By Mayzie Purviance
The old saying, “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” is a nice sentiment, but one many fail to embrace. Some spend years paying off student loans for a degree they didn’t want to obtain a job they don’t enjoy and wake up each more dreading the day ahead. Ken Charfauros, on the other hand, wakes up giddy at 4:30 every morning, eager to start his day.
Charfauros’ story began in high school when he worked as a butcher in a processing plant just outside of Philadelphia. Upon graduation in 1981, Charfauros dedicated the next 30 years of his life to serving his country in the United States Air Force. When Charfauros’ youngest son graduated from South Dakota State University with a history degree he could not find a job. So the family decided to purchase Wall Meat Processing in Wall, South Dakota in 2017.
“We butchered our own deer and antelope and game for other folks, and he and I enjoyed that time together,” Charfauros said. “That’s what led us to do this. I said, ‘hey, I had a great time as a young butcher way back when, let’s just look for a butcher plant for sale’ and then we found one.”
Charfauros said they considered purchasing Tri-County Meat Locker in Newell, South Dakota but decided to pursue Wall Meat Processing due to its smaller size and affordability. After a year of learning on the job and soliciting help from industry professionals, ranchers and customers, Charfauros said they began grasping the business concept more completely.
“We started peeling back that onion to see what people were interested in and evolved to what it is today,” Charfauros said.
He said customer feedback is crucial to his business plan and the success of Wall Meat Processing. He takes great pride in keeping his customers satisfied and attributes his drive to his years of service.
“I don’t want status quo to stay status quo,” Charfauros said. “I want status quo to always be evolving.”
One example of Charfauros’ evolving business plan is his participation in the Beef in School program. After attending the Governor’s Ag Summit in Rapid City, Charfauros was inspired by a seminar promoting the Beef in School program. The concept of the program is simple: companies, such as Wall Meat Processing, donate beef to local schools. It’s a way for these companies to give back to the community while providing students with real meat, not processed fake meat.
Another evolution to Charfauros’ plan is the decision to sell at the Farmer’s Market. Charfauros said he was looking for a way to help promote his producers and support the Wall community, and the Farmer’s Market was a no-brainer.
“Why don’t we sell it for [the producers] and use their information from calving, to branding, to raising, to feeding, and to bringing it into the processing plant?” Charfauros said. “Why don’t we start that story with some folks that are not well educated in meat science or meat production?”
Charfauros explained as a consumer, he would be curious about the work behind the steak.
“But what do we really know about the meat that comes across our table?” he questioned. “We know that it’s state inspected – that’s wholesome, that’s safe, that’s amazing. But there’s more to it. I’m really passionate about the hard work generations of producers put into genetics and feeding routines. These people are raising our critters. I’m in awe with a lot of their work.”
Charfauros referred to himself as “pro-Ag,” and said he found his niche to help promote his contribution to the agriculture industry with Wall Meat Processing.
“It’s all about finding the right producer with the right critter and providing it to the right restaurant,” Charfauros said.
Wall Meat Processing provides meat for local restaurants and consumers love it, which led to Charfauros opening up his own eatery, Red Rock Restaurant.
“The next evolution, if you will, was the restaurant,” Charfauros explained. “Ranchers raise cattle and bring them in for processing. We cut them up, we choose the right critter for the restaurant, the right steaks to come into the cooler, and people are loving what we’re doing.”
Charfauros stocks Red Rock’s cooler with different cuts of beef from local producers. The customer picks out their own steak and Red Rock provides basic information on each specific cut of beef. If the customer enjoys their selection, they have the option to place an order through Wall Meat Processing for more beef from that specific producer. Charfauros views this is a way of maximizing producer resources while cutting out the middle man, bigger processing plants.
“I believe our ranchers and farmers go unnoticed a lot more than they are recognized. I don’t have the thumb on why, but I think with big business, it’s easy to lose the most important people,” Charfauros said. “Big plants have a tendency to swallow up little plants. It’s like big fish and little fish — I just happen to be the little fish. I need to do something for others in the same position as me.”
Charfauros has a clear passion for beef production and wants to focus on correctly delivering farm to table meals.
“The meat plant and the restaurant having two different owners can be tricky, it can be sticky, it can go a different direction than intended… farm to table can go wrong,” Charfauros said. “In my opinion, what we’re doing here with farm to table cuts out the middle man and leaves less room for error. If my meat plant sees good beef and sells it to the restaurant while withholding transportation fees and providing less cost from the meat plants to the restaurant, we’re ahead of the game.”
Charfauros said at the end of the day, he just wants to “do the right thing for agriculture.” He wants to contribute any way he can, as best as he can.
“Let’s make ranching great again. Let’s make farming great again,” Charfauros excitedly said. “Not that it hasn’t been great, it’s just that nobody really looks out for the little guy. Ranching is a dying thing and I don’t want that, so I’m promoting it.”
“When I look at ranchers straight in their eyes, I can see how much work they’re putting into this. How much they have to deal with the environment, the weather, the equipment… and I’m not part of this. I wasn’t born and raised in Wall, I’m a transplant, but I have a passion for cutting meat. I have a passion for cooking meat and cooking, period. You put me in something like this and I have to move forward. I have to find the right thing to do for everyone. Not just me, but the guys who feed me,” Charfauros said.
So far in 2019, Wall Meat Processing has processed the same amount of beef and pork as they did in all 2018. Within a year, they have doubled their business because of Charfauros’ passion and determination to help the hand that feeds him.BACK