When the pandemic hit, small business owners across America had to swiftly adapt their operations to stay afloat while also keeping employees safe. The Meat Hook, a local-focused whole animal butcher shop in Brooklyn, owned by Prime Time stars Ben Turley and Brent Young, saw no exception.
“It escalated within three days,” says Young. “We were just popping over to the shop to make sure everything was okay, and everything was not okay. There was a line outside the door. It felt like the holidays where everyone was just frantically buying things.”
The butchers have worked diligently to form relationships with farmers and suppliers over the last 10 years. This helps to support local farms, cut out the need to go through industrial meat plants, and ensures a quality up to the butchers’ standards. Having these strong relationships also meant Turley and Young could control the supply chain, ensuring the shop had the right amount of meat cuts that they could sell, with little to none going to waste, and a system that would also allow the farmers to remain as agile as they needed to be. But because of the sudden influx of panic buying, the shop needed to get meat deliveries every day to meet demands, up from once a week. “Customers didn’t know what they were going to do with nine pounds of lamb shoulder, but they were buying it because that’s what was available,” says Young. “We just needed all hands on deck in the butcher shop. We are cutting meat and selling meat all of the time.”
While this proved to be a challenging pivot, it also highlighted the benefits to being a butcher shop that doesn’t rely on the commercial meat industry. “When shit hits the fan with the food system, and specifically with meat, we’re completely insulated from any trauma related to that. We have completely said fuck them, we’re not going to participate in the system, and it has worked out,” says Turley. “In the meat industry there’s definitely a lack of clear leadership, so I find that invigorating. I create the known future for my company... we’re not going to wait for someone to tell us what to do here, we’re going to do what we feel is right by our staff and our community and our farmers.”
Watch to see the many other ways the shop pivoted to survive the pandemic, keep their staff safe, and how they aided their neighborhood restaurants, as well.