Local butcheries talk shop on Memorial Day grilling outlook


CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Sometimes, it’s best to just keep your summer holiday plans simple.

“I’m staying home. Where am I going to go?” asks Bob Miller, a customer at Fred the Butcher in Clifton Park.

People are lining up across the Capital Region stocking up for their Memorial Day grill out plans. Local shops say this year and throughout they pandemic, they’ve actually seen a boom in business.

“I don’t think they are fully engaged yet at the restaurant level, so there’s a big population out there and a lot of people have to eat,” says David MacVane, partner and co-owner of Fred’s.

“We’re happy that we’re busy. I’m not surprised that we’re busy, but we’re happy about it,” says his wife, Kim MacVane, Fred the Buther’s manager.

“I think it’s forced people to cook more at home and that’s built habit and that’s lead to more family time I think people didn’t realize they had been missing,” says Tim Howland, the Director of Operations for Primal, Your Local Butcher, which has both a main location in Saratoga and a satellite in Stuyvesant Plaza.

Those looking to entertain family and friends this Memorial Day thanks to relaxed COVID restrictions may see an unfortunate price spike at the meat counter. Howland says the meat shortage that hit at the beginning of the pandemic has come again, and it’s affecting quality cuts.

“Right now, you’re going to see your Choice [Grade] is gonna be sort of the same price as the Prime, so you may not be able to find Choice in the markets because it’s almost not worth selling,” Howland explains of steak cuts.

“We prepared for this holiday like any other, ordering our stock in advance, planning our specials, and taking orders for pickup and delivery so we can get people what they need to have a good day in the start of the grilling season,” he goes on to say.

The MacVanes say they’ve fought off the shortage at both their main location in Clifton Park and their newly opened Slingerlands location by scaling down to what customers ask for most.

“We have a great rapport with our vendors, and so we’ve worked together to just focusing on what the customer needs versus, you know trying to get everything due to the bottle shortage and the food shortage, and things like that,” Kim explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “We have some great, regular customers that we can really engage with, and I don’t think the big chain stores can do that.”

“The chains had the biggest problem, just because of their sheer volume. They’ll put something on sale and buy multiple truckloads where we buy three or four hundred cases,” David further adds.

And while the counters are well stocked with proteins and produce, they’ve also struggled to find ways around the national worker shortage.

“It hasn’t, like, put us out of business or forced us to close or do anything. We have some very dependable full-time staff that have been with us for many years, but the peripheral outskirts of all this, of finding part-timers, has been very difficult,” admits David.

“Typically you put an ad out and you get seven or eight responses within a day or two, now you’re lucky to see a response,” says Howland.

These local providers say they’re encouraged by rising vaccinations and hope things can be business as usual by the real peak of summer business.

“Keep your fingers crossed. Hopefully two, to three, four more months, everybody’s back to normal,” David says.

“Normal may not be the same normal, but you know, it’ll hopefully at least be, you know, better than what it was when this all started,” says Howland.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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