This article was originally published in our September 2020 issue. 

The growing desire for farm-to-table, sustainable food is drawing customers back to the traditional meat market and the craft of cutting, trimming, and packaging meat. Missouri’s butcher shops do more than just sell meat—customers appreciate the personal service, specialty products, and expertise. From small towns to metro hubs, here are nine of the top places for steak, sausage, and even shark.

Barred Owl Butcher & Table, 47 East Broadway, Columbia,

Photo courtesy Barred Owl Butcher & Table.

As the only butcher shop in mid-Missouri that produces whole-animal charcuterie—meaning they use the entire animal in products, even the ears—from local, responsibly raised animals, Barred Owl plays an important role in Columbia’s food scene.

“We have an extensive selection of Italian- and Spanish-inspired cured meats as well as more traditional things like bacon, hams, hot dogs, brats, and more,” says co-owner and chef Benjamin Parks. “By using the whole animal, we can off er a lot of delicious nontraditional options that give our customers an appreciation of the animals beyond steaks and chops.”

Pâté, terrines, and Wagyu beef products are some of the standout items on the Barred Owl menu. “We’re able to provide a lot of cuts that aren’t typically available in most supermarkets,” Benjamin says. “We’re also able to give our customers more information about the animals we’re preparing, such as the specific heritage breed of the animal, what it was fed, how and where it was raised, and what makes each farm and farmer we work with unique.”

Photo courtesy Barred Owl Butcher & Table.

Alongside meat, Barred Owl sells rendered fats, broths, artisan cheeses, fresh-baked bread, condiments, beer, wine, and more. The butcher shop is attached to a restaurant and bar, where dishes like rabbit-confit risotto and Porchettastyle lamb provide a stage for the shop’s specialty meats to shine.

“The past few decades have seen a resurgence of the small, local butcher with more of an emphasis on quality and animal welfare as opposed to trying to off er the least expensive product possible,” Benjamin says. “The modern butcher shop experience reflects this in being able to educate our customers on the who, what, where, why, and how of everything we sell.”

Burgers’ Smokehouse, 32819 Highway 87, California, Missouri,

Third and fourth-generation descendants of E. M. Burger still play active roles within the company. The ladies, from left: Dolores Burger, second-generation family; Lauren Lawson, vice-president of finance and accounting; and Mary Keil, second-generation family. The men, from left: Chris Mouse, senior vice-president of direct marketing; Philip Burger, senior vice-president of human resoures and administration, Morris Burger, second-generation family; Austin Morse, director of quality; Ted Rohrbach, senior accounting manager; Cole Fletcher, vice-president of operations, the late Bob Keil, second-generation family; Steven Burger, president; and Keith Fletcher, senior vice-president of operations. Photo courtesy Burgers’ Smokehouse. 

Burgers’ Smokehouse started with six hams. E. M. Burger cured those fi rst six hams in 1927, using a dry cure rub mixture of salt, pepper, and brown sugar, following the German tradition his mother passed down to him. In 1928, he sold twelve hams. He got married in 1930, and that year, he and his wife Natalia sold twenty-four hams.

In 1952, the Burgers built their first Ham House on the family farm, and they used ambient temperature for curing the hams in the winter, spring, and summer, opening and shutting the end doors of the house to help control temperature and humidity. The modern curing facilities today use timed temperature and humidity controls to mimic the curing of the seasons of the past.

Today, Burgers is owned and operated by the third and fourth generations of the Burger family. Family members work in everything from human resources and administration to production, maintenance, accounting, and even supervising a slicing and storage operation in Springfield.

The retail store has been closed since last March since it’s connected to the factory, with a tentative reopening date later in 2020, but vice-president Philip Burger says that will be evaluated regularly as circumstances change. Customers can still buy their hams, sausage, bacon, ribs, turkey, and chicken online, from their catalogs, and from grocery stores, of course.

“Bacon sales have exploded since people are eating at home more. We’re keeping up with demand but still hiring. We need twenty more people right now,” Philip says.

Photo courtesy Burgers’ Smokehouse.

Philip says their family company is a lot like a family farm. “You get used to the lifestyle. I like living in a small town. I’m ten minutes from work even if the one red light in town happens to be malfunctioning.”

Remarkably, the hams are still hand-rubbed using the same recipe that has barely changed since those first six hams.

Clark’s Custom Meat Co., 8411 Southwest, Highway 59, St. Joseph,

When Butch and Trina Clark had difficulty finding butchers who knew how to cut the whole animal to work at their northwest Missouri meat processing plant and retail shop, they launched an apprenticeship program to teach people the dying culinary art form.

“We’ve found that not a lot of people know how to cut up a whole carcass anymore,” Trina says. “It works best for us to hire people and train them on all aspects of being a meat cutter from slaughtering through packaging for retail, which also includes safety, infection control, and customer service.”

After years of Butch managing the meat department of a large grocer, the Clarks decided to open their own small meat shop in a remodeled garage in 2003. Ten years later, they relocated to the spacious red-and-white, highway-front building that houses their business today. The custom processing operation spans beef, hogs, lamb, goats, and wild game. On the retail side, they have products like prime beef, free-range chicken, twenty-five flavors of bratwursts, smoked and cured meat and sausage, snack sticks, and jerky. The shop’s supply of organ meats, such as liver, beef tongue, oxtail, turkey and hog fries, and sweetbreads, provide interesting and nutritious options.

“We’re catering to people who are interested in excellent quality food, different flavor profiles, unique approaches, and a healthier product,” Trina says.

Essner’s Custom Butchering, 27145 Highway 61, Scott City, Facebook: Essner’s Custom Butchering

Anton and Denise Essner have spent their whole lives in the world of butchering. Anton’s parents, Norman and Dorothy, opened Essner’s in 1983, a year before he was born, and Anton grew up in the business. Denise processed beef and pork with her family, as well, and got a part-time job at a USDA-inspected meat processor at age sixteen. After college, she earned a certification in food safety management and worked in quality control. In 2015, Anton and Denise purchased Essner’s from Anton’s parents to continue the family legacy. The southeast Missouri operation includes beef and boneless deer processing, a smokehouse, and a retail store.

“We purchased the shop a week before our second child was born, so our kids have grown up here. The customers are like extra aunts, uncles, and grandparents,” Denise says. “Anton and I are the only employees, so we’ve been able to build a personal relationship with our customers. Many of them are regulars, and we usually know exactly what they want.”

What they want is the shop’s ground beef, bologna, beef jerky, and summer sausage made from the same recipe Norman perfected thirty-seven years ago. Other popular items are the pork sausage, nine flavors of bratwurst, such as pineapple teriyaki, bacon ranch, and mac and cheese, and ten flavors of boneless chicken breasts, ranging from Greek and Italian to mango habanero and garlic parmesan. The Essners also off er holiday specials like smoked baby- back ribs, pork steaks, and pulled pork for Father’s Day and smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving.

“We just want to sell a quality product at a fair price,” Denise says. “We pride ourselves on freshness, great customer service, and a family atmosphere.”

Hermann Wurst Haus, 234 East 1st Street, Hermann,

Even though you’ve probably heard the saying, “You should never watch sausage being made,” Mike Sloan at Hermann Wurst Haus doesn’t believe that. Before the pandemic began, he offered classes such as Sausage Making 101, Makin’ Bacon 101, and Wurst 101, and they typically filled up. You can get a sense of why, and Mike’s sense of humor and showmanship, when he describes a new barbecue and smoker he is adding outdoors to the Wurst Haus, “You know how we’ve always been known as the ‘wurst’ place? Now, we’ll have the ‘wurst’ barbecue!”

Mike decided to expand outdoors because of the pandemic. “We have extra seating and new tables and chairs outdoors. No one wants to sit inside anymore.” The new smoker and barbecue pit will be right in front of the deli. The Wurst Haus is also only about a block from the Riverfront Park, and Mike has noticed people buying a meal and carrying it there to sit and watch the Missouri River while they eat.

Mike grew up learning the business with his parents at Swiss Meats & Sausage Company at Swiss, Missouri, where he eventually became president, but he and his wife Lynette went out on their own and opened the Hermann Wurst Haus in 2011. They produce sixty-two varieties of fresh and smoked sausages and bratwursts, all handcrafted by Wurstmeister Mike, who was elected president of the American Association of Meat Processors in 2012.

Hermann Wurst Haus and the Wurstmeister have won more than five hundred international, national, and regional awards, including fourteen best of show honors and twenty-nine awards from the International German Butcher’s Association in Frankfurt, Germany. Ironically, the American beat out German butchers for some German categories, as Mike has won gold awards for German bologna and naturally aged, old-fashioned German-style summer sausage, and sweet German bologna from the German Butcher Association.

Visit the market and deli—try the brats with red cabbage and sauerkraut—in downtown Hermann, or you can order bacon, bratwurst, sausage, bologna, and other specialty meats and gift packages online, although right now, the Wurst Haus cannot ship orders out of state.

Hörrmann Meats, 1537 West Battlefield Road, Springfield,

Photo courtesy Horrmann Meats.

All types of animals—from cattle, pigs, and lambs to llama, antelope, elk, and even a bear— made their way through the Hörrmann Meats processing plant in the southwest Missouri town of Fair Grove. While that plant closed in October 2019 and they no longer process meat for other people, the business, started by Rick and Andrea Hoerman in 2003, is still thriving as a butcher shop and retail store in nearby Springfield. The Hoermans’ sons, Seth and Grant, and their daughters-in-law, Erin and Casie, are all co-owners of the company. The shop uses the German spelling of their name.

“We’re a small, local business,” Erin says. “We enjoy taking care of customers and off ering them handmade, wholesome foods without fi llers and preservatives that we feel comfortable serving to our own children.”

Hörrmann Meats employs six butchers who are skilled in animal anatomy, basic cutting techniques on primal, retail, and portion- control cuts, and breaking down whole carcasses.

“One of the biggest differences you will find in a butcher shop is knowledge and customization,” Erin says. “We’ve invested our careers in knowing meat and can off er expertise in cuts as well as cooking techniques.”

Housemade bratwursts and sausages, available in thirty varieties including Philly cheese, bacon pepper jack, crawfi sh andouille, mushroom swiss, and chorizo, are among their best sellers. Customers also love the bacon, summer sausage, and beef jerky.

“Everything is made from scratch, and our modern twists on these classic products have made them very popular in our community,” Erin says.

In addition to meat, Hörrmann stocks milk, eggs, produce, cheeses, and candies from local producers as well as seafood and several exotic meats such as ostrich, alligator, frog legs, elk, kangaroo, and shark.

“We offer a lot more than your typical butcher shop staples,” Erin says.

Kenrick’s Meats & Catering, 4324 Weber Road, St. Louis,

Photo courtesy Kenrick’s Meats.

What started with one man, Herb Kenrick, making smoked snack sausages in his St. Louis garage after World War II has evolved into a 10,000-square-foot butcher shop with more than eighty employees. Today, owner Joe Weinmann, better known as “Joe the Butcher,” is proud to keep Kenrick’s legacy alive by continuing to use some of the founder’s original sausage recipes that started it all seventy-five years ago.

“We have over eighty unique sausage varieties that are made fresh every day and can only be found at Kenrick’s,” Joe says.

The shop makes several ready-to-grill and bake items such as stuffed pork chops and chicken breasts, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, kabobs, gourmet burgers, and Ozark Grillers (bacon-wrapped nuggets of beef, chicken, or pork stuffed with cheese). It also offers fully cooked entrees, sides, and appetizers, like roast beef, Swedish meatballs, chicken and dumplings, and home-style cabbage rolls stuffed with beef chili. The on-site K Cafe serves hot and cold signature sandwiches, fried chicken, soups, seafood dinners, and more.

“I’ve always felt that businesses need to try different things,” Joe says. “Our homemade, prepared meals are a great option for those who don’t like to cook, families on-the-go, and seniors.”

Local Pig, 20 East Fifth Street, Kansas City,

Photo courtesy Local Pig.

Humane, eco-friendly practices are the focus of Local Pig, a full-line butcher and retail shop located in Kansas City’s vibrant River Market district. The space also includes a gourmet sandwich shop called Pigwich.

Since 2012, Local Pig has offered locally raised meat that’s free of hormones, antibiotics, and steroids. The shop has a large selection of chicken, turkey, burgers, Kansas beef, fresh sausage, heritage pork, smoked sausage, and charcuterie. Duck, lamb, and rabbit are also on the menu along with bacon and deli meats. Artisan foods—like cocktail syrups infused with flowers, herbs, and spices, tomato jam, compound butter, small-batch chocolate, and pickled veggies—are made in house or sourced from regional producers to round out the selection.

“We’re able to cut, trim, or otherwise shape your purchase to exactly what you want, and we can tell you so much about how to prepare our meats,” says co-owner, chef, and butcher Alex Pope. “The experience we strive for is one where our customers have a relationship with the staff . We get to know their preferences, can guide them in the right direction on what they’re after, and make substitutions when supply issues come up.”

Every Sunday, the Local Pig production kitchen turns into a classroom for people of all skill levels. The hands-on instruction covers sausage-making, charcuterie, and whole-animal butchery.

“We’ve offered classes since day one,” Alex says. “The idea is to provide another layer of transparency to our business by showing our customers exactly what we do on a daily basis to make the products we sell.”

Woods Smoked Meats, 1501 Business Highway 54 West, Bowling Green Woods,

Photo courtesy Woods Smoked Meats.

A log cabin in northeast Missouri is home to an internationally recognized butcher shop that’s served the community for seventy-three years. Owner Edward Woods has continued and expanded the business his father began in 1947.

“My dad started the business the year I was born,” Edward says. “Butchering and smoking meat is all I’ve ever done.”

The shop sells more than 150 different products and processes thousands of cattle, hogs, and deer each year. The specialty meat establishment has won awards from organizations such as the Missouri and American Associations of Meat Processors and IFFA, the meat competition sponsored by the German Butchers’ Association in Frankfurt.

Beef, pork burgers, bologna, bacon (available in creative flavors like maple jalapeno), snack sticks, and summer sausages made from buffalo, beef, elk, and venison are some of the most popular items. Smoked turkeys and hams are big sellers during the holidays. Irish bacon, Italian-style pancetta, chorizo, and a Portuguese-style sausage called linguica are among the new offerings for 2020. Customers looking for variety and bulk can purchase meat bundles available in thirty- to fifty-pound packs. In addition to retail space, the Woods log cabin features a deli that serves a lunch menu of sandwiches paired with pasta or potato salad.

“We aren’t the cheapest in town, but the assortment along with the quality of our service and our products is what’s kept us going,” Edward says. “People come here from a one-hundred-mile radius to shop. When we make products, we act like we’re making it for family, and we always want it to be the best possible.”