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Storytelling: Nick Vorpagel, Lake Geneva Country Meats [Part Two]

Updated: Feb 26

(2/3) “I love feeding people. Food, drinks, and cooking are such important things in life. They are the most important things to me and my family. Food is how we connect, what brings us together, and how we celebrate life. I know this sounds cheesy, but there's so much crap in the world and I really believe that if we could just sit down and have some food together it would be a better place.

Lake Geneva Country Meats is all about the storytelling of food. If I can help someone put together a meal that has some really great food, a really great drink and they can share together, that's the way I can make the world a little bit better. I may not be writing public policy that impacts millions of people, but I can start one meal at a time.

Butchering is a trade profession just like electricians, plumbers, carpenters, or HVAC technicians. We all grumble about paying $100 an hour for an electrician, but we think that is a reasonable amount for their expertise. On the other hand, we don't like paying $5 a pound for ground beef. The meat industry is a challenge because being a butcher is a really hard job that takes time and experience to master. If we charge $100 an hour for our services, no one would pay them. That's the biggest challenge in America. We're so used to cheap food in a time where staffing is the biggest challenge and making sure people are paid a living wage all while there's inflation and the cost of housing in the area is so expensive. We have to reconcile the talent and hard work our people put in, because we have an incredible group of people that really care about their work. Paying them a fair wage to make sure we have enough people to meet the capacity versus what people are willing to pay for the end product is a really big challenge. There’s no way to do small-scale butchering cheaply because it's a labor intensive process, it's skilled people, and you need to pay them.

It used to be that if you bought a local animal and processed it for your freezer, you had your freezer beef, it was a savings. Now when you're buying a whole local animal, you're not paying for the savings over the life of everything you eat. You're paying for a higher quality, you're paying for knowing where the animal comes from, you're paying to have it cut exactly the way you want, and you're paying because you want to support local agriculture. And you know, ultimately, if local agriculture goes away, we're in a world of hurt.

I always say that when people shop here, it's a decision. When people shop with us, it's a choice to make that drive to our location. It's a choice to spend more money on food. It's a choice to say, ‘I value the quality of what they do and what they bring to the table over the convenience and lower price’. I am eternally grateful for, and always try to value and show respect for, the fact that our customers are making a series of choices that lead them here because it's not necessarily convenient.

We're really lucky in Walworth County to have four full-service butcher shops. We have Johnstown Meats, Wilson meats, Sorg's, and Lake Geneva Country Meats. That is incredibly unusual. Everybody has their own specialty. What sets us apart is that we don't just sell you meat. We say anybody can cut meat. If you're coming here and paying a premium for the products, we think our prices are fair, but it is a premium, we want you to understand the story behind the product. We want you to understand how you can transform this hunk of meat into something really delicious and something that is nourishing for your body, your soul, and your relationships.” - Nick Vorpagel Lake Geneva Country Meats

Stay tuned for part 3!

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