For The Beacon
When it comes to discussing his new business venture, Tyler Wells doesn't waste time getting to the meat of the matter.
That's because what matters most about said venture is, well, meat.
AW Meat House, a 6,400 square-foot, USDA inspected meat processing facility owned by Wells and his wife, Laura, is slated to open this spring. The facility, which will process beef, pork and deer, will be located on the couple's farm on Logtown Road adjacent to EastPark.
The facility will be open to local farmers and hunters and Wells said he and his wife would also process their own animals there. The plant will have the capacity to process about 70 animals a week, he said.
In addition to processing operations, AW Meat House will have a meat market offering the freshest cuts of beef and pork and a deli with a full line of meats and cheeses.
The plant will open with 10-12 employees, but Wells said he expected the work force to double in size once it reaches capacity.
The project is being funded with a $250,000 grant from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture through its Meat Processing Investment Program. The MPIP was created to assist meat producers who are or who plan to become USDA certified and to incentivize the expansion of businesses that produce Kentucky beef, dairy, pork, lamb and poultry products. AW Meat House was approved for funding in May.
Wells, a long-time beef cattle farmer, said it had been his dream to open a meat processing facility ever since his days studying agriculture at the University of Kentucky, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in food science. The COVID-19 pandemic and the meat shortages that occurred during the early stages of it convinced him that now was the time to turn that dream into a reality.
The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the nation's food supply chain and reinforced the need for a local meat processing plant "that bridges the gap between farmers and consumers," Wells said.
Plus, the taste of mass-produced meat found in grocery stores simply can't hold a candle to meats that have been locally sourced and processed, he said,
"You can't beat the flavor. There is no comparison, really," Wells said.
Also, consumers don't have to worry about eating meat that has been pumped full of hormones when it's raised and processed close to home, he said.
AW Meat House will be housed in a prefabricated metal building. Wells said the pandemic has caused the building's delivery date to be pushed back twice, but it should be arriving before the end of the year. Some earth work is required at the site and Wells said a groundbreaking ceremony was being planned for later this fall. The opening of the facility is planned for April or May,
Wells said he was hopeful the plant would help revitalize agriculture in northeast Kentucky and that building relationships with local farmers would be key to its success. He encouraged farmers who might be interested in having their livestock processed at the new facility to get in touch with him through his website, awmeathouse.com.