
“I love to travel, read and spend time with my family,” Delcamp said. “I especially like Arizona, Montana and the Carolinas.