If you are a carnivore and a locavore - meat-eater who prefers to consume locally processed food whenever possible - you will want to make sure Turasky Meats tops your list of favorite shopping venues. The independently owned retailer and wholesaler specializes in providing local restaurants, grocers and individuals with the highest quality meat products available.
The retail arm of the wholesale business Y-T Packing, Turasky Meats is located at 1129 Taintor Road, across from the Illinois State fairgrounds.
Founded in 1949 by Joe Turasky Sr., the company began as a slaughterhouse that supplied local neighborhood grocery stores with meats. As the industry changed through the years, the Turaskys adapted to remain competitive.
Under the leadership of Joe Turasky Jr., the company shut down its slaughtering operations in 2004 to focus on and expand its ready-to-eat products division.
Two of its newest best-sellers, Italian beef and barbecue pork, are available not only at Turasky Meats, but also at local grocery stores such as County Market. SYSCO Food Service recently began distributing the products as well.
Graduation time, Thanksgiving and Christmas comprise the busiest times of year for the Italian beef, barbecue and top-of-the-line prime rib sales. Customers need to place their orders in advance to make sure they get an order made to their specifications.
Another relatively new popular item, one created by Joe's son, Brad, is the pork chop on a stick. This 1-inch-thick cut leaves the rib bone in, hence the stick.
Joe promises that cooked for 20 to 30 minutes on a low-heat grill, this pork chop will delight the palate and sate the appetite.
Other "winners" include bacon-wrapped pork filets and dry-roasted hams.
Devoted to developing new products and expanding its market throughout Illinois and beyond, Brad is the third generation of Turaskys to oversee day-to-day operations.
His father handed him the reins a few years ago. However, Joe still spends a lot of his time on Taintor Road.
"I used to be the first to arrive and the last one to leave," Joe says.
"Now I'm the last to arrive and the first to leave."
Still, he stays busy answering the phones and assisting customers and makes himself available for consultation should Brad need it.
While Brad zips in and out of the office and longtime sales manager Tom Reilly talks with clients, Joe relaxes at his desk and chats about the company.
"Our specialty," Joe says, "is working with the customers to give them exactly what they want. The big guys don't do that. For example, we sell a lot of custom-made sausage to locally owned pizzerias that want their own unique sausage flavor. So we work with the clients to make a sausage to their exact specifications. Your big meatpackers don't do that."
Turasky also provides locally owned restaurants with custom-cut Black Angus steaks of the highest available grade, usually prime.
Its biggest steak account, Saputo's Twin Corners, known for its great steaks, has been buying from Turasky for years.
"We cut steaks and grind sausage daily so our clients always have the freshest products possible," Joe says.
Another popular service the company provides for Springfield-area community members is the processing of deer.
During deer season, which runs from October to January, Y-T Packing will process about 1,500 orders. Consequently, Joe waits until February to make his annual trek to Florida. While many hunters have their prey processed for personal consumption, others donate their deer to the Food for Hunger program.
The Department of Natural Resources pays Y-T Packing $50 to process each animal, and the company absorbs any costs not covered by the stipend. The deer meat can be made into 10 different items, ranging from sausage and meat sticks to barbecue and bratwurst.
Years ago, Tony Turasky partnered with Joe and added a catering service to the business. But when Tony died in 1999, his children moved the catering company to a new location, and Turasky Meats and Turasky Catering became separate enterprises.
However, many people unaware of the change still call Joe's number for catering services.
He doesn't try to sell them any meat, though. He just politely informs them of their mistake, gives them the correct number and sends them on their way.
What they might not realize is the opportunity they just missed to get a few great steaks to cook on the grill.
Story published Friday, September 4, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 5 )